From an environmental standpoint it’s awful. The mining of coal is one of the most destructive processes known to modern civilization. Coal is responsible for the physical removal of beautiful mountaintops in Appalachia and beyond. If that’s not enough to prove out its nastiness, look no further than the burning of coal. The carbon output is obscene and the other byproducts of the fuel are downright cancerous (mercury, et al). For now, I’ll leave coal ash alone.
While the environmental impact of coal is profound, the more profound and insidious affect of coal is on parade in Washington. In a recent slew of articles (New York Times, CNN and others), we are learning that the coal industry is gearing up for a nasty fight with natural gas. This fight is focused over the energy bill. With the new natural gas reserves like the Haynesville, the cleaner burning energy stock is well positioned to take us into the brighter and cleaner energy future. Apparently, Big Coal doesn’t like that.
Word on Capitol Hill is that the coal lobby has already started to stack the energy bill in its favor. Initiatives like the bogus “clean coal” technology have supposedly won favor and funding and is working hard to become the “clean” fossil energy of choice. This has included an initial pledge from the Department of Energy for $1.5 billion. This is truly sad. I understand the power of the coal lobby and its influence over our government, I only wish that we could leave politics behind and try to look at the big picture.
For the first time ever, we, as a nation, can see an cleaner energy reality. We can see the solution before our eyes: renewables working with natural gas. But even with the answer given to us, we seem to reach back into the pockets of old, dirty solutions and find ourselves back in league with the blackness of coal.