The coal industry's campaign may call its resource affordable, abundant and job-generating. But, Johnson said, it's affordable only if you ignore the public health, environmental and community costs associated with it. It's abundant, only if you accept outdated statistics, he argued. And, while we're in a situation in which every job matters, he said, it's no more job-creating than renewable resources. With the same kind of investment, he said, other energy sources can create more jobs
Johnson acknowledged that the coal industry's campaigns had been successful in getting influential people to integrate the words "clean coal" into their conversations.
Obama, for example, used the phrase on the campaign trail and still features it on his energy policy Web site. But energy experts say it's not entirely clear what his use of the term means for energy policy decisions under his administration.
Some say Obama's appointment of people like renewable energy advocate Steven Chu to his Cabinet indicates that he is interested in advancing low-carbon solutions. But, they also concede that his position on the issue has been vague.
His leadership will be necessary to develop and implement clean coal technology that substantially reduces global warming. But, given an economy that continues to slide, this path may be more difficult to take.
"The problem is that clean coal means more expensive energy and this is really going to be the choice for the next administration. If you want cleaner energy, it's going to mean more pennies per kilowatt hour depending on how far you go," Anderson said. "So the choice for Obama really isn't just if you want to be clean or not, it's how clean at what price."