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Clean Coal? What a joke!

I have an admission: I didn’t vote for Obama.

 
Not that I’m not pleased he won, mind you. But, for me, it came down to three key phrases that he started mimicking in the last month of the election: “Clean Coal”, “Safe Nuclear”, and “Environmentally-Responsible Offshore Drilling.”
 
All three allude to our energy alternatives; all three allude to important considerations for the future; all three relate to how we live our lives every day. They need to be discussed.
 
Unfortunately, they are all fantasy terms, concocted by the marketing departments of the dirty, dangerous, multi-trillion dollar industries that control 99.9% of the energy production and distribution systems around the world. 
 
They were made up to make them more palatable to consumers who, after decades of work by environmental advocates, are becoming more conscious of the tremendous hazards that they present.
 
Let’s take a quick look…
 
·         Clean Coal – Has anyone ever seen pictures of a coal mine? How about coal-burning energy facilities? It is laughable to call these practices “clean” in any way, shape or form. OK, new technologies are making the industry “cleaner,” but to call it clean is nothing short of a lie.
 
·         Safe Nuclear – Really now… This term is even more laughable than “Clean Coal.” There is nothing “safe” about nuclear energy. The waste produced by nuclear reactors is stored on-site at the plants and has been since they opened 40-some years ago. Why? Because it is too radioactive to move, and it will be that way for about a half-million years. Yet, we are now expanding nuclear as part of our national energy strategy. Oy vey.
 
·         Environmentally-Responsible Offshore Drilling – At least, this phrase is not a complete lie because, technically, you can fudge the meaning of “environmentally-responsible.” The implication, though, is that off-shore drilling can be done in such a manner that massive accidents (caused by nature or human error and negligence) will not happen, which is akin to saying that the wind will not blow.
 
My brief barbs here are not at all fair to the industries and their attempts to clean up their act. Each of these issues is a complex study unto themselves which cannot be simplified into this space. I fully admit that my jabs may be as misleading as the marketing campaigns of the big energy corporations.
 
And I’m OK with that.
 
The efforts of government to move toward opening alternative energy markets have been feeble, at best, and at worst, they have been a token attempt to pacify a public that doesn’t understand the scope of the problem. I was not kidding about 99.9%. Alternative energy accounts for less than one-tenth of one percent of the energy production in the US, and that figure probably will not be moving much any time soon. 
 
What we’ve gotten recently has been a great increase from the previous pittance spent by government, which looks great in headlines that focus on “the percentage of increased spending,” but in reality it’s just a squeak more than the pittance we started with. We need serious technology investment, we need infrastructure, we need incentives, we need public education. 
 
So, I will end this by encouraging you to think about your energy use and to realize that it is one of the biggest environmental issues that we face. And, importantly, it is a problem that everyone can do something about, if you take a step back from your life, look around you, and think about the connections.
 
Every time you turn on the light or the air conditioner; every time you drive your car or mow the yard; every time you buy more stuff or throw stuff away. Everything you do has a consequence.
 
But don’t sit around feeling guilty. Do something. Anything. 
 
Then, feel good about yourself and try something else tomorrow.