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Feature Story
How to Clean Coal
Readers Express Their Concerns About Mountaintop Removal
Readers' Letters | NRDC Replies | Back to Story

Clean, You Say?

Your cover article, "How to Clean Coal," by Craig Canine (Fall 2005) was not entirely encouraging. I know that injecting liquids into the earth can trigger localized earthquakes. Will there be repercussions from pumping all that compressed CO2, hot or not, back into the earth? I hope the answer is found to be a firm "no" before CO2 injection is widely implemented.
Loretta Van Coppenolle
San Antonio, Texas

Maybe by some miracle coal can be burned clean, but the mining of coal is a disaster: 500,000 acres of the Appalachian Mountains have been destroyed by mountaintop-removal mining. That's equivalent to a one-quarter-mile-wide swath from New York City to San Francisco. One thousand miles of Appalachian streams have been filled with the waste. That's longer than the Ohio River. Let's not talk about clean coal unless you agree that Appalachia should be a national sacrifice zone.
Julian Martin
West Virginia Highlands Conservancy
Charleston, West Virginia

While we recognize that coal is a major energy source and must be used with as little impact as possible, money put into "clean" coal technology would be better spent on truly clean energy sources. We have reservations about a technology that sweeps CO2 under the rug for our descendants to deal with. Even more worrisome, though, is the suggestion that coal can be clean. The term "clean coal" further enables the coal industry to destroy our communities and our environment through mountaintop-removal mining. The loss of human lives, majestic mountaintops, clean water, and even our homes is clean coal's dirty secret. From cradle to grave, coal takes a horrible toll.
Vernon Haltom
Friends of the Mountains
Naoma, West Virginia

Carbon dioxide injection sounds like a good way to get the last drop of oil out of the earth. But at pressures of more than 2,000 pounds per square inch, I'd be afraid the earth may someday give a violent burp and belch all that CO2 back into the atmosphere, where it would rather be. What happens then?
Jerrold Turnquis
Deerwood, Minnesota

I am a chemist who studies combustion, and it was refreshing to see an environmental publication take a balanced and realistic look at coal technologies. As Craig Canine points out, coal will be a major source of energy for many years to come and it is incumbent on all of us to minimize the impacts this fuel has on the environment. The rigid attitudes of many environmentalists make it hard for the public to take them seriously. I support staunch environmental protection matched with a pragmatic approach to achieving intermediate goals.
David Osborn
Oakland, California

Global Warming Special
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OnEarth. Fall 2005
Copyright 2005 by the Natural Resources Defense Council