Just ahead of the first presidential debate, the coal industry began airing new ads criticizing Obama. The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity has produced three new spots that will run on both cable and network television. ACCCE says the EPA under Obama has an “anti-coal agenda.” The EPA has proposed new rules to reduce carbon emissions, as well as mercury. The House passed a package of bills last week called “Stop the War on Coal Act,” aimed at rolling back these rules.
The ads don’t mention either candidate by name. But to the backdrop of a federal government building and the Lincoln Memorial, the voiceover says:
“Heavy handed EPA regulations have taken us down a reckless path. A path limiting our most abundant and reliant domestic fuel to generate electricity, coal.”
The EPA’s carbon rules would make it impossible for any new coal-fired plants to come online unless they employ carbon capture technology, which researchers say is still decades away and very expensive. But some say recent closures at coal burning plants have more to do with economics, not EPA rules. The sudden abundance of cheap natural gas, which when burned emits less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than coal, has utilities looking to phase it out in favor of natural gas.
Clean coal can mean different things to different people. When the industry talks about clean coal, they refer to scrubbers and other technology that reduce harmful emissions like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and fine particulates. When others say clean coal, they mean carbon capture and sequestration, which would reduce greenhouse gas causing CO2 emissions. Environmentalists say there’s no such thing as “clean coal,” because no technology exists to reduce emissions to zero.