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“Clean Coal”

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Clean coal may be the most absurd right-wing euphemism since right to work. There ain’t nothing clean about clean coal. It’s nasty and horrible. And in fact, it may actually increase pollution:

Following the emergence of evidence that power plants using a chemically treated coal—purportedly designed to reduce smog—generated more smokestack pollution not less, the Government Accountability Office has reportedly launched a congressional probe of the “refined coal” tax credit program that yields at least $1 billion per year for U.S. corporations.

With the multibillion-dollar fossil fuel subsidy set to expire at the end of 2021, the outcome of the GAO investigation could influence whether federal lawmakers vote to renew it, Reuters reported Monday.

According to Reuters, Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) called for the probe in 2019 after the news outlet’s December 2018 reporting “revealed that many power plants burning the fuel, which supporters call ‘clean coal,’ pumped out more pollution than previously.”

A subsequent analysis conducted by the nonprofit group Resources for the Future showed that “power plants using refined coal were not cutting mercury, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur dioxide pollution to levels required by the tax credit program.”

Of course, the coal industry found a way to game the system to get filthy rich:

Many wealthy beneficiaries of the “clean coal” boondoggle are hoping that Congress will vote to extend the tax credit.

Doug Howell, the chief financial officer of Arthur J. Gallagher, is one of them. His insurance firm, as Reuters noted, “has stockpiled about $1.5 billion in tax credits from investing in refined coal activities. Of that amount, about $1 billion remain to be used in future years to offset federal tax liabilities, according to the company’s financial reports.”

I am glad the GAO is looking into this and I am glad leading Democratic senators are pushing for a real investigation. Coal needs to be phased out yesterday. There’s not going to be some magic way to burn fossil fuels in a way that doesn’t lead to pollution. We need to go all-in to move to a different energy regime.

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