The president talked a lot during his campaign about the dubious task of putting coal miners back to work.
His use of the term “beautiful,” clean coal was almost as frequent as his slogan “Make America Great Again.”
So let’s look at clean coal briefly and what the president is really talking about:
“Beautiful, clean coal” is, admittedly, one of the cheapest sources of energy available on the planet. It’s relatively energy efficient and even more abundant than oil.
However, there are serious draw backs and practicality issues with its use:
The stuff is so dirty that people regularly die from the pollution caused by coal. The industry has taken the lives of many coal miners. That in itself is a huge concern, from just a human and pro-life perspective.
When coal is mined, it releases dangerous pollutants into the atmosphere.
Sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, carbon dioxide and particulate matter, just to name a few.
It causes smog, soot, acid rain and contributes massively to global warming.
Common health problems associated with “clean coal” are:
2. Lung Cancer
3. Heart Disease
4. Other Health Problems, including causing fatalities.
Methods used in “cleaning” coal include:
1. Carbon Capture and Storage
In this method, dubious attempts are made to separate carbon from air before it leaves the power plant. “Absorption” methods include binding “amines” to carbon dioxide before it reaches the air. The pollutants are supposedly released underground to avoid getting into atmosphere
2. Another method for cleaning coal includes breaking up the coal and attempting to wash the sulfur out of it. The results again are controversial.
3. Oxy-Fuel Combustion is another method where the exhaust/flu gases are reused, mixed with oxygen and released into atmosphere, which, according to the coal industry, reduces pollutants.
These methods are all energy-intensive and expensive. Hence one of the reasons, beyond the serious health risks, why it’s ridiculous to attempt to “bring those jobs back” from China.
When you have lost a loved one to the coal mining industry, clean coal or not, you are a lot less likely to buy the president’s rhetoric on “beautiful, clean coal.”
But so much of politics is less about facts and more about image. Former President Barack Obama was the epitome of an image-driven leader. It was what he represented to many people that drove his presidency and popularity. He was a charismatic black man struggling to get America past its race issues. Whether he used those strengths to accomplish his stated goals outlined in the 2007 campaign is up for debate.
To Trump’s most ardent supporters, white Evangelical Christians, the president was hand selected by the Big Guy himself. This results, for better or for worse, in Donald Trump being irrevocably tied to their ardent religious faith.
If Trump screws up, that reflects badly on the one they worship. Regardless of the facts or presented arguments, weak or strong, Trump being in error on something is a non-starter (“fake news”) for these people, a good 20% or more of the US population. That’s enough to swing elections, and white Evangelical Christians supported Trump in November 2016 in colossal, record numbers.
They and the tiki-torch white supremacist marchers are undoubtedly his core base of support. If David Duke’s response to the State of the Union Address is any indication, they’re not going anywhere.
These people generally speaking will never abandon the president. He once bragged that his supporters would stand with him even if he fired off a gun in the middle of Times Square, and I’m inclined to agree with him.
Whether “clean coal” is a health hazard or impractical isn’t their concern. Trump is God’s Chosen One.
Coal miner deaths surged in 2017, indicating serious concerns that still plague the clean coal industry and call coal mining’s viability and safety into significant question.
Whether that matters to Trump supporters or not remains to be seen. But with the media doing a spotty job of reporting on this and other issues, the “fake news” police may be out en force for more fun and games.