“The criticism of coal is that it’s a dirty energy source,” said ABC correspondent David Kerley on the August 7 show. “Although many of the pollutants are being scrubbed out – it’s still high in carbon, the greenhouse gas blamed for global warming. The industry is promising some new expensive technology to remove that carbon.”
The “World News” report briefly featured Carol Raulston, a spokeswoman from the National Mining Association, who reminded the audience that coal is less expensive than other electricity sources. Kerley noted that 50 percent of U.S. electricity comes from coal.
But the report changed its tone when Kerley focused on criticism of the “dirty energy source.” He brought on Jeff Goodell, author of “Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future.”
“‘Clean coal’ is something like fat-free doughnuts,” Goodell said. “It’s something, that we would all sort of like to believe in and sounds good. But, in fact is just a kind of a, uh – advertising slogan.”
Goodell didn’t back up his claim that it was just “kind of an advertising slogan” with any scientific evidence. However, researchers at MIT would dispute his claim.
“There are many opportunities for enhancing the performance of coal plants in a carbon-constrained world – higher efficiency generation, perhaps through new materials; novel approaches to gasification, CO2 capture, and oxygen separation; and advanced system concepts, perhaps guided by a new generation of simulation tools,” said Dr. Ernest J. Moniz, a physicist at MIT, in a March 14 news release. “An aggressive R&D effort in the near term will yield significant dividends down the road, and should be undertaken immediately to help meet this urgent scientific challenge.”
The industry has, in fact, reduced its emissions significantly over the years. In 1970, utilities used 320 million tons of coal with emissions equaling 15.8 million tons. Compare that to 1995, when 875 million tons of coal were used and emissions reduced to 11.6 million. That’s a 26-percent decrease in emissions, despite a more than 250-percent increase in coal consumption, according to the Virginia Mining Association.
Goodell lacks the scientific credentials to make expert claims about coal. He is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and a contributor to The New York Times Magazine and Air America. He admitted in an interview his interest in the coal industry was inspired by the 2000 presidential election – when President George W. Bush won the state of West Virginia, a state that had traditionally voted Democratic, and how the coal industry may have influenced the state’s politics.