It is appropriate that Mandy Gunasekara invokes the fantasy of Santa to try to support the fantasy of “clean coal” (12/26/19 MDJ editorial). Coal is a filthy and primitive fuel whose time has passed. It pollutes at every step of its supply chain from exploration, to extraction, to transportation, to burning, to waste disposal. No doubt, its early use allowed vast increases in production and stimulated economies. Likewise, it is possible to burn it now more cleanly than in the past. But the idea that there is such a thing as “clean coal” is total fantasy.
Gunasekara bases her support of coal only on the basis of the fact that we can burn it more cleanly and that the electricity produced by it has been beneficial to mankind. No mention of mountain-top removal and the communities suffering from that practice. No mention of all the coal miners suffering from black lung disease. No mention of acid mine drainage destroying aquatic ecosystems and water supply systems. No mention of all the energy it takes to transport coal from mine to power plant. No mention of the ash produced after the coal is burned — 5 million tons of that toxic ash is buried along the Chattahoochee River in Cobb County.
Gunasekara believes that Trump’s efforts to reduce carbon dioxide from coal combustion by 34% “once fully implemented” is adequate. Not even close. We need a zero carbon economy ASAP. Climate change deniers make a big deal about climate fluctuations in the past. Yep, there were, and they were associated with carbon fluctuations in the atmosphere. So if we continue to burn fossil fuels (which are sequestered atmospheric carbon from the past), the natural and inevitable consequence is a warming atmosphere. The social and economic impact of that warming will make humans wish they had never unleashed the power of fossil fuels. Is a strong economy now worth threatening the well-being of our children and grandchildren?