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Re-Defining "Clean Burning"

Posted By Jonathan Noel, Thursday, February 27, 2014
The other day, I was watching TV sometime between 9-10pm.  (I don't know the exact time.  Time blends together after a 14 hour day.) Anyway, one of the commercials was for "Clean Burning" natural gas that was mined, pumped, or otherwise obtained through fracking.  My issues with fracking will have to wait for another day, although I will say that the idea of breaking the rock underneath your feet is a little disconcerting.  No, this time is reserved for the concept of "clean burning."

The idea that something is "Clean Burning" made a lot of sense in, well, pretty much anytime before now.  The diesel in trucks contained excessive levels of sulfur, our gas engines pumped out lead, and power plants spewed particulate matter high into the air, allowing it to fall is areas that aren't even served by the power plant.  Connecticut is both a contributor and a victim of this effect. Even the Obama Administration has signed off on this clean burning idea through their Clean Coal research grants.

But can we really define anything as truly "clean burning?" 

What I'm getting at is that particulate matter isn't our only concern anymore.  The reduction in greenhouse gases are the primarily target for more clean air advocates at the moment, including the EPA. And if climate change is to ever be slowed (the cynic in me says it is already too late to stop it), aren't we going to have to change out minds about the dirtiness of carbon dioxide, CO2?  CO2 may be clear.  CO2 may not smell.  But it certainly isn't clean, right?

So if CO2 isn't clean, can any fossil fuel be "clean burning?" 

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