Clean Coal and the Clause

Barack Obama Supports Developing Clean Coal Technology

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert.

You better watch out!
Better not cry!
Better not pout!
I'm telling you why,
Santa Claus is comin' to town.

He's making a list
and checking it twice.
He's going to find out who's naughty and nice.
Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town.

We better watch out.  We better not cry.  While Santa checks his list twice, so too might you and I.  The ebony chunks Old Saint Nick might place in our stocking, contrary to what coal corporation sponsored commercials might claim, are not clean.  Nor is this source of energy cheap.  When used as a resource for power, this sedimentary rock is dirty, deadly, and digs deep into the pocketbooks, and personal lives, of those the industry touches.  In America, that may be you and me.

  • Millions of acres across 36 states have been dynamited, torn, and churned into bits by strip mining in the last 150 years.
  • More than 60 percent of all coal mined in the United States today, in fact, comes from strip mines.
  • In the "United States of Coal," Appalachia has become the poster child for strip mining's worst depravations, which come in the form of mountaintop removal.
  • An estimated 750,000 to 1 million acres of hardwood forests, a thousand miles of waterways and more than 470 mountains and their surrounding communities -- an area the size of Delaware -- have been erased from the southeastern mountain range in the last two decades.
  • Thousands of tons of explosives -- the equivalent of several Hiroshima atomic bombs -- are set off in Appalachian communities every year.
  • More than 104,000 miners in America have died in coal mines since 1900.
  • Twice as many have died from black lung disease.
  • Dangerous pollutants, including mercury, filter into our air and water (through mining practices.)
  • The injuries and deaths caused by overburdened coal trucks are innumerable.
  • A recent report reveals that in the last six years the Mine Safety and Health Administration decided not to assess fines for more than 4,000 violations.
    Source . . . Washington Post.  Jeff Biggers is the author of "The United States of Appalachia: How Southern Mountaineers Brought Independence, Culture and Enlightenment to America."

  • There's more...

    Obama should aim higher on renewable energy

    One of my biggest frustrations with Democratic leaders is their refusal to embrace the energy policy Al Gore outlined this summer, which could "end our reliance on carbon-based fuels" in the next decade.

    Barack Obama has offered an energy policy that's a big improvement on what George Bush has done. Unfortunately, Obama still supports more investment in so-called "clean coal" and has not ruled out expanding nuclear power.

    On the plus side, Obama also calls for generating 10 percent of our country's electricity from renewable sources by 2012--which sounds great until you learn that the U.S. has already surpassed that goal.

    Look at what happened in the past year, even as the Bush administration did little to promote wind and solar energy:

    According to the latest "Monthly Electricity Review" issued by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (October 3, 2008), net U.S. generation of electricity from renewable energy sources surged by 32 percent in June 2008 compared to June 2007.

    Renewable energy (biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) totaled 41,160,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) in June 2008 up from 31,242,000 MWh in June 2007. Renewables accounted for 11.0 percent of net U.S. electricity generation in June 2008 compared to 8.6 percent in June 2007. Compared to June 2007, wind power grew by 81.6 percent in June 2008 while solar and conventional hydropower experienced increases of 42.6 percent and 34.7 percent respectively. Geothermal energy also enjoyed a slight increase (0.8percent) while biomass (wood + waste) remained relatively unchanged.

    Years ago, some people thought it was a pipe dream to ask Congress to require that 10 percent of U.S. electricity be generated from renewable sources by 2010. Yet even in the absence of a mandate, we exceeded that number two years ahead of schedule.

    Just think of what could be done if we had a president and Congress committed to expanding wind and solar power in this country. Assuming Obama wins the election, we need to press him to raise the bar on renewable energy. If Obama suggests that the best we can do is 10 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2012 and 25 percent by 2025, we will fail to capitalize on the opportunity to reduce our use of fossil fuels.

    (Note: A commenter at another blog suggested that Obama may not be counting hydroelectric power as one of the renewable sources from which we should get 10 percent of electricity by 2012. If that is so, then we would need to approximately triple electricity generated by wind and solar in order to meet Obama's goal in four years. Even that goal doesn't seem ambitious enough to me, however.)

    Perhaps more important, Obama and other Democratic leaders should stop lending credibility to the idea that we need either more "clean coal" or more nuclear power. We can meet our baseload needs without them. Every new coal-fired plant is a 50-year investment in the wrong direction, and every new nuclear reactor creates more waste we don't know what to do with.

    The false choice between coal and nuclear power understates the potential to reduce our electricity consumption through conservation and efficiency measures.

    It also affects decision-making at the state level. In April, the two Democrats on the Iowa Utilities Board (including key early Obama supporter John Norris) cast the deciding votes in favor of an application to build a new coal-fired power plant near Marshalltown. They rejected testimony from James Hansen and others regarding the adverse health and environmental impacts of coal emissions, as well as the utility's ability to do much more to promote energy efficiency.

    Speaking to the Des Moines Register, they explained that they voted to approve the coal plant because they don't believe we can meet demand for electricity without new coal or nuclear power, and no one is seeking to build more nuclear reactors in Iowa.

    Even with strong presidential leadership, we'll have plenty of trouble getting Congress and the states to adopt good energy policies next year.

    Obama should set higher goals for generating electricity from clean renewable sources and make that (along with efficiency measures) his top energy priorities.

    There's more...

    My Hair; His Energy Policy

    Bush Oil Dancing!

    copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert.

    "Drill baby, drill," is the now ever-present and popular battle-cry for many Americans.  From Presidential candidates to everyday people, those who wish to consume sweet light crude as they have for a more than a century remind me of my hair, and the current President's energy policy.  I ponder the parallels and invite you to consider . . .

    During a recent press conference, as I gazed upon the President of the United States, noticeably aged after years in the Oval Office, I thought of my hair and my history.  His wavy gray locks are not as the strands that fall from my head.  Nor did the diminutive curl that danced on his brow remind me of my own tresses.  The style the Chief Executive donned did not resemble the permanent waves, pompadours, or ponytails I once wore.  As George W. Bush spoke of his energy policy, I pondered.  His approach to petroleum and power were as the methodology I embraced when I colored my hair.

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    Fly Me To The Moon

    Crossposted at MLW

        There has been a lot of talk recently about the "energy crisis". I wonder if this is the same energy crisis we heard about in the 70's? If it is then that means for over 30 years instead of solving our domestic energy needs, we have ignored them and allowed them to grow. In 1970 we were importing about 24% of the oil we used and the embargo back then threw our economy into a tail-spin, imagine what would happen today when we import about 70%. Rather than using the past 30 plus years to develop new or existing technologies to reduce or break our dependence on oil, we have elected to do something worse than nothing. Instead of our vehicles getting smaller and more fuel efficient during this time they have actually gotten larger.

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    Nuclear energy as a viable energy resource?

    I have a question. I was just watching a fairly substantive (for MSM) conversation between Diane Feinstein and Kay Bailey Hutchison on CNN; and one of the topics they were discussing was the issue of energy. Kay Bailey was saying that nuclear energy is safe and clean; and pointed out that many countries are now using nuclear energy as their main energy source. Does France really get 70% of their energy from nuclear?

    Feinstein did an excellent job of countering her on every point, but she did not really elaborate on the nuclear issue. I keep hearing this from the right and it blows me away, because I do not think nuclear waste is safe or clean.

    I know I could go traipsing around the net, looking for the facts, but I thought that I would pose the question here. I'd appreciate intelligent debate and any links to non bullshit sites.

    BTW, I watched a smattering of the Sunday talk shows today and have found an amazing amount (for MSM) of graciousness and substantive discussion. I really like Fareed Zakaria and Christiane Amanpour, am I an idiot? And did Hillary shame the MSM and/or set an example?

    Force corporate media to more be substantive and stop the sensationalistic bullshit

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