From Thomas Kostingen, writing for Marketwatch. Basically what I've been saying all along, although Kostigen doesn't discuss environmental damage due to mining.
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (MarketWatch) -- Turn on your television and soon enough you'll see an advertisement espousing the benefits of "clean coal." Wait a little longer and you might see an advertisement saying there's no such thing.
Let's be clear: The latter is true. There is no such thing as clean coal. It's like saying "dry water." It doesn't exist.
Yet a multi-million dollar advertising and marketing campaign by the coal industry is trying to sway public opinion about coal, an energy source targeted by activists and officials as harmful to our health and the planet's health when burned.
Burning coal spews carbon dioxide, among other pollutants, into the air. Still, we generate about half of our electricity in the United States with coal.
The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity says it believes "the robust utilization of coal -- America's most abundant energy resource -- is essential to providing affordable, reliable electricity for millions of U.S. consumers and a growing domestic economy. Further, ACCCE is committed to continued and enhanced U.S. leadership in developing and deploying new, advanced clean coal technologies that protect and improve the environment."
The sly campaign is to be expected. Coal's future is in serious doubt. With businesses and utilities looking to replace it as a power source, the industry is right to be afraid.
Disingenuous advertising campaigns, however, aren't the way to fix the coal industry's ills. If ever there was a time to embrace truly clean energy -- solar, wind, hydro -- it's now. Heck, even the major oil companies are smart enough to showcase their investments in the future by trotting out their alternative energy programs.
Coal companies, on the other hand, have their heads stuck in the mine. They are like cigarette companies that publicize the benefits of filters: low tar, less nicotine. Their product is still lethal, mind you -- just not as much. Think about that.
The health and pollution ramifications of burning coal are numerous. Air pollution is the leading cause of asthma. Asthma is the leading cause of school absences. Air pollution kills more people per year than automobile accidents.
Of course, abruptly ending our reliance on coal isn't feasible. We need to wean ourselves off it, and phase in alternative energy solutions. My energy provider is doing it, powering my house with less than half the coal used last year.
In fact, only 8% of the power for my electricity now comes from coal. The rest is a mix of renewable power, nuclear and natural gas. It's not ideal, but if my utility provider can ratchet down its use of coal, so can others.
As the Environmental Protection Agency threatens to label carbon emissions a dangerous pollutant and thereby subject the coal industry and all those who rely on it to onerous measures, it's time coal companies owned up to the fact that their time has come and gone.
By joining the alternative energy movement and investing in clean power for us, they could control and shape the future rather than fight for the dark past. China, India and Europe would be our customers if we had the silver bullet to coal use.
The coal industry should be looking to invent in its own replacement because someone somewhere is going to invent it, and then where will they be? Likely looking for bailout money, no doubt.
Coal players need to open their eyes and see what's coming. Instead, they are squandering an opportunity. We should be mad at them, just as much as we are mad at the finance industry that fooled us into subprime mortgages and false profits.
Let's not get fooled again by the myth of clean coal. It's dirty by nature.
Thomas M. Kostigen is the author of You Are Here: Exposing the Vital Link Between What We Do and What That Does to Our Planet (HarperOne). www.readyouarehere.com End of Story