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    Fox News' Clean Coal Car Is the Worst Idea for a Car Ever

    Written by

    Brian Merchant

    Senior Editor

    Groundbreaking new technology out of the University of Ohio aims to change the way that we drive. Forever. And I'm not talking about electric cars. Fox News and John Broder have definitively proved that those things are dumb. The true wave of the future is coal-powered pellet cars.

    I wish I could say that I was joking, but I am not, because there are real live people who think that cars powered by tiny "clean coal pellets" are a good idea, and they are mostly employed at Fox News. They say so in this baffling article about "clean coal cars."

    Yes, it appears that in its never-ending quest to promote coal power and to manufacture outrage at Obama for supposedly having a war on it, Fox has of late been stretching itself to find exciting new coal technologies to promote.

    Last week, it found Liang-Shih Fan, a chemical engineer at Ohio State University's Clean Coal Research Laboratory, who has invented a cool new technology for burning coal cleanly. And while I have it on authority that the technology is in fact kind of cool, it faces the same problem that all "clean coal" technologies face: You still have to figure out what to do with the byproduct—traditionally, pure carbon emissions, or, in this case, solid coal ash.

    Yes, that's right. Any car running on this technology would create solid coal ash as a byproduct. No greenhouse gas emissions, but solid coal ash. Which contains mercury and arsenic and is highly toxic. Which is funny, because the "clean coal car" is an idea that Fox appears to have invented itself, and then went around asking people what they thought of it. Nobody in the article is cited as actually suggesting that we start building cars that run on toxic waste-generating coal-fired engines.

    Nonetheless, Fox, which dedicates large portions of its time to disparaging electric cars because liberal people like them and because Neil Cavuto is flabbergasted that you would have to plug them in, is instead advocating we drive around in these coal mobiles.

    But, Fox News assures us, the auto industry is "excited" about this prospect:

    Auto industry experts and other researchers are excited about the prospects for use of Fan’s clean coal technology to power fleets of cars across America, and as a possible rival to battery-powered hybrids and electric vehicles already in use.

    If the technology can be successfully miniaturized enough to fit into cars, the fueling infrastructure needed to service them would not be all that difficult to develop, experts say.

    “In using clean coal pellets, a customer could pull up to a filling station, where the clean coal pellets would be introduced into the on-car storage tank. This clean coal would then be used to generate electricity through an on-board generator, which would charge up the ultracapacitors,” suggests Chad Hall, founder and vice president of Ioxus, in Oneonta, N.Y., a maker of ultracapacitors for the auto industry.

    Very interesting! The guy from a company that makes ultracapacitors thinks it would be a good idea to build cars that use more ultracapacitors. Seeing as how that guy is the only guy they could find that was "exited" about clean coal cars, to Fox, Chad Hall = the auto industry. Journalism! Fox also talks to a spokesperson from GM who basically says, Uh, that's "interesting," but the best thing would probably to be to make the coal plants that power our electric cars cleaner.

    The most ridiculous thing about this whole confabulation is that Fox's "clean coal cars" are of course just electric cars that use coal for fuel directly under the hood, instead of charging up from an outlet that is is 40% likely or so to be providing power from a coal plant. But because people call one car an "electric car" and they call this one a "clean coal car," one is bad and the other is good.

    I am not even going to get into any further discussion about how preposterous the concept of producing a fleet of coal-powered electric cars that generates toxic fly ash that people then have to dispose of on the go truly is. A fleet that would require a massive new infrastructure of clean coal pellet fueling stations and huge distribution networks and technological breakthroughs—all so we can continue using a fuel source that we must blow up mountains and make people sick to get. 

    Sorry Fox, your clean coal car concept is dumber than Steve Doocy.

    Top image via Mining.com