11/20/2006 04:29 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Dirty Truth About Coal in Texas

Try to watch talking-head TV these days without seeing an ad proclaiming the wonders of coal. I know, you can't. The ads are darling. Bright-eyed tweens assuring us that "in my lifetime" new coal power plants can be "clean." From the looks of these kids, that gives big coal about 70 years to make good on the claim.

But in the real world, polluter extraordinaire TXU Corp. is rushing to build 11 dirty coal power plants in Texas.

No doubt about it, the plans are for old-style, coal-burning, global-warming-pollution spewing power plants - but with a bizarre twist: TXU Corp. claims that it should get the green light to build the plants right now because someday, somehow it will be able to trap the global warming pollution and store it. Hold on! There are coal plant designs that can indeed trap global warming pollution for injection into geologic formations. But TXU is refusing to use that technology. Instead it wants to build old-style coal plants and research new methods that don't exist today and may never prove out. No surprise that TXU won't agree to actually limit the amounts of global warming pollution these plants will produce. TXU's promises are science fiction, with the emphasis on fiction.

We don't need 11 new coal plants in Texas. With so many new technologies available to let us both save energy and generate it from renewable sources like wind, we may not need any new coal plants. But if coal plants are built, they should capture their global warming pollution now, not make empty promises to do it in the future. By the way, that captured pollution is worth lots of money to Texas. It can be piped to Texas oil fields, giving them new life and producing hefty tax revenues for the Texas treasury. Turning pollution into money ought to be a no-brainer. But if TXU gets away with its 19th Century coal program, Texas will lose the money and get the pollution--a bad deal all around.

P.S. Cowboy hats off to Laurie David stirring up resistance to the TXU permits. Details at