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Clean coal tour rolls into Big Stone Gap

Steve Igo • Oct 18, 2012 at 11:10 AM

BIG STONE GAP — Few know what an integrated gasification combined cycle system refers to, but interested folks in Big Stone Gap found out Thursday.

As part of its national America’s Power “Now’s the Time” mobile classroom tour, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) brought the outfit’s clean coal technology unit on wheels to the town as part of a regional tour.

The mobile unit and ACCCE staffers made previous stops this week in Bluefield, Cedar Bluff, Grundy and Lebanon and will join other coal organizations like the Eastern Coal Council and Friends of Coal for a rally Sunday in Grundy featuring musical performances by the Charlie Daniels Band and Folk Soul Revival.

The mobile classroom informs visitors that coal powers at least a third of Virginia’s electricity at affordable rates for families and businesses. Clean coal technology refers to an array of technical advances that exist or are being developed to reduce air emissions from coal-burning power plants, such as the integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) system.

Besides providing a cleaner way for utilities to burn coal to produce electricity, ACCCE representative Caitlin Fisher said byproducts from the IGCC process are used for a range of other products from photographic film stock to plastics.

“We’ve been all over the country. One of our big objectives is to inform the public about clean coal technologies and the importance of coal to our national energy picture,” she said. “One of the main questions we get asked is, ‘What do you mean by clean coal?’ And we can explain and show them (with instructional displays and videos aboard the mobile classroom) of the various means now at hand, and those technologies that are being developed, to use coal as a cheap and abundant source of energy.”

Fisher said the industry has made about $100 billion in clean coal technology investments over the years, including retrofitting older coal-burning power plants with clean coal technologies, and while “a lot of that is in response to (federal Environmental Protection Agency) regulations, the industry has taken an active interest in ensuring an environmentally friendly resource.”

“There’s still a ways to go,” she said, “and the industry is committed to investing a lot of money to clean it up.”

Part of the tour is to sign folks up to receive information from ACCCE, to become what Fisher referred to as “America’s Power Army.” People on the sign-up lists can be kept abreast of plant or mine closures and actions they can take to address the situations with elected officials.

Fisher said ACCCE is “totally” nonpartisan “but we want to make sure voters can go to the polls fully informed about the positions candidates have on coal and energy.”

The ACCCE gang knew coming in they would basically be preaching to the choir in coal-rich Southwest Virginia.

“Southwest Virginia has been one of the warmest places we’ve been, reception-wise. The people are excited we’re here, and we are excited to be here,” she said. “People here really care knowing they have somebody out here like us to advocate on their behalf. We’ve met miners, we’ve met people who transport coal, and we’ve met lots of small-town business people who know their businesses, and the entire regional economy, depend on a thriving coal industry.

“It’s really amazing how coal affects the economy down here, and what I personally have learned is how it really affects all of us.”

For more information on Sunday’s rally in Grundy featuring the Charlie Daniels Band visit www.easterncoalcouncil.net.

For more information about ACCCE visit www.cleancoalusa.org or www.americaspower.org.

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