In recent years, many politicians encouraged and supported electricity generation from “alternative” or “renewable” energy sources, such as wind and solar, and from natural gas. At the same time, they invented a new term for the traditional energy source (coal), namely “dirty coal.”
“Dirty coal”, of course, can mean a variety of things. As far as I can reckon, the politicians mostly mean three things with that term, namely:
1.production of carbon dioxide from burning coal, and
2.production of sulfur dioxide from burning coal, and
3.production of smog from burning coal.
Let’s look at these products and the idea that coal is “dirty” in more detail.
To begin with carbon dioxide (CO2), which some people claim to cause “global warming”, is the main product of burning any fossil fuel. Whether you burn coal, or oil, or natural gas, or wood, or alcohol, it is the same result, i.e. CO2 is produced. Even the quantities produced per heat energy unit are quite similar. So, in terms of CO2 production, there is little difference between the different fossil fuels.