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What is 'clean coal,' anyway?

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AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

(Read caption) David A. Lucas (left), his nephew, Ernie Lucas (center), and his son, David A. Lucas Jr., come to the surface after a day of mining anthracite coal at D & D Anthracite Coal Co. in Good Spring, Pa., in 2003.

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Call it a hat trick: The phrase "clean coal" turned up in all three presidential debates, with both McCain and Obama supporting it. It turned up four times if you count the vice-presidential debate.

And woe betide any politician who doesn't appear to be in favor of it. Speaking Tuesday in Joe Biden's hometown of Scranton, Pa., Sarah Palin blasted the Democratic vice-presidential candidate for telling an activist in Ohio last month that the Obama campaign doesn't support clean coal. Biden says that his comments, which were posted on YouTube, were taken out of context. Since then, Biden has been emphasizing his pro-clean-coal Senate record, and reiterating his and Obama's support for the stuff.

But what exactly is clean coal? And why are all the candidates so quick to proclaim their support for it?


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