Ever since the emergence of “Clean Coal,” many environmentalists have questioned whether it is even possible for coal to be clean. First of all, coal is one of the dirtiest fossil fuels, and we burn 8 million tons of it every year, with growing concerns and consequences. Even though coal provides the world with about 40% of its electricity, it also creates that same percentage of the world’s carbon emissions. So the big question today isn’t whether coal can ever be “clean.” It can’t. It’s whether coal can ever be clean enough to prevent local disasters and radical changes in global climate patterns.
Just look at West Virginia, where whole Appalachian peaks have been knocked into valleys to get at the coal underneath and streams run orange with acidic water. Or look at downtown Beijing, where the air these days is often thicker than in an airport smoking lounge. Coal has its downsides, but it is also one of the cheapest sources of energy and it also supports thousands of jobs across the United States. It is quite a controversy whether to start making drastic changes or not.
Now, more than ever, people are more aware of the environment and what our everyday practices do to the air and land around us. Because of this, many products are now considered “green,” whether they are or not. This is called greenwashing. It’s greenwashing when a company or organization spends more time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact. Yes, energy companies are required to implement certain practices that reduce airborne ash particles, sulfur dioxide, and carbon dioxide. However, this is capitalism, and they just want to make money.
Fact is, there’s nothing clean or “new” about coal. Clean coal is comparable to fat-free donuts or interest-free loans. They’re just too good to be true. Continuing to promote coal as a clean energy source is contemptible when you compare it with wind, solar, water, and hydrogen power methods. Even though we rely on coal for our everyday lives, a slow transition to cleaner energy sources can still be possible.