The most memorable line Iï¿½ve ever heard from a speaker at a conference came more than 20 years ago: ï¿½What children learn from television is that adults will lie for money.ï¿½
So I shouldnï¿½t be so mad at the current series of TV ads claiming thereï¿½s no such thing as clean coal.
But those ads commit crimes of grand and deliberate deception that aim to frustrate an honest discussion of energy.
Their message seizes on the admittedly fuzzy, yet important, term ï¿½clean coal.ï¿½
The phrase describes a variety of efforts to reduce the environmental effects of burning coal to make electricity.
Those efforts include washing out impurities before itï¿½s burned, removing some of the emissions after itï¿½s burned, and research to capture greenhouse gas emissions and store them underground.
So far, those efforts have reduced regulated emissions from coal power plants by 77 percent in the past 35 years. Yep. For every four pieces of pollution, clean coal programs have scrubbed out three of them.
Pretty good for something they say doesnï¿½t exist.
Clean coal research and development will likely continue to reduce those emissions.
What could possibly be wrong with reducing pollution?
Improving coal is only bad if your goal is to eliminate the use of coal entirely. And thatï¿½s where the critics of clean coal need to be more honest.
Coal generates nine out of every 10 kilowatts of electricity in Kentucky. Itï¿½s a lot cheaper than alternatives like solar and wind energy. Coal is a leading reason Kentuckyï¿½s electric rates rank among the lowest in the nation. And coal-fired power plants work when the sun isnï¿½t shining and the wind isnï¿½t blowing.
You wonï¿½t learn any of that from those anti-clean coal ads.
We need to develop more solar, wind, biomass, and other forms of renewable energy.
We need to use energy more efficiently.
And we need the cleanest coal possible to provide reliable and affordable electricity in ways that respect our environment. Thatï¿½s the fundamental truth.
Denying the past and promise of clean coal is a fundamental lie.