Trump's Understanding Of "Clean" Coal Is Fairly Bizarre


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Trump wearing a coal mining hat, pictured here back in 2016 at another rally. Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump sure loves clean coal. He’s talked it up for some time now – before, during, and after the 2016 campaign – and he recently brought it up again during a rally this week in Phoenix, Arizona.

Speaking to a crowd of supporters, he mentioned that an unspecified new coal mine in Pennsylvania would burn “clean coal… meaning they're taking out coal and they're going to clean it.”


Now, in case you didn’t realize, clean coal is about as real as radioactive-free plutonium. Much like the President’s ability to listen to any scientist of any kind, clean coal simply doesn’t exist. It’s a concept that has, for technological and economic reasons, never quite made it into the real world.

Generally speaking, the term refers to the supposed ability of advanced smoke stacks that are able to filter out all of the particulates, pollutants, and greenhouse gases emitted from the notoriously dirty fossil fuel as it’s burned.

As a series of catastrophically expensive trials have demonstrated, this remarkable-sounding capability cannot be achieved in anything other than theory. Industry experts and academics have concluded that you either choose to burn coal as is, or not burn it at all.

As you may have guessed at this point, clean coal isn’t what the President of the United States thinks it is. Miners do not extract coal from the bowels of the Earth, hand it over to a scientist, who then wipes it clean with a special science cloth. Coal doesn’t have a clean heart; it’s as carbon-rich as the rest of it. It’s not a matter of sprucing it up.

Look how clean that coal is! Thanks, science. Vyacheslav Svetiichnyy/Shutterstock

Clean coal is just a unicorn that Trump likes to pull out of his hat from time to time. He mentioned it when he signed the Executive Order rescinding Obama’s Clean Power Plan back in March, and again when he announced the withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. The Department of Energy (DoE) chief Rick Perry has brought the term up repeatedly ever since he took the job.

We cannot emphasize this enough: clean coal does not exist. We could bang on about how much we love those lovely cocktail bars that are all over Mars, but then that wouldn't make it true, would it?

Never mind though. While the President praises clean coal, the rest of America is getting on with clean energy, like wind and solar – which, you know, is actually clean.

[H/T: Los Angeles Times]


  • tag
  • climate change,

  • speech,

  • anti-science,

  • Arizona,

  • President,

  • trump,

  • clean coal,

  • Phoenix,

  • doesn't exist,

  • rally,

  • new quote