Though President Obama's EPA seems to be cautious about coal, the President's own stance remains unclear. During the presidential campaign, he (like his opponent, Senator McCain) frequently mentioned and praised the idea of "clean coal."
But environmentalists -- and victims of massive coal spills -- will tell you that "clean coal" doesn't exist. And around the time Obama was talking about "clean coal" on the campaign trail, former Vice President Al Gore was encouraging civil disobedience against coal.
That's the crux of a new Bloomberg piece that frames the clean coal debate as one between Gore and Obama:
The Gore-Obama split illustrates a growing debate in the U.S. as the new president attempts to deliver on his promise to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the country 80 percent by 2050. Depending on who's speaking, coal is either the villain or part of the solution.
"The coal groups are saying we need clean coal," said Mark Maddox, the former head of the Energy Department's fossil energy office under former President George W. Bush, in an interview. "Environmentalists are saying there is no clean coal, and we aren't going to help you get it."
The Bloomberg story mentions the ad wars between the "clean coal" camp and environmentalists. Here's the ad claiming to show a "clean coal" facility -- revealing that it's nothing but empty land.
But coal supporters are using Obama campaign footage like this, playing the divide:
Now bloggers are taking the initiative to make their own videos. In this one, "Clean Coal" ads are juxtaposed with images from the massive Roane County, Tenn., coal ash spill whose health effects are still unclear:
And one more video -- in which Gore says that "clean coal is like healthy cigarettes:"
Plenty of large news sources have come around to pointing out the problem with ever calling coal "clean." The New York Times published an editorial called "The Crumbling Clean Coal Myth." TIME ran a piece called "Exposing The Myth Of Clean Coal Power." The Washington Post: "Clean Coal? Don't Try To Shovel That."
But now that Obama is in office, he's going to face pressure from all sides on coal -- so what will that showdown look like? Already his Secretary of Energy has had to walk back an admission of his hatred for coal from this speech at UC-Berkley in which he said "Coal is my worst nightmare:"