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We keep getting a bunch of bull about "clean coal" from coal companies, pundits, and politicians. There is no such thing as "clean coal." Hat tip to Marc Crispin Miller for pointing to the video of Monday's enormous coal sludge spill in Tennessee.



Here's the description from CNN:
Estimates for the amount of thick sludge that gushed from a Tennessee coal plant this week have tripled to more than a billion gallons, as cleanup crews try to remove the goop from homes and railroads and halt its oozing into an adjacent river.
TVA officials originally said the cleanup would take four to six weeks. Now they say they aren't sure.

TVA officials originally said the cleanup would take four to six weeks. Now they say they aren't sure.

The sludge, a byproduct of the ash from coal combustion, was contained at a retention site at the Tennessee Valley Authority's power plant in Kingston, about 40 miles east of Knoxville. The retention wall breached early Monday, sending the sludge downhill and damaging 15 homes. All the residents were evacuated, and three homes were deemed uninhabitable, according to the TVA.

TVA's initial estimate for the spill was 1.8 million cubic yards or more than 360 million gallons of sludge. By Friday, the estimate reached 5.4 million cubic yards or more than 1 billion gallons -- enough to fill 1,660 Olympic-size swimming pools.

Environmental advocates say the ash contains concentrated levels of mercury and arsenic.

The plant sits on a tributary of the Tennessee River called the Clinch River. At least 300 acres of land has been coated by the sludge -- a bigger area than the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Yeah, coal is really, really clean.

Here's the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy's commentary on the disaster (12/26/08 Press Release):
Knoxville, Tenn. (Friday, Dec. 26) – The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is calling the recent TVA Kingston Fossil Plant ash spill a historical energy disaster, causing undetermined consequences to water, land, residents and wildlife in Roane County, Tenn.

“We are saddened by the environmental devastation brought on by the coal ash spill at the TVA site in Kingston, Tennessee,” said Dr. Stephen A. Smith, executive director for Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “SACE believes that TVA, TDEC and the EPA should be erring on the side of caution and encouraging residents and others at the site to avoid bodily contact with the ash, which when dried can become airborne. Along with the lead and thallium officially found in the ash, there is a strong probability that levels of arsenic, cadmium and potentially mercury will be found.”

Dr. Smith continued by stressing that safety precautions should be taken by residents in the affected area.

“This is clearly one of the most severe environmental disasters of East Tennessee,” Smith said. “There are multiple pathways in which people can become potentially affected by these heavy metals, including bodily contact, drinking water, air pathways and aquatic wildlife and fish, and we feel that appropriate warnings should be expressed to ensure the safety of Tennessee residents.”

The nonsense about "clean coal" has been refuted by a coalition of environmental groups at ThisIsReality.org. They have a list of facts which focus on coal, global warming, and other air pollution. When you add coal plant waste to the picture, it gets even more disturbing.

Then, there's the practice of cutting off mountaintops to get coal more cheaply, another dirty, yet common, practice. Don't forget that coal mining is terribly dangerous, and that green jobs are much safer.

The more you learn about coal, the more depressing it gets.

 

3 comments

  1. Christopher Says:
  2. Huh? So curious.

    TN Sen. Bob Corker was hell-bent on blocking the bridge loan to protect the US automakers.

    I don't recall him flapping his piehole about environmental problems in his home state?

    Did I miss something???

     
  3. TN Citizen Says:
  4. The unfortunate truth is that unless we go nuclear on a very large scale, discover some revolutionary new breakthrough source of energy, etc. then we are going to be using fossil fuels until depletion forces the use of something else, or else forces a massive reduction in world population (death of several billion people through nuclear war and/or starvation). In the bigger scheme of all this, global warming and what little pollution does escape the scrubbing process after burning coal is of minimal concern. If the theory of global warming is correct, then it is going to happen and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it, simply because there are now 6 billion people on the earth, > 1 billion in China and > 1 billion in India. These people are not about to stop using fossil fuels until they are prohibitively expensive due to depletion. When that happens, they will go to war for them unless suitable alternatives have been discovered. If we in the USA decide to tie our own hands and create a "carbon tax" or some other such scheme, we will only screw ourselves. Our enemies will get stronger while our own nation gets weaker. Global warming does not matter. Millions or billions of years ago, all the carbon now buried as fossil fuels was in the form of either atmospheric CO2 or organically active carbon as cellulose in the biolsphere. If we burn all the fossil fuels, we are not in uncharted territory, but have simply reset the clock a few million years. The greatest threats to human existence is not global warming, but resource depletion and nuclear war. In the bigger scheme of things, sludge spills like this one at TVA are a threat, but one that can be remedied with better construction standards. What we need to be doing is focusing exclusively on finding renewable energy sources, and more efficient use of what we have, not worrying about "global warming" or "climate change". We should be taxing the use of fossil fuels in order to fund the creation of new energy sources and not worry about how much CO2 is generated.

     
  5. Nuke energy just isn't an option until we figure out a way to store it properly or we will have a similar accident but this time with radioactive sludge.

     

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