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

Demand that the Department of Energy uphold its promise of a full cleanup of SSFL by submitting a comment today.

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

  • It's time to put our health before polluter profits

    Climate change is endangering us now, harming public health and causing damage to our communities from extreme weather events. Tell your senators that rolling back methane pollution standards, a key step in our fight against climate change, is unacceptable!

  • Tell Congress: Protect our Health -- Oppose extreme anti-health bills

    Congress should ensure that federal agencies enforce laws that protect our water, air quality and public health--not curb the power of those agencies to carry out their mission. Tell your representative you oppose the REINS Act and the Midnight Rule Relief Act of 2017.

More action alerts»

Resources

  • Too Dirty, Too Dangerous

    There are compelling reasons to question the use of natural gas (methane), given the risks it poses to human health. This new report from PSR summarizes recent scientific findings that document methane’s implications for health. Read more »

  • Climate Change and Famine

    Climate change is already threatening the Earth’s ability to produce food. These effects are expected to worsen as climate change worsens. Read more »

  • Congressional Review Act Handout

    Congress is poised to use the CRA to dismantle Clean Air and Clean Water protections. CRA allows Congress by majority vote in both chambers (with limited debate and no opportunity for a filibuster) to void recently issued rules-resulting in communities losing dozens of health, safety and environmental protections. 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.