The Coen brothers examine “Clean Coal”.

Tell me if any of these films ring a bell – Burn After Reading; No Country for Old Men; O Brother, Where Art Thou?; The Big Lebowski; Fargo.  Joel and Ethan Coen are the iconic, Academy Award winning directors behind these movies and many more.  So what do they have to do with clean coal?  Well, you may have noticed a couple of the television ads recently run by a group called Reality.  Their witty ads are meant to expose the false hope that the term “Clean Coal” evokes.  If you haven’t seen the ads, I highly suggest checking them out on YouTube.  The latest ad was written and directed by the Coen brothers, keeping true to the style and humor they are known for…

We’ve been hearing about clean coal for years now, but the oxymoron of a term is nothing more than a marketing ploy introduced and promoted by the coal industry to make the general public think coal can be a clean, sustainable energy some day.  President Obama even seems to support the hype, setting aside 3.4 billion dollars for it in the latest stimilus package.  In reality, clean coal technologies have not yet been implemented or tested at a large enough scale for us to determine their viability or the potential side effects.  Capturing and sequestering CO2 below the earth’s surface, or at the bottom of the oceans may end up causing more harm to the ecosystem than we can imagine. Regardless, the capture and storage of CO2 only addresses one piece of the entire coal burning cycle.  

Open pit coal mining.

Open pit coal mining.

Coal is and will always be a finite resource, which means someday it may become too hard or too expensive to mine within our borders.  Then what do we do, ship it in from Asia, Central or South America?  Sounds a little like our foreign oil dependency.  If you were to ask a group of people to describe a coal mine, I would venture to say the vast majority will describe long tunnels and giant caves deep inside a mountain somewhere.   Most people haven’t seen the open pit mines, or the mountains with their tops hacked off.  Maybe we need to do a better job of educating the general public about the horrible side effects of “clean coal”…

Mining the sides of a mountain.

Mining the sides of a mountain.

~ by Nathan Morey on February 27, 2009.

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