What is clean coal - or green coal?

Burning of coal, a fossil fuel is one of the principal causes of climate change and global warming.

"Clean coal" or "Green coal" is a theory that we can capture all the pollutants including sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide from coal as it is burnt and store them, instead of releasing them as greenhouse gases.

The carbon dioxide will then be pumped underground into vacant spaces where oil and natural gas used to be. This will be known as "carbon sequestration".

Countries that rely on coal for their economies and electricity generation (Australia, for one) are hoping that clean coal will let them continue using and exporting "clean" coal without the carbon pollution attached.

Unfortunately there are no examples of successful coal "cleaning" so far.

Many environmentalists believe that the term clean coal is misleading: "There is no such thing as 'clean coal' and there never will be. It's an oxymoron" (Sierra Club director, Dan Becker).

Complaints are:

  • Coal mining has a high environmental impact
  • Carbon Sequestration costs will be extremely high
  • There is no sure science on how to capture or store the pollutants.
A: Clean coal is essentially a lie made up by politicians to fool voters into believing the government is acting on the energy crisis. In the real coal industry, "clean coal" has been implemented in 6% of coal-power stations, and is now no longer being used in any stations. The chemistry behind clean coal produces highly toxic chemicals as a by-product, and hence cannot be used to fix the energy crisis. It certainly isn't good for the environment.

As an example of the difficulties involved, Australia's coal-fired power stations produce 260 trillion liters of carbon dioxide every day (260,000,000,000 liters). The energy required to compress and sequester this would use massive amounts of the power generated by the "cleaned" coal.

Clean coal is a term for technology (Clean coal technology) that mitigates emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gasses that arise from the burning of coal for electrical power. It reduces the harmful emissions caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

  • coal that is burned with technology that cuts the amount of soot and sulfur dioxide emitted