The coal lobby has thrown billions of dollars at convincing consumers that "clean coal" is the future of American energy. It's abundant, it's cheap, and thanks to carbon capture technology, burning coal isn't as bad for the planet as it used to be! That's the claim, and it's partly true. Unfortunately, there is really no such thing as "clean coal."
Coal is abundant and cheap, if you're only measuring that cost in the money coal companies have to spend to get it out of the ground. The problem is that we've mined most of the coal that's really easy to get, so now companies have to take extreme measures to get the coal that powers most of the homes in the U.S.
It started with strip mining. When coal mines began to become more scarce, coal companies turned to this new technique which uses heavy machinery to scrape away layers of the Earth to get at more tucked-away coal stores. All of that stripping polluted surrounding air and waterways.
Our thirst for energy now has us using even more extreme measures to acquire coal. Instead of stripping the land, the common practice is now mountaintop removal mining (MTR). MTR uses explosives to literally blow the tops off of mountains. It scars the landscape and is far more polluting than strip mining, which was already pretty bad.
In fact, according to advocacy group I Love Mountains:
In Appalachia, children are 42% more likely to have birth defects — if they live near a mountaintop removal coal mine. Individuals are 50% percent more likely to die from cancer.
Check out this video from Appalachian Voices about how MTR is affecting public health.
This has nothing to do with burning coal. No amount of carbon capture is going to change that MTR is a major public health and environmental threat.
Mountaintop Removal Mining: Get Heard
If you are as sickened by that video and MTR in general as I am, I hope you'll take a moment to sign the I Love Mountains Petition asking President Obama to stand up for Appalachian children and ban this practice.
As individuals, we can work to rely less on coal-fired power by using less electricity. If you have electric heat, take steps to winterize your home. You can also do simple things like turn off the lights when you leave a room and unplug electronics you're not using to eliminate vampire power use in your home.
If you have the money, switching out electric appliances for alternatively-powered ones can also make a big difference. Consider a solar hot water heater, for example, instead of an electric one, or install solar panels. Even if they only replace some of the coal-fired electricity in your home with renewable power, you're still contributing that much less to our coal problem, right?
I'd love to hear from you guys! What are you doing to reduce your dependence on coal-fired power?
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo via I Love Mountains