The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (bought and paid for by the coal industry) was stumping its “clean coal” message in Huntington, West Virginia last week. If you aren’t already skeptical about the notion of so-called clean coal, then check out this less-than-hopeful message from clean coal spindoctor Cathy Coffey:
We believe that technology within the next 10 to 15 years will be developed and tested so that we will be able to produce near-zero emission-free electricity from coal.” (My emphasis).
The message is carefully crafted and the “10 to 15 years will be developed and tested” message is subtle enough to be passed right over. The clean coal message might even leave you feeling a little hopeful.
The truth is that yes in the next 10 to 15 years there is the possibility that technology to capture greenhouse emissions could be “developed and tested.” The problem is most estimates find that it will take another 10 to 15 years on top of that to deploy carbon capture and sequestration on a commercial scale.
In other words, the earliest we might possibly see commercial-scale near-zero emission free electricity from coal will be around the year 2040. Way too little, way too late if we listen to the scientists at the world’s top academies who are saying we require a cut in greenhouse gas emissions of at least 25-30% below 1990 levels by 2020.
Given that the US coal industry is responsible for about 30% of the country’s total emissions of greenhouse gas, a promise of “emissions-free” electricity by 2040 means we’re in for a lot of trouble if we continue to swallow the coal-is-clean talking points.