As more coal-fired power plants implement "clean coal" technologies to improve air quality, there is a growing concern over the new problems being caused in ash disposal. The injection of chemicals into the output of coal-burning may clean the air coming from the plants, but makes it impossible to use the ash in some of the traditional ways to keep it from leaching quickly into the environment.

For example, coal ash could previously be used to make concrete, but the new "clean coal" ash cannot be used for this purpose as the added chemicals make the resulting concrete unreliable in use.

The answer? Putting the coal into landfills rather than using it for other purposes. Although the EPA does not consider coal ash to be hazardous or toxic, it is in fact riddled with small amounts of mercury and heavy metals. Disposing of this ash in landfills replaces some of the problems of air quality with serious potential water quality issues.

Our current energy policy is more and more constructed of quick constituent-pleasing fixes that sound much better on paper than they will be in the long run. It's time for the US to work toward long-term sustainable energy policies rather than band-aids such as clean coal technologies, and unknown pie-in-the-sky solutions like hydrogen-based cars. We need a national policy based on achievable goals and research into new yet workable technology to provide for our future. These are technologies based on renewable resources, which will produce jobs throughout our economy, rather than simple increased profits for the companies which have controlled our energy sources for the past 100 years.