Ask the Experts
First of all, thanks for doing such an awesome job, coal industry?
You're welcome, and thank you for your thoughtful question.
I saw an ad that said coal plants are now 70 percent cleaner than they were in the 1970s. That must be completely and irrefutably true, right?
Would an advertisement lie? Of course it's true!
The coal industry made reducing smokestack pollution its #1 priority, right around the time some environmental lawyers kicked our butts all over the judicial system for trying to evade the Clean Air Act.
These days, thanks to more modern technology, coal plants still produce carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxode, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter and other regulated emissions -- but at a fraction of what we used to 30 years ago. High five!
But what about unregulated emissions-like carbon dioxide, which has been linked to climate change?
Let's try to stick to the point. We're 70 percent cleaner on the stuff the government legally requires us to care about. Is it too much to ask for a simple thank you? And a simple promise to never, ever discuss any alternative sources of energy ever again?
It seems like our good work is never enough for some people -- the government, environmental experts, concerned residents living within coughing distance of proposed coal plants, etc. It's always "respiratory illness" this, and "reduced biodiversity" that and "dozens of metric tons of airborne toxic mercury pollution produced annually" the other thing.
With all the haters out there, sometimes it's hard to stay positive about all the great work we're doing. But we're determined to provide inexpensive coal-powered electricity to American homes for the next 100 years, or until the environment becomes too hostile to inhabit -- whichever comes first.
Is coal a better answer to our energy needs than renewable energy?
Yes, if by "better" you mean better for coal lovers. And there's so much of it to love!
Coal is as plentiful these days as old growth forests, open space and buffalo used to be. (You've probably read about them in your history books.) And since coal is available right here in America, it is our right -- no, our duty -- to rip it out of the ground and burn it. You get a cheap, reliable energy source, and coal companies get a reliable source of profits. It's a win-win.
Some would have you believe that renewable alternatives to fossil fuels have become business-friendly, cost-competitive and ready to meet a significant portion of America's energy needs. But if wind power is really the fastest-growing form of electricity generation in the country like all those "books" and "articles" say, then why aren't kites and wind chimes more popular? And maybe solar energy employs 20,000 American workers in high-paying tech jobs. But hey, 20,000 is a drop in the bucket: nearly twice that many people suffer nonfatal heart attacks each year due to power plant pollution.As for geothermal energy, that sounds totally made up to us.
What about using liquified coal to power our cars?
Americans love their cars, so turning coal into a liquid fuel is a no-brainer. That's why we're lobbying Congress to pay us billions of dollars in tax breaks to convert millions of tons of coal into gas. To the average conspiracy nutjob this might sound like a freebie for Big Business, but remember -- turning coal into liquid is an expensive, inefficient process. Don't we deserve a little a cash incentive for our hard work?
And yes, that process generates twice as much global warming pollution as producing ordinary gasoline, but we think it's important that we move our nation beyond petroleum, even if it kills us. And by "us," we mean "you." We'll be living in our solid gold oxygen castles and -- never mind, we've said too much.
Is it true that blowing up mountains in Appalachia to mine coal leads to economic opportunity?
Absolutely. You wouldn't believe how easy (and cool) it is to blast away a few hundred feet of mountaintop to scrape out the coal seams below. And while most of the economic opportunity in mountaintop removal mining is reserved for the coal industry itself, don't forget that some of it trickles down to you -- not unlike the way freshly exploded mountaintop residue, rich with unhealthy minerals, trickles down the mountainsides and chokes up the stream beds below.
As for the mountains themselves, and some of the animals that formerly lived there, don't worry. We're talking about the Appalachians -- the country's oldest, and therefore lamest, mountains. The Rockies are way cooler. There's a reason why our vacation homes are in Vail, not Wheeling.
Our Supporters Speak
Coal has really changed the landscape of America. It used to be, the only way to climb a mountain was to go up -- sometimes very high! These days, it's literally no harder than walking across a parking lot.
- M. Sherman, Senior Editor, Soot-Covered Field & Debris-Choked Stream Magazine