Coal: What It Costs Us

Edward Burtynsky

David Roberts of Grist says

"Coal is the Enemy of the Human Race. "Coal is filthy. It destroys ecosystems to dig it up. It kills the people who work around it. Coal plants throw particulates in the air and causes respiratory ailments. They throw mercury in the water and causes birth defects. They throw CO2 into the atmosphere and causes global warming. The coal industry corrupts the political process. It lies to the public about global warming, and mine safety, and coal reserves, and everything else. It leeches money and opportunity out of the states where it is based."
Jeff Goodell, who wrote Big Coal: The Dirty Secrets Behind America's Energy Future. (reviewed on TreeHugger here) comes out strongly in the wake of the Crandall Canyon disaster to shovel more reasons why coal is such a disaster.
Many Americans think that coal went out with top hats and corsets. In fact, we burn more than a billion tons of coal each year in the United States -- about 20 pounds a day for every man, woman and child.
He goes on to demolish all of the myths: that it can be clean, safe, and that there is lots of it. Important reading in ::The Washington Post

JC Winnie at After Gutenberg notes also that politicians from coal producing states are doing everything possible to pump coal up as the answers to America's energy problems. After Gutenberg quotes Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia:

Some choose to think of mitigating Climate Change as a burden. Instead, we should view it as an opportunity to bring the kinds of industrial and economic innovations to bear so US coal and coal-to-liquids industries will shine.

And lists Rockefeller's four key elements for continuing with the coal-to-liquids industry:


Build up military uses of coal-based fuels. "While DOD's use of CTL is very much on track, there is more we can and should do to help it along."

Work together to keep all those who support coal on the same page. "How do we get where we want to go? We have to start by acknowledging that the political landscape has changed. The lesson from the Senate debate this spring is that there are 60 votes in support of CTL with some environmental standards. We have to capitalize on that common ground and not get divided against ourselves."

Have a substantial federal government investment in the R&D; for workable carbon capture and sequestration. "My proposal is for something called the Future Fuels Corporation, which would simultaneously develop both CTL and a workable carbon sequestration program. I've gotten some feedback on the details, and it needs more work, but what I'm most interested in is not that people think I have a great idea, but that people with the most at stake get involved in crafting the solution."

Expand the pipeline infrastructure to serve the coalfields. "Besides bridges, roads, locks, and dams, I would include on a list of essential infrastructure improvements pipelines to take coal-based fuels to market and pipelines to take compressed carbon dioxide to its permanent geological sequestration site."

Repeat again: Coal is the enemy of the human race. ::After Gutenberg

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