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Clean coal technology may not be so clean.

The topic of why not to use coal has been discussed many times, and what is to there to like about coal?

It is dirty, unsustainable, polluting, contributes to greenhouse gas emissions etc.

Yet, the coal industry, aware of their popularity these days promotes the advantages of so called clean coal as a way to keep their industry alive without compromising the environment.

Why is coal still used to generate 50 percent of our electricity? A 1993 article in the Atlantic discussed how the infrastructure uses it as an economical source of fuel and is still present, until you consider the true, or non-internalized, costs of using coal are not factored in, the costs not attached to every ton of coal, but someone, namely tax payers, will have to pay for.

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After looking at these costs, the article suggested alternatives could be a more economical, not to mention cleaner, choice.

The topic of “clean coal technology,” promises to be a cleaner use of a resource America has in abundance. That’s the promise, here is a bit of reality: even if it is oh-so-clean, the world still has several significant problems if it continues to use coal.

It still has to be acquired and because it is non-renewable, we will still have to find another substitute once it becomes too expensive to extract and use, no matter how “cleanly” it can be used.

Overall, society will need substitutes that are truly clean and sustainable sooner, rather than later, if we are to keep the lights on for the next several centuries.

Before the end of the year, “The Tennessean” reported that a 40-acre ash pond, used by a coal fired power plant, burst releasing 2.6 million cubic yards of toxic coal ash sediment into Tennessee’s Emory River. Clean coal still produces ash, so such disasters could happen again, and tax payers will have to pay the cleanup bill.

The issue of whether or not to continue burning coal, even if it can be “clean” is not an issue of political affiliation; it affects everyone, we all need clean air, soil and water. The only truly clean coal is that which remains buried underground, and that is sustainable.