Selling America On The Idea of Clean Coal Is Playing Dirty

Coal execs and their sympathizers woke up to a cold dose of reality this morning, care of a well designed counter argument in the debate over the nation’s energy future.
The Reality Coalition is a project of the Alliance for Climate Protection, Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the League of Conservation Voters, and tells the truth about coal today — it isn’t clean. We are challenging the coal industry to come clean — in its advertising and in its operations. You can learn more about the reality of “clean” coal here or take action and help stop misleading coal campaigns.
A third of the America’s carbon pollution now comes from about 600 coal-fired power plants. And of the more than 70 proposed new coal power plants, barely a handful have plans to capture and store their CO2 emissions. If these dirty plants are allowed to be built, this will mean an additional 200 million tons of global warming pollution will be emitted in America each year. Until coal power plants no longer release CO2 to the atmosphere, coal will remain a major contributor to the climate crisis.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Not only is clean coal a total myth, but here are some other things to consider. Ok, so the coal industry says it’s going to scrub emissions to remove both nasty pollutants and CO2. (Nasty pollutants in coal, released when coal is burned, include carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, particulates, volatile organic components, nitrogen oxides and heavy metals such as mercury.)
    Well, you have to do something with these things after you’ve taken them out of the emissions in large amounts and which are now concentrated and highly toxic. Exactly what are they planning to do with this stuff? Bury the stuff? That’s an enormous and expensive task, and includes a large risk of leakage and groundwater contamination. With CO2, the process of sequestration is even trickier and carries perhaps even more risk. CO2 must be under pressure in order to sequester it in a small enough volume to make this practical. That means that damage to the containment units would likely result in leakage, perhaps even an explosive release.
    We know what CO2 does as a greenhouse gas, so I am not going to address that at this moment. There is another problem with the sudden release of a large amount of CO2 – does anyone remember that in 1986 some 1,800 people were killed in the village of Nyos and nearby areas in the West African nation of Cameroon? And along with the people, some 3,000 cattle and countless other wild animals and birds – virtually every living creature – for miles around Lake Nyos died. Scientists finally determined that vast amounts of CO2 from the depths of the 690 foot deep volcanic crater lake had been suddenly released. CO2 is heavier than air, so the cloud of CO2 hung close to the ground, suffocating human and animal alike. Yes, that is very scary.
    It is also true that “scrubbing” emissions and CO2 sequestration take additional energy, meaning even more pollutants and CO2 being produced and needing to be removed from the emissions and contained.
    Now, add to that the way that coal is mined and transported, an extremely important part of the equation. The process of Mountain Top Removal (MTR) is rapidly becoming the method of choice for extracting coal. The process involves clearing, logging and removing the tops of coal-rich mountains with explosive. This has devastating effects on the surrounding environment – including valleys and streams being buried under vast amounts of metric tons of removed materials, ground water pollution, and animals who die in the process or due to destruction of habitat. Enormous amounts of dust (containing what?) are thrown into the air with the blasts required for MTR. Very heavy machinery is involved in removing the coal and transporting it, burning fossil fuels in the process.
    There have been various estimates as to the human toll that the various direct and indirect effects of coal, its emissions and its contribution to global climate change have caused. Certainly coal-fired electricity plants contribute a huge share of greenhouse gases both in the United States and in many other countries, including China where the rate of new coal-fired plants is astounding.
    Below is a URL to one of many sites that deal with the issues surrounding coal. They have a lot to say, including that, by their estimates, the “true cost” of coal-generated electricity, when all aspects are figured in, is actually 4 to 5 times the market price. Coal may be abundant, but it is neither “cheap” nor “clean.”

  2. Anyone reading this posting and all at the Sierra Club should see why Clean Coal is a con. This is dealt with in my book and is also listed as an excerpt on my blog at
    See Has Elvis already left the building?
    Bob Williamson
    Greenhouse Neutral Foundation
    Author of ZERO Greenhouse Emissions – The Day the Lights Went Out – Our Future World