Clean coal?

by Jacqueline Lizar

lean coal. Clean coal? Oh, please, please, tell me that you are not taken in by this oxymoron. It's even more obvious than that “salmon friendly turbine” idea we heard last fall.

    My 8-year-old son and I were driving home from our ritual day's activities when our President came on the radio to announce his endorsement of this “clean coal” idea. I wonder to myself if he believes what he is saying. I then chance a glance over at my son and smile. I say to him, “Son, don't ever let anyone tell you that coal is clean. Coal is dirtier that dirt, especially when you burn it.” My son looks back at me, puzzled. “Well mom,” he asks me, “Why are they saying it's clean then?” “Good question,” I answer and turn the question back to him. “Why would someone want to say that coal is clean when it's dirtier than dirt?”

    It took him about 5 seconds. “Ohhh,” he said, realization dawning. “They're trying to sell it.”

    He's right of course. They're trying to sell us on the idea that coal is clean, but I defy anyone, anywhere to show me clean coal. I guess that when you are done blasting the coal out of the ground, moving it across the country in trucks that pollute our countryside, and filling our skies with its smoke while burning it for energy, in the end, all you've got is ash.

    At least it's cleaner than that other thing I heard them call “clean” – nuclear energy. But what about that little matter of the radioactive remains that we can't find a place to store and which won't go away as a problem for thousands of years? Does it matter? Through the miracle of spin doctoring, someone who has “authority” can claim nuclear power is clean.

    Maybe people want to believe it.

    Look, I'm not one of those diehard radicals who thinks we ought to just flip the switch and go back to horses and candlelight. Heck, neither of those are terribly clean either! I know we need to be practical, and I don't want to think that I ever do anything bad, but please don't try to sell me a lie. I, for one, don't want to pretend that I can feed my power habit at no cost. I'm a big girl. If I'm going to sin, I prefer to do it with my eyes open.

    Jacqueline Lizar lives in Mira Mesa and is a long-time reader of SDET.