While coal industry lobbyists promote "clean coal", scientists argue that such technology is years away. Meanwhile, the mountains of West Virginia are being leveled with devastating consequences for the environment and for neighboring communities.
Big Coal and its cohorts envision a "clean coal technology" future fueled by liquifying and gasifying coal, capturing the carbon emissions and injecting them underground. By 2030 the West Virginia Division of Energy -- a nascent state agency formed in July, 2007 -- wants to oust oil and exalt coal by displacing the 1.3 billion gallons of foreign oil the state currently imports every year.
But scientists and environmentalists say "clean coal" does not exist; it is a misnomer and an oxymoron. The National Resources Defense Council has said, using the term "clean coal" makes about as much sense as saying "safe cigarettes." The extraction and cleaning of coal inevitably decimate ecosystems and communities.
Not only do we not have the capacity to store all the CO2 we produce, but the technology isn't there yet. The coal industry acknowledges that CCS is 15 years away, but continues to promulgate the myth of "clean coal technology" and to guide generous government subsidies to themselves and to West Virginia universities, assigning valuable research money to dirty technology. Large-scale surface mining has converted forests to grasslands, resulting in a loss of carbon sequestration capacity of approximately 1.4 million acres.
In West Virginia, the second-largest coal-producing state in the nation, more than 470 mountaintops have been blown apart, 800 square miles of the most diverse temperate hardwood forest razed and replaced with more than 4,000 valley fills and 675 toxic coal sludge ponds. By 2012, the U.S. government estimates that we will have destroyed 2,500 square miles of pristine Appalachia.