"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

With Regard to Climate Change, There Is No Such Thing As "Clean Coal"

In a lightning round of questions, Mar Roxas, a candidate for president in the Philippines, said that coal as an energy source is not damaging to the environment. Roxas cites "clean coal" and expresses no opposition to the current plans of the Aquino administration to build more than an additional score of coal plants in the country. This, of course, goes way against an agreement the country has signed in Paris in which the country says it is committed to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by seventy percent. With regard to carbon emissions, with regard to climate change, there is no such thing as "clean coal".


It is one thing to be vulgar or offensive with words, something another candidate for president in the Philippines is now known for worldwide. But far more insidious is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Pretending to be environmentally friendly while doing exactly what harms the environment.

"Clean coal" is really a response to other pollutants which include highly toxic metals as well as acid rain producing gases. Below is an excerpt from the United States Environment Protection Agency (EPA).
Above copied from the US Enviroment Protection Agency (EPA)

To address these pollutants, various technologies have been employed in newly built as well as existing coal plants in the United States and in Europe.

Above copied from the US Enviroment Protection Agency (EPA)

Carbon dioxide emission is an entirely different story. Pope Francis is quite clear in this regard, in his encyclical on nature, Laudato Si':
...Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change. However, many of these symptoms indicate that such effects will continue to worsen if we continue with current models of production and consumption. There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy....
It is in terms of carbon dioxide emissions that coal is truly a bad fuel. Basic chemistry tells us that coal produces much more carbon dioxide for every energy unit extracted.
Above copied from the US Energy Information Administration
One need not ask a candidate of his or her stand on basic education. One need not ask how much a candidate support education in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). One simply has to look at what a candidate tells us on important issues such as climate change to see. Mar Roxas, by implying that "clean coal" is not affecting the environment grossly miseducates the public. And unfortunately, it is done in a very insidious fashion.

To learn more about carbon dioxide and climate change, I share below a series of slides which I use when introducing this topic to my General Chemistry class.

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