Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Walker-Caterpillar's billboard lies: Clean coal, everybody!

Smoke and Mirrors, Next Exit!

This image was not brought to you by Photoshop. And there's no need to consult Snopes.com. We saw the actual billboard ourselves driving through Beckley, West Virginia, and my husband said "What?!" We blinked. Then blinked again. I desperately wanted to turn around and take a photo—you know, the way a person would want to stop and photograph a three-headed cow, because no one would believe it otherwise. But heavy traffic and time constraints demanded we keep moving.

When we got home, I searched online for a photo and finally found one, graciously loaned by Nick at Coal River Mountain Watch. I also did some research to figure out what the bloody hell this was all about. I mean really, there is no more such thing as carbon-neutral coal than there is water-neutral h2o (thanks to Denny for that little gem). Turns out, Walker-Cat's fun little slogan (We took some license, we know. But it's so damn catchy!) is an allusion to an untested, untried, unpracticed (need any more uns?) technology called Carbon Capture and Storage. As best I can gather, CCS would reclaim carbon dioxide emitted from coal-fired power plants, compress it, and sock it underground, where it is hoped it will remain for all eternity. But don't take my word for it. Just google "carbon capture and storage" (or "carbon sequestration") and you'll find plenty of discussions, descriptions, arguments and exaltation. Everybody's talking about it.

And you know what else will come with the clean coal reform? No more mountains will be scalped. Clean coal will be renewable, plucked from trees like apples. And no more mine workers will be exploited (this clean coal won't even sully their hands. It will be clear, like morning dew, and smell of violets). And lastly, it'll be cheap, cheap, cheap. Existing coal plants can retrofit their facilities for as little as 60 to 80 percent of the cost of a new one, according to the Electric Power Research Institute. And new plants that incorporate the technology will pay only 40 percent more for their capital outlay, the EPRI estimates. And it will only cost them 80 percent more to produce electricity. It's already so do-able, in fact, that George W. and the U.S. Department of Energy withdrew a promised $1.8 billion to help test the technology. It just wasn't necessary. This is gonna be a breeze!

Clean coal. It's like Chlorox, 'cept cleaner.