Skip to Navigation
Skip to Content

Support PSR!

Make a difference in the challenge to confront global warming and prevent nuclear war and the development and use of nuclear weapons.

Donate Now »

Take Action

Please ask your senators to cosponsor Sen. Franken's bill to challenge the trillion dollar nuclear weapons buildup.

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

More action alerts»

Resources

  • Health Impacts of Natural Gas Infrastructure

    Fracked natural gas contaminates air and water where it is extracted, then pipelines transport gas-related pollutants for hundreds of miles. Distant communities may be exposed to toxic air pollutants, dangerous particulates, and radioactive materials. All of us are endangered as methane leaks into the atmosphere. Read more »

  • Natural Gas: Not a healthy or climate-protective solution for the Clean Power Plan

    Building natural gas plants to replace coal-fired power is not a solution to the climate crisis; it merely replaces one fossil fuel with another. Read more »

  • Death by Degrees

    The sign of Global Warming are already here. “Death by Degrees” is a series of reports looking at the damaging health effects of global warming by states or regions within the United States. We encourage you to learn about the public health threats global warming poses in your state/ region and contact your elected officials to support climate policies that reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels and supports energy efficiency, conservation and clean renewable energy production. 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.