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Clean Coal

Coal, like other fossil fuels, powers our economy and our lifestyle. Coal is cheap and abundant, which means its power is too. The downside of coal use is the environmental impact. Like other fossil fuels, coal is blamed for emissions that contribute to global warming and for producing acid rain. A major benefit of coal is that the United States has extensive deposits, which means we don’t have to rely on imports from foreign sources.

In order to keep this "local" resource in the energy mix for the future, the government began looking for ways to overcome coal’s environmental problems. In 1986, the U.S. government instituted the Clean Coal Technology Program. The program was a partnership between national and state government and private industry to research and develop technologies to burn coal in cleaner ways. The program ran from 1986 through 1993 and funded 38 separate projects across the country.

Technologies in use that resulted from the original program:
Scrubbers Devices that clean pollutants from flue gases before they exit the plant smokestack. Scrubbers are a good "fix" for older power plants.
Gasification process Instead of burning coal, this process converts coal into a gas similar to natural gas which can then be burned much more cleanly.
Fluidized bed combustion, low NOx burners New devices to burn coal that keep the pollution from forming during the combustion process.

In 2001, the Bush Administration proposed the Clean Coal Power Initiative as part of its overall Energy Policy. The initiative would continue the goals of the original program, funding ways to make coal cleaner so it can continue to be an important piece of our energy pie.

Check it Out!
Scientists have engineered bacteria that clean coal. The bacteria have been bred to eat compounds in coal that make it dirty, like sulfur and toxic metals. Read more about it at ABC News Online.