Can Coal Be Clean?

In class, I proposed to do my white paper on something involving BRICs nations and emerging markets, but with further research I decided that I couldn’t find a distinct enough topic that I was comfortable pursuing.  Since I have always had an interest in the environment, I decided to switch my focus to environmental issues and policies reducing global climate change.  While doing initial research, I found that the Clean Air Act showed up often regarding its effect on several industries, including coal burning power plants and car manufacturing plants.  Since I have heard discussion of “clean coal” in the presidential race, I decided that it would be a appropriate topic to do a little more research on for my proposal.

There is a major debate regarding the benefits versus the negative impacts of retrieving energy from burning coal.  While coal is a very good source of energy (it provides about 40% of the countries electicity), it also provides negative outputs.  The two most destructive outputs from coal burning are carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide.  These compounds are released into the atmosphere and then contribute to global warming.  Not only are they released from burning coal, they are also released from the initial mining practices.  It seems simple to assume that coal burning and mining is not good, and should therefore be replaced by a more environmentally conscious energy resource.  The Clean Air Act provides limitations and laws about industrial outputs into the atmosphere, but is constantly fought by coal companies.  This goes so far as a debate about the legal legitimacy of the Clean Air Act and the rights that coal companies believe they have.  Basically the question is this: should coal companies be allowed to continue to mine and burn coal like they have been to produce necessary energy for the citizens of the United States? Also, is the Clean Air Act the best way to go about limiting the coal industry, or are there better ways?

I found a couple sources that relate to this topic.  The first one that I stumbled upon is a study of the impacts that the Clean Air Act had on coal-fired plants.  This resource looks at the Clean Air Act and it legality, as well as how it has affected coal-fired power plants.  It ultimately finds that it has had a major influence on the management and success of coal burning power plants, but it also discusses a potential need for further investigation in the possibility of “clean coal technology.” Clean coal technology could be beneficial to both the businesses and the environment.

After looking into these sources further, my view on the coal industry changed a bit.  Being an environmental studies minor, I believe that the Clean Air Act is a positive step towards limiting global climate change, but I also now believe that more research and attention could be paid to efforts towards “clean coal technology.” That way, the coal business will not be so negatively affected by the governmental restrictions placed on them.  A policy change could be necessary to balance out the effects on the coal business and the environment.

Both of these sources were found through our library databases, so they are trustworthy sources.  I believe the information is as reliable as it could be.


Sueyoshi, T., & Goto, M. (2013). Returns to scale vs. damages to scale in data envelopment analysis: An impact of U.S. clean air act on coal-fired power plants. Omega, 41(2), 164. Retrieved from

Tracy, T. (2012, Oct 04). Coal gets renewed focus after debate. Wall Street Journal (Online). Retrieved from


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s