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VP Debate: Bi-Partisan Romancing of Clean Coal

October 2nd, 2008 · 5 Comments

If we are going to take serious steps to change our reckless drive over the cliffs, in a sad version of Thelma & Louise but in a belching hummer rather than sexy convertible, we have to get serious about facts. And, well, the fact is that “Clean Coal” is not fact , it is powerpoint slides, promises, and 10s (probably 100s) of millions of dollars of advertising and influence efforts. In a more honest world, it might be called “Somewhat Less Deadly Coal”.

Sadly, there are all too many signs that influence campaigns backed by such huge sums of money work. The Vice-Presidential debate between Senator Joe Biden and Governor Sarah Palin provided such an example.

Senator Biden seemed effusive in his support for Clean Coal as did, with little surprise, fossil fool Sarah.

To give one feel for the relative import of various energy options in the debate, here are a few word counts (including Gwen Ifil, Joe Biden, Sarah Palin)

  • Clean Coal: 10 uses
  • Wind: 5 uses
  • Solar: 2 uses
  • Energy Efficiency / Efficiency: 0 uses
  • This is not a comforting emphasis and, the discomfort doesn’t only come from the nation’s leading energy expert, Sarah Palin.

    Senator Biden said:

    We believe — Barack Obama believes by investing in clean coal and safe nuclear, we can not only create jobs in wind and solar here in the United States, we can export it.

    China is building one to three new coal-fired plants burning dirty coal per week. It’s polluting not only the atmosphere but the West Coast of the United States. We should export the technology by investing in clean coal technology.

    Did he really say that “investing in clean coal and safe nuclear” is somehow the path to “create jobs in wind and solar”? Huh? With all due respect, Senator Biden, can you save sentences like that for interviews with Katie Couric?

    In any event, is Senator Biden saying that a priority is to focus on developing technologies to help China burn more coal? Perhaps he should spend some time thinking about concepts like Energize America or Google.ORG’s Clean Energy 2030 that would get us (the U.S.) off coal by 2030, or just about when the chimera of “clean coal” might (MIGHT) actually be moving into reality from fantasy land.

    The “Clean Coal” discussion didn’t end there.

    IFILL: On clean coal.
    BIDEN: Oh, on clean coal. My record, just take a look at the record. My record for 25 years has supported clean coal technology. A comment made in a rope line was taken out of context. I was talking about exporting that technology to China so when they burn their dirty coal, it won’t be as dirty, it will be clean.

    Don’t practice ‘gotcha journalism’ on me, Gwen, just don’t take “a comment made in a rope line … out of context.” Biden strongly fought to assert his long (25 year record) support for “clean coal technology” without, of course, mentioning that “clean coal’ remains more advertising slogan than substance.

    This is a sad thing coming from the strong environmentalist on the Democratic Party ticket. An allegiance to coal has no place in the priorities of anyone seriously concerned about changing our direction on Global Warming. No place …

    We need to make sure that this allegiance to Clean Coal was a bipartisan love fest in tonight’s debate. Sarah Palin had no intention to let herself be outdone on an energy issue. After, all, according to Sarah, “my own area of expertise, and that’s energy.” Palin spent far less effort and words on clean coal but, not surprisingly, those words have a weird twist.

    There — with new technology, with tiny footprints even on land, it is safe to drill and we need to do more of that. But also in that “all of the above” approach that Sen. McCain supports, the alternative fuels will be tapped into: the nuclear, the clean coal.

    If I understand this correctly, nuclear power and “the clean coal” are “alternative fuels”? Hugh … scratching my head in confusion.

    In any event, what is sad is that on national television, the two candidates for Vice President both uncritically endorsed clean coal. From fossil fool Sarah Palin, what else could be expected (unless she would speak from the realities of her position and advocate for dirty coal)? From Joe Biden, who is on the ticket that is calling for serious action on Global Warming? Clean Coal isn’t, it just doesn’t exist in any workable fashion today and not for the foreseeable future.

    Should research continue on ways to reduce coal’s pollution footprint (not just CO2, but also mercury, particulates, etc …)? Absolutely. But, we should not base policy and decison-making on promises that something will become effective at some distance future date. Right now, “clean coal’ is a powerful framing slogan while it is not anything deployable to reduce coal’s impact on global warming … and likely not anything deployment for the coming several decades. Can we wait until the 2030s for something to start cutting into coal greenhouse gas emssions? It is hard to imagine how …

    NOTE: Will return to the debate and a fuller coverage of all the energy and global warming discussions. This discussion of Slightly Less Deadly Coal merited highlighting.

    And, to be quite clear, there are stark differences between Joe Biden and Sarah “Energy Expert” Palin on energy and environmental issues, Sarah Palin’s record is ugly on environmental and energy issues. Joe Biden’s is generally strong and admirable. When it comes to the Vice Presidential candidates, despite issues surrounding Less-Dirty Coal, their colors are clear: Joe Biden is a darkening shade of green while Sarah Palin is very dirty black.

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    Tags: coal · emissions · Energy · environmental

    5 responses so far ↓

    • 1 Angry Words in VA, including on Energy // Oct 5, 2008 at 6:51 am

      […] (for example) emphasizes putting quite a bit of money into the misnamed and deceptive “clean coal“.  There is nothing there, nothing, that states those three “NO” statements.  […]

    • 2 eddisionklein // Nov 10, 2008 at 3:51 am

      The description about the Bi-Partisan Romancing of Clean Coal is very nice. Can you post me some amazing pictures of this view.

    • 3 Clean Coal Technology // Nov 13, 2008 at 5:47 am

      Hello there, Many people believe that the Democrats are the party of green and the party of hope for our environment, Global Warming and all the past good that has been done for clean air and water in the United States. But the truth is that is not exactly how it happened.

    • 4 adonispayton // Dec 3, 2008 at 5:54 am

      Information about the Romancing of Clean Coal is nice. coal as become so important factor in this days. Coal is an extremely important fuel and will remain so. Some 23% of primary energy needs are met by coal and 39% of electricity is generated from coal. About 70% of world steel production depends on coal feedstock. Coal is the world’s most abundant and widely distributed fossil fuel source. The International Energy Agency expects a 43% increase in its use from 2000 to 2020.

    • 5 “This is Reality”: “Clean Coal” Vaporware // Dec 4, 2008 at 2:49 pm

      […] launching This is Simply put, despite all the glowing ads that you’ve seen and bipartisan romancing of clean coal, “clean coal” remains not much more than powerpoint slides and technological dreams […]