I’m not sure what he personally believes, but I’ll bet that he listens to experts rather than relying on his own opinion for many of these decisions. And not just climate experts: as he said in his announcement, he expects this move to create jobs. It could also bolster public opinion of him, which I don’t think is the primary goal, but it is important if he wants to make more effective decisions later. Bottom line, if we got rid of the entire coal industry today, there would be a lot of people out of jobs and a lot of angry voters. This is far from an ideal solution, but at least it gets more workers in the field of green technology, who can hopefully help make the switch to truly green energy in the future.
It would be dangerous to speculate about what any politician actually believes about one issue or another, but Obama’s stated objectives do appear to have some merit. Coal is a major contributor to climate change, disproportionate to the amount of energy it produces, and investments to encourage if not “clean coal” at least “cleaner coal” are probably worthwhile. Aside from the obvious political ramifications whenever large-scale energy legislation is at issue, the issue with clean coal technology is that it is extremely expensive to implement and not very economical, and it may also have other negative environmental side-effects. For example, coal plants that utilize “scrubbing” technology generate vast amounts of contaminated wastewater saturated with heavy metals and other pollutants, thus raising the issue of how to dispose of the wastewater properly. Whatever the ultimate effect of Obama’s proposals and policy decisions, it seems prudent that at least some effort be made to address the effects of coal production and use on climate change, whether or not a totally ideal solution can be found.
Clean coal is more a political term than a scientific one. The word ‘clean’ obviously invokes certain ideas among the public, and is thus used by politicians accordingly. I think Obama believes it is an alternative, but not an idea one. As well, he is a savy politician and understands what it takes to convince and persuade people, for better or worse.
I think Obama believes that coal is cheap and available as did George W. Bush. He might believe that coal can be produced cleaner with today’s technology.
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