Skip to Navigation
Skip to Content

Support PSR!

Your membership supports PSR's work to reduce global warming, eliminate toxics in our environment and abolish nuclear weapons. YOU make our work possible. Thank you.

Donate Now »

Take Action

Tell the EPA: don't delay the proposed rule to capture leaking methane gas. Our health and the health of the climate cannot wait!

Clean coal? No such thing.

Posted by Barbara Gottlieb on November 4, 2008

As health professionals and people concerned about the health and safety of our planet, we want the new president to prioritize a clean environment and significant reductions in global warming gases.  That's why we're concerned about so-called "clean coal."  Coal is inherently unclean and unhealthy, from the deadly pollutants it emits to its huge discharges of carbon dioxide, the prime cause of global warming.

The coal industry is pressing for permits to build dozens of new coal-fired power plants.  They claim that a technology called carbon capture and storage, or CCS, could trap the CO2 gas from burning coal, compress it until it turns to liquid, transport it via pipeline, and inject it a mile or more underground where it would be stored… forever. 

However, the technologies and infrastructure to do that still have to be fully tested, proven, scaled up, and retrofitted to existing plants -- a process that will take years and be hugely expensive.  That's the gist of a report released recently by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress's watchdog agency.  The report found a host of "key barriers to CCS deployment," including

"(1) underdeveloped and costly CO2 capture technology and (2) regulatory and legal uncertainties over CO2 capture, injection and storage."

That's not all.

"Key technological barriers include a lack of experience in capturing significant amounts of CO2 from commercial-scale power plants and the significant cost of retrofitting existing plants that are the single largest source of CO2 emissions in the United States."

Shall I go on?

"Regulatory and legal uncertainties include questions about liability concerning CO2 leakage" -- not, of course, that the industry suggests that would ever happen -- "and ownership of CO2 once injected."

Other questions we would add:

  • What's the cost of building the immense pipeline infrastructure that would be needed to transport liquid CO2 from every coal-burning power plant in the country?
  • What are the health implications of a massive CO2 leak from underground storage?
  • Finally, how much sense does it make to invest billions of dollars in the R&D and build-out of CCS, when it keeps us chained to mountaintop removal mining, toxic pollutants, poisonous post-combustion wastes, and a finite coal supply?  Why not just invest our billions in wind, solar, and other non-carbon-based alternatives?

In the meantime, as PSR says, "Clean coal is a dirty lie."

Barbara Gottlieb
Environment & Health Program Manager
 

Comments

bob said ..

thanks for the report

April 11, 2015

Leave your comment

Name
Comment
Enter this word: Change

Action Alerts

  • Tell the EPA: Don't delay methane protections

    Tell the EPA: don't delay the proposed rule to capture leaking methane gas. Our health and the health of the climate cannot wait!

  • Tell Congress—defend the Clean Air Act against Big Oil!

    President Trump, his new EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, and some in Congress are attempting to block or weaken clean air and climate protections like the Clean Power Plan. Tell your member of Congress to support full implementation of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Power Plan.

More action alerts»

Resources

  • Environmental Health

    This introductory course in Environmental Health is intended for undergraduate- and graduate-level students of medicine, environmental sciences or public health, and provides foundational theoretical and practical knowledge and skills. Free course offered by NextGenU. Read more »

  • Video: Fracking - Too Dirty, Too Dangerous

    Former executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Catherine Thomasson, MD, presents findings from PSR's report "Too Dirty, Too Dangerous: Why Health Professionals Reject Natural Gas". It is based on summaries of recent medical and scientific studies which clearly convey the health threats that accompany use of methane as a fuel. Read more »

  • Webinar: The Fight for Solar

    Solar energy is one of our best hopes for a clean energy future – yet some utility companies are trying to stifle the spread of rooftop solar. Learn more about the fight for rooftop ("distributed") solar. Read more »

In the Spotlight

  • November 30, 2016
    Eating for Climate and Health
    PSR's new PowerPoint presentation on how climate change impacts food production, and agriculture's contribution to climate change.