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Don't Get Duped Like Obama: Here're the Top 5 Myths About Coal

The coal industry has spent millions trying to fool the American public, Congress and the president. Here's how to beat the hype.

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"The more coal we mine, the poorer we get. We don't have good roads, good infrastructure, water and sewage -- we have nothing," said Judy Bonds, a Coal River activist and 10th-generation West Virginian.

5. It Can Help Stop Global Warming

Currently, 30 percent of U.S. carbon emissions comes from burning coal, and it is the leading source of global warming pollution. The world's leading scientists have formed a consensus that we need immediate action to address global warming.

The This Is Reality Campaign writes, "The chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, in 2007, said, 'If there's no action before 2012, that's too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.' For coal to maintain a role in America's energy mix, the industry must act quickly to stop emitting CO2."

So, we need to act quickly, which should translate into no new coal-burning power plants. But instead, unbelievably, the coal industry is hoping to convince people that they won't have to change their way of life at all and that burning coal can some how be "green."

The Hawthorne group wrote of the success of their "clean coal" campaign: "We did this by sending 'clean coal' branded teams to hundreds of presidential candidate events, carrying a positive message (we can be part of the solution to climate change), which was reinforced by giving away free T-shirts and hats emblazoned with our branding: Clean Coal."

But all the free hats in the world can't make up for the fact that the technology they are counting on isn't a reality. A report from the Union of Concerned Scientists said, "Although carbon sequestration has been the subject of considerable research and analysis, it has yet to be demonstrated in the form of commercial-scale, fully integrated projects at coal-fired power plants."

So, right now according to the Department of Energy, "there are roughly 600 coal plants producing electricity in the U.S. Not one of them captures and stores its global warming pollution" and there is also not one demonstration plant in the U.S. either.

If we need immediate action on climate change, clearly CCS is not going to be part of that mix. And frankly, despite its rhetoric that "we can be part of the solution," the coal industry is doing everything it can to be part of the problem.

The Center for American Progress reported, "The coal mining and electric utility industries spent over $125 million combined in the first nine months of 2008 to lobby Congress to delay global-warming-pollution reductions until clean coal technology is ready."

And it looks like that technology won't be ready anytime soon:

The rate of investment must increase dramatically for CCS to play a role in greenhouse-gas-emission reductions from coal-fired power plants. A recent study by the International Energy Agency found that "current CCS spending and activity levels are nowhere near enough" to reduce emissions by 20 percent by 2020.

Instead, the IEA advised that "up to $20 billion is needed for near-term demonstrations." Credit Suisse says that CCS research "needs a further $15 billion of investment and 10 more years of research and development to be ready for commercial use." These levels are significantly more than the than the combined research effort of the ACCCE companies and Department of Energy.

If only coal companies hadn't blown millions on free hats and T-shirts! Let's hope Congress and the White House come to their senses and decide to direct money to truly clean sources of energy instead of propping up our biggest polluters and trying to pass them off as green.

 
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