Thursday, September 27, 2012

Let's Burn More Coal, NOW!

The United States has the biggest reserves of coal in the world. We have so much coal we can ship it off to other countries. That's right. We are a net exporter of the dirty rock. And here we are wringing our hands over our dependence on foreign oil, peak oil, and high gas prices (okay, not half as high as Europe, but higher than Americans want to pay). Why don't we convert our vehicles to run on coal?

Okay, I'll grant you that according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, burning coal is a leading cause of smog, acid rain, global warming, and our toxic air. In an average year, a typical coal plant generates:
    • 3,700,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary human cause of global warming--as much carbon dioxide as cutting down 161 million trees.
    • 10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2), which causes acid rain that damages forests, lakes, and buildings, and forms small airborne particles that can penetrate deep into lungs.
    • 500 tons of small airborne particles, which can cause chronic bronchitis, aggravated asthma, and premature death, as well as haze obstructing visibility.
    • 10,200 tons of nitrogen oxide (NOx), as much as would be emitted by half a million late-model cars. NOx leads to formation of ozone (smog) which inflames the lungs, burning through lung tissue making people more susceptible to respiratory illness.
    • 720 tons of carbon monoxide (CO), which causes headaches and place additional stress on people with heart disease.
    • 220 tons of hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds (VOC), which form ozone.
    • 170 pounds of mercury, where just 1/70th of a teaspoon deposited on a 25-acre lake can make the fish unsafe to eat.
    • 225 pounds of arsenic, which will cause cancer in one out of 100 people who drink water containing 50 parts per billion.
    • 114 pounds of lead, 4 pounds of cadmium, other toxic heavy metals, and trace amounts of uranium.
Peace negotiations with a coal seam
I say “so what!” Who listens to scientists, anyway (certainly not Republicans). Our energetic Republican Congressmen hurriedly passed a "Stop the War on Coal" bill (H.R. 3904) just before adjourning so that America can continue to enjoy the benefits of coal without all those burdensome EPA regulations (you know, the ones that protect air and water quality). Of course, the Senate won't pass the bill, and President Obama has promised to veto it in any case, so the House bill is for naught. But it's the thought that counts, right? [So what the fuck are they thinking?]

Our Republican congressional representatives, who some people have the temerity to accuse of being obstructionist, have voted an astonishing 302 times this year to hamstring the Environmental Protection Agency, weaken clean water and air rules, undermine protections for public lands  and coastal areas, and block action to address global warming – all while seeking to make the regulatory climate as favorable as possible for the oil, gas and coal industries. And why not? It’s these folks who are paying "their" congressmen to watch out for their interests.

Robert Semple reports in the September 20th edition of the Washington Post that Russell Train, a lifelong Republican and one of the country’s foremost conservationists of the last half-century, died this week at the age of 92. He served Richard Nixon as the first chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and later as administrator of the fledgling Environmental Protection Agency – helping shape landmark statutes like the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. His death serves as a reminder of the G.O.P.’s historic tradition of environmental stewardship, a tradition stretching as far back as Teddy Roosevelt, which the party has now repudiated.

Indeed, it's hard to associate today's Republican Party with anything remotely responsible in so far as the environment is concerned. These Republican heroes are all about job creation and job creators (those are the people who buy their votes). If those "purple mountains" have to have their tops removed to get at coal, so be it. If coal ash removal is a problem, don't remove the shit, just store it behind dirt damns and pray for the best. If acid rain is turning forests brown, it's time to clear cut. And please don't even mention global warming; what a hoax!
Coal ash sludge flood at Kingston plant in TN
Unfortunately the Republicans war on the environment (can I use that term?) makes some people mad, like Philip Bump, who wrote that, "The Republican leadership in the House of Representatives could not care less about the legacy it is leaving for its party, its districts, or the United States. They can’t draw a straight fucking line between the worst drought in decades and the coal plants that, day in and day out, belch out pollution." Now, now, Philip. Try to look at it from the other side of the aisle. If the fossil industry was paying your salary, wouldn't you say and do whatever they told you to? Damn right! Well, unless you had integrity, that is. No worries. We're talking about Republicans.
Purple Mountains Majesty
Mountain top removal coal mining -- there ain't any majesty to it

1 comment:

Richard Badalamente said...

With nearly two months before Election Day on Nov. 6, estimated spending on television ads promoting coal and more oil and gas drilling or criticizing clean energy has exceeded $153 million this year.