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View Diary: New German Data Shows No End in Sight for Coal (230 comments)

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  •  It is my conviction that coal is the enemy! (23+ / 0-)

    It is the most carbon intensive energy source.  It is cheap so there is much pressure to use as much as possible.  It is dirty and causes thousands of deaths annually around the world.  Its mining is environmentally destructive and dangerous (many hundreds of miners killed each year around the world).  Globally coal is the majority source of energy for electricity generation.  

    Solving the climate-crisis means tackling coal.  Our goal should be to virtually eliminate large-scale use of coal around the world within 25 years.

    The German experiment isn't making me feel warm-and fuzzy.  A massive push to renewables hasn't shaken the hold coal has over their economy.  

    The intrinsic nature of Power is such that those who seek it most are least qualified to wield it.

    by mojo workin on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 08:46:32 AM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  This also requires a "save Appalachia" program, (5+ / 0-)

      which will be a difficult program to sell, with the objectives of coming up with other sources of income for coal-country residents. Like weaning the South from tobacco, this will be a protracted process with a lot of enemies, but is absolutely necessary.

      •  This is an emotional response, (0+ / 0-)

        so take it as that. But I sometimes feel like who cares. They elect nothing but climate deniers there. If they would get on board with a rational transition they could have a say in the negotiation and get something in return. But they're pissing in the barrel and you're telling us that it's absolutely necessary they get served whine? My immediate emotional response is fuck'em.

        My rationally informed, considered, and compassionate response is, however, that you're right.

        Passive renunciation is not the whole of wisdom.

        by play jurist on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 11:26:09 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  UH . . . (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Buckeye54, wonmug

          look, I don't want to be rude, but I've spent two decades getting to know people in the Blue Ridge back country.  And their emotional response would be the same as yours, in the other direction of course.

          Most people who stay in or return to Appalachia do so despite the moribund economy for one reason: they love the land.  They can't live in concrete jungles having tasted the mist on the mountain in the  mornings.  They can't stand the endless lines of traffic after zipping around the hills on empty one-lane roads.  They love to watch the wildlife, and breathe the fresh air, and go to sleep without the constant whine of traffic and rumble of trains vibrating through their bodies.  They don't LIKE corporations that destroy their beautiful countryside and reduce them to wage-slaves in order to live in what's left of it.  But they'll put up with damned near anything to live in their own place and not have to put up with the arrogance of "city-folk" who in their estimation are overeducated ignoramuses who couldn't find or fight their way out of a paper bag without outside assistance.

          They'll support the coal companies if that's the only game in town, because they have to have SOME way to earn enough cash to pay for gas and taxes and electric bills.  Everything else they can and do pretty much make for themselves.  Offer them some other way to make that necessary cash and they'll drop the coal companies in a heartbeat.  There's no loyalty to cruel masters who've been responsible for more than a few deaths among friends and family.  But if you want their support, then you have to treat them with some kind of respect, and if you want to take away the only living many of them have, then you have to be willing to offer something as an alternative.

          •  This is it's own kind of elitism: (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Roadbed Guy, nosleep4u

            "who in their estimation are overeducated ignoramuses"

            It's exactly that kind of attitude that makes me want to say eff'em. Even the Democrats from West Virginia are climate deniers. It's Stockholm Syndrome. Look at how Rockefeller was pilloried when he spoke out about it. And then they're jerks about it, considering people who've spent time actually studying the issue "overeducated ignoramuses." In any event, my point was just to let it be known that that emotional response is out there.

            As I said, I agree that climate change legislation should include economic development for coal country. Maybe you missed the part where I agreed that my considered and sympathetic response was opposite to my immediate response. But maybe instead of denying there's a problem guys like that jerk Manchin should get on board with crafting a solution that helps his region.

            Look, I've got family that I love very much from "Pennsyltucky" coal country outside Pittsburgh. I've got a fondness for bluegrass music. I love the movie Bloody Harlan. Sharing my emotional reaction might have suggested something I didn't intend, hostility or derision toward the culture and history of the region.

            It's not that. It's really just a simple emotional response to being told that any legislation has to bail out the very folks standing in the way of even rationally discussing the issue on a scientific basis, and my point in sharing it was to warn that not everyone gets beyond their immediate emotional response. Eventually there will be climate change legislation. If Manchin or other Appalachian pols want economic development as part of the deal they should get with the program or they risk (sadly, you and I agree) being cut out.

            Passive renunciation is not the whole of wisdom.

            by play jurist on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 02:30:34 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Having grown up in such a paradise... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Roadbed Guy, splashy

            ...they are mostly willfully ignorant, selfish and racist, who don't like cities because of all the blah-people that live there. They would not support anything that would require they change in any way or take responsibility for the lack of opportunity in their communities. If it wasn't for money from the rest of the country many would probably still not have electricity, not that they are capable of any gratitude for it.

            Yeah yeah yeah, that not everyone. Just a majority, unfortunately.

          •  there won't be much land to love left (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            nosleep4u

            ... if they continue to ruin it with strip mining and other destructive mining practices.

            ______
            "Und wer nicht tanzen will am Schluss - weiß noch nicht dass er tanzen muss", Rammstein, "Amerika"

            by cris0000 on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 12:41:43 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Coal mining is not a job growth area anyway (7+ / 0-)

        Since 1970, production has doubled but employment has dropped by almost half.  So the idea that there are lots of jobs to save, much less grow, just doesn't comport with the evidence.  Coal mining states need new NON-coal jobs, regardless of the fate of coal mining.

        The numbers

        •  Right! (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cynndara, BYw

          1. Big machinery replaced miners.

          2. Depleting coal reserves driving up the operating
              costs.

          3. Appalachian region can't compete with the lower
              operating costs in western states or the low price  
              of natural gas.

          Publicly industry experts blame it on environmental regulations (Obama), but they know coal production is and will remain on the decline. Because politicians are paid for by coal industry, this region can't move on.

          •  Yeah, I can't see how Appalachia is going (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            translatorpro, nipit, splashy

            to compete with the west.  I mean, they have lower delivery costs to the east, but that's about it.  It's just absurd how abundant and easy to get to the coal in states like Wyoming is.  The strata just underground in a good chunk of the state looks like this.

            That's why it's so absurd why people who think that energy shorages are going to somehow stop people from causing worse global warming.  They're not.  People are going to keep digging and burning this stuff faster and faster unless we do something to stop it, unless the cost of dumping ancient carbon into the atmosphere is made to be factored into the cost business of those who do it, some way or another.

        •  Unfortunately (0+ / 0-)

          what's being offered right now is fracking.  And since it pays wages and people need jobs, many of them will take it.   People with electric bills to pay or with families that need medical care (expensive and not available by self-reliance or barter) have to get cash somehow, and if they're hungry enough they stop being picky.  And any job that doesn't require them to out-migrate to the cities to look for it is better than one that does.

      •  How about a "Save Appalachia from Coal" (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        PeterHug, BYw

        Response.

        Why would people suddenly pretend to care about a place that they haven't for decades?

        The revolution will not be televised. But it will be blogged, a lot. Probably more so than is necessary.

        by AoT on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 12:02:04 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Our choices now are to start caring for Appalachia (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          AoT, cynndara

          or stop caring about the future. Pretty stark but da truth.

          •  Or ban coal mining and abandon it (0+ / 0-)

            Which, as shitty an option as that is, is the most likely thing to happen.  I'd love to see something other than that happen, but it really is the most likely.

            The revolution will not be televised. But it will be blogged, a lot. Probably more so than is necessary.

            by AoT on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 01:57:50 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Ummmmmm (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              BYw

              Water?  Perhaps you're not local, AoT, but did you realize that pretty much all of the water used by urban areas east of the Mississippi originates in rainfall over Appalachia?  One of your best reasons to regulate the crap out of mining in those mountains is that shit flows downstream, where it ends up in the water supplies of places like New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C.

              If western Virginia were an independent nation it could impound the water that falls in its territory for profit, and hold every city from Annapolis south to Charleston hostage until they paid for it.  Instead, the lowlanders get all they want, and then complain about poor and ignorant "hillbillies" who wander down looking for work.

              •  LOL. You can't "impound" the water. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                mattakar

                Water in (rainfall) has to equal water out (runoff and rivers), unless you want to put every Appalachian Valley underwater.  The people of Appalachia do not generously give their water to the low areas, gravity does that.  That's a bit like suggesting that the midwest is very generous in letting its wind reach you.

                Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!

                by bigtimecynic on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 07:18:29 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Uh, dams? (0+ / 0-)

                  Water projects?  Causes big fusses all the time in dryland areas.  I've been told that some homeowners in Colorado are prohibited from caching the rainwater that drains from their roofs because the water has already been allocated to other users as part of the Colorado watershed.  Several near wars have started along the Turkish border due to dam projects on rivers that have provided necessary water for settlements downstream since the time of Moses.

                  Riparian rights have a LOOOOOONNNG history.  And they're very poorly allocated with regard to the Appalachian watershed because water there has always been plentiful.  But urban areas are already experiencing shortages, leading to negotiations for supplies naturally cached in lakes.  Over the last decade, for instance, Lake Gaston in North Carolina has become a target for export to the Greater Richmond area of Virginia.  

                  I'm just pointing out that a less cavalier and generous attitude towards our natural resources (in keeping with the Republican ethic of making sure none of the good things in life are free) would turn Appalachia's traditional poverty on its head.  The only reason the hills are poor, like all undeveloped nature reserves, is that they have traditionally provided all of their important natural resources to their neighbors for free.

    •  oh, agree 100% (0+ / 0-)

      just a little bit bored.

      by terrypinder on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 09:04:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I don't know much about the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ybruti

      environmentally destructive role of specifically German's coal mining methods that exist for so long, but I doubt it's the enemy.

      I believe one can mine our coal mines in clean ways and I would support all the technologies that ameliorate the process. To me coal is not the enemy as long as it is processed in the cleanest ways possible. I am not expert enough to know if the mining process in Germany is different from other countries mining methods.

      I hope it is, ie more safe and more clean. The US could mine coal differently, It's too expensive to do it clean, I heard. It's still better than fracking, which I am sure will cause earthquakes and pollution of ground water.

      Natural gas, dependent how it's extracted from the underground is imo more destructive than coal mining, as long the mines are underground and you don't have to "remove" tons of surface soil and use extensive masses of water to extract the coal.

      The enemy is clearly nuclear energy. I also would burn coal in my home before I use gas. Coal is easily to distribute to the end user. Generations have survived two world wars heating their houses in the worst situations. Coal you could get without a middle man. It gives the enduser independence. Gas and nuclear energy not.

      Best energy form is solar and wind and wood, if you can grow enough trees on your own property to replace the wood you used up.

      •  Let me ask you this, Mimi--- (7+ / 0-)

        What is the average high temperature in Australia this month?

        What is the average ice coverage in the Arctic Ocean this year?

        The list goes on. That is why coal is the enemy.

        -Jay-
        
      •  Nuclear is far, far, better than coal. (7+ / 0-)

        Nuclear power has safety issues that need to be managed (and so does coal), but coal has two horrible problems: first, it CANNOT be mined without destroying the ecosystem from which it comes, and second (and MUCH worse) it cannot be used without destroying the ecosystem of our entire planet.

        •  Nope - it's just as bad (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          translatorpro, splashy

          Nuclear has safety issues that can not be managed.

          If we have learned one thing from Fukushima is that it is impossible to safely operate nuclear for a long time. It's just not humanly possible.

          As for coal not beeing able to be mined without destroying the land, as the son of a mining engineer I can assure you that is absurd.  

          Running responsible coal mining operations is just more expensive.  That of course ha sno implication on the carbon issue - but you don't have to rape the land to get the coal.  It is just ... cheaper.

          ______
          "Und wer nicht tanzen will am Schluss - weiß noch nicht dass er tanzen muss", Rammstein, "Amerika"

          by cris0000 on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 12:50:01 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Coal burning (8+ / 0-)

        Releases far more radioactive material into the environment that nuclear.   Much of the negative impacts are from burning, not mining.  Also it is very carbon inefficient.   Coal is terrible stuff

        Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescendibles.

        by Mindful Nature on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 02:17:29 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  True. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cynndara, DawnN, translatorpro

          Especially in countries where filters aren't being used.

          There is one big difference between radioactivity released from coal plant and from nuke accidents like Fukushima and Chernobyl:

          Coal plants don't release Plutonium238, and that's a major difference, since one particle of plutonium the size of a speck of dust can kill you if ingested or inhaled.  So, no matter how far away on the globe you are, if you're unlucky, that nuke accident can kill you.... and nobody will likely ever know the cause of your death.

          "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

          by Lawrence on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 03:02:43 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Even so (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Lawrence

            one speck killing one person still leaves coal significantly ahead in the mortality count.  Clearly, it is a trade off since neither is great, so it's a matter of choose your poison, literally.  However, without climate change considerations, coal kills tens of thousands (albeit from vastly larger base of installed generation.) which nuclear hasn't, so far (barring chernobyl, which is a far cry from what would be built in the west today).  With climate change though, coal's total shooots through the roof.

            You seem to know your way around power generation.  Do you do diaries on it?  I've been meaning to do something on renewables in California, but I'm far far too lazy.

            Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescendibles.

            by Mindful Nature on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 03:11:49 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yeah, they both suck, with some narrowly- (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Mindful Nature, ybruti, translatorpro

              drawn exceptions.

              Nuclear can be good in space travel.

              There also is one interesting, viable clean coal concept.  It's a so-called CCR(Carbon capture and reuse) coal plant.  What it does is capture the vast majority of the carbon and then funnels it through an algae fuel plant as a feedstock.  The same principle could be applied to a natural gas plant, though.

              I write on energy matters sometimes.  Here's one that might interest you:

              http://www.dailykos.com/...

              I'm really excited by California's recent progress on renewables, btw.

              "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

              by Lawrence on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 03:30:55 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  thanks (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Lawrence

                Part of me has gotten super skeptical of clean coal, but it may prove workable, who knows?  It'd sure solve a lot of problems!

                That NREL study  is kind of a nice counterpoint to this one...

                Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescendibles.

                by Mindful Nature on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 03:54:16 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I don't see how it can (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  gzodik

                  the thermodynamics aren't there.  You can't sequester a mass of CO2 that's three times the mass of coal you burn in any efficient manner.

                  •  Who knows? (0+ / 0-)

                    This algal plant idea is intriguing.  In principle a fast growing farm could take the CO2 and give you liquid fuel.   So you get to burn your coal and use it as a biofuel feed stock too.  Ultimately that's just down cycling, since burning that is still releasing fossil carbon.  You'd have to lock the algae away somewhere probably easier to leave the fossil carbon where it is and run your algae from atmospheric carbon instead

                    Maybe this is why I was skeptical

                    Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescendibles.

                    by Mindful Nature on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 06:57:12 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  You can (0+ / 0-)

                    sequester it, but it is expensive.  If you can find a CO2 buyer with a gas or oil deposit, like Denbury Resources, they will even buy your CO2 for injection.

                  •  In what manner is that thermodynamics? (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    translatorpro, Lawrence

                    Nobody is talking about starting with coal, turning it into CO2 (capturing energy), then using less energy than was captured to turn it back into coal. It stays in its thermodynamically-favorable state (CO2), simply not in the atmosphere.  There's no thermodynamics violation.

                    It might not be economical, but that's not the same thing.

                    •  They're related (0+ / 0-)

                      It's not economical because of the thermodynamics of CO2 being a low energy state.  Unlike a worse GHG like methane, which could at least be burned into CO2 and water vapor.

                      I never mentioned reversing the combustion process, which is obviously absurd.  The energy required to set up a carbon sink of that magnitude would likely far exceed the output of the plant.

                      •  The energy state of CO2 has (0+ / 0-)

                        zilch to do with how easy or difficult it is to store.  Water is a low energy state too.  Want to tell me about how impossibly hard water is to store?

                        Sorry, but you're pushing pseudoscience here.  Thermodynamics has a very real definition and it's not at all how you're trying to present it.  You can argue "CO2 is too expensive to store", but leave fake-thermodynamics out of the conversation.

                        •  Oh for chrissakes (0+ / 0-)

                          At normal Ps and Ts, the CO2 generated by combustion takes up a large volume.  Got that?  It's harder, as in more expensive, to store large quantities of gases than small quantities.

                          I'm not sure why you're reading a redefinition of thermodynamics into my comment.  Oh and incidentally, if water vapor couldn't be condensed at room temperature and if we were trying to sequester all of the water vapor output from power generation, it would be pretty expensive too.

                          I understand thermodynamics plenty well. You're ignoring my argument because you don't like how I presented it, but that doesn't make it wrong.  You're being pedantic and irrelevant.  

                •  Yeah, I think the whole carbon capture and (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  translatorpro

                  sequestration idea is pretty stupid.

                  And, tbh, carbon capture and recycle would probably work better with a natural gas plant than a coal plant.  In theory, you could create a semi-closed loop system with the algae "eating" the carbon, the algae then being processed into biogas, and the biogas then being fed back into the natural gas power plant.

                  Another approach would be to use the algae to make jet fuel, which sure would make flying a lot more environmentally friendly.

                  Air travel and large-scale shipping are the two links in our transport system that will be hardest to make environmentally friendly, so that could be an interesting approach.

                  There was also one interesting chemical approach, in which carbon dioxide is transformed into carbon monoxide via solar concentrators and hydrogen is then added to the mix to produce "clean" diesel, which could be used for shipping.

                  Where it gets really interesting, imo, is when you use a gas power plant that runs on biogas from fermenters, then do carbon capture and recycle, because you then have a carbon neutral system that gives you a lot of energy bang.

                  "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

                  by Lawrence on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 03:28:52 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

          •  Significant Pu release is unlikely. (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            gzodik, Capt Morgan, Mindful Nature, BYw

            ...I think Chernobyl has pretty much been the only case, because of the spectacularly stupid and flammable design of the core.  Even then, particulate plutonium isn't likely to get very far because of the high density of the substance.  Even with the meltdowns in Fukishima there doesn't seem to have been a significant release of plutonium.

            You really need the core to -burn- to get particulate Pu flying around, from what I understand, and that's highly unlikely with modern designs.  Simple explosion won't do anything much other than very locally, since the Pu will still be pretty much contained in the fuel pellets, and in a meltdown situation, it's pretty much contained in the slag pool.

            So ... you have a situation where you -might- kill someone far down the line with toxins -if- there's a fantastically catastrophic event.  (Pu doesn't kill you with radiation.  It's just Highly Toxic in general.)  Whereas operating coal plants kills and sickens hundreds of thousand if not millions through their normal operation, spreading heavy metal toxins (not unlike the plutonium you're afraid of, just less toxic per gram) all over the earth, poisoning soil and sea alike.  

            •  I'm not making an argument for coal over nuclear. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              translatorpro, splashy

              They're both stupid and primitive methods for producing electricity here on this planet.

              I do think it is interesting how nuke advocates like to falsely portray it as a choice between the two.  In a vast majority of regions in the world, in truth, neither will be needed.  Renewables can be scaled up at a far more rapid pace than both coal and nuclear and, in many cases already are less expensive than both new nuclear and new coal.  If we really want to mitigate Climate Change, we need to increase efficiency in our economy while accelerating the scaling up of electricity generation from renewables.

              And, in regards to coal plants, while this diary is focusing on coal use in Germany, the numbers that you're throwing around in regards to the damage and disease from coal plants are almost exclusively caused by coal plants in countries that don't have the strict emissions standards for coal plants that Germany does.

              Germany has some of the most stringent emissions standards in the world and German coal plants have multiple stage filtration systems(often up to five stages).

              A primitive Chinese coal plant, for example, will emit up to 1,000 times as much sulfur dioxide, cadmium, and mercury as a modern German coal plant.  The same is true for radioactive emissions, more or less.  If all coal plants in the world were built to German standards, emissions other than carbon dioxide from coal plants would likely be less than 1/100th of what they are right now.

              Uranium actually is "mined" from scrubbed coal plant emissions in the U.S. for use in nuclear reactors.

              And even if only small amounts of plutonium were released in Fukushima, the same can't be said for Caesium 137 or Strontium.  You may not mind having Caesium 137 as an added "bonus" with your meal, but I do.  Caesium 137 has a half life of 30 years, so that shit is going to be around for a while.  The fact is that the types of radioactive materials released from and created by nuclear reactors are far more dangerous than those released from coal plants.  And we actually dodged a bullet in Fukushima - if the stored spent rods had caught fire in Fukushima 4, which easily could have happened, it would have been much, much worse.  And if the wind had been blowing towards Tokio instead of towards the Pacific, Japan's economy basically would be permanently crippled.

              "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

              by Lawrence on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 05:06:20 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  There has never been (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            BYw

            A serious accident in a modern reactor.  Fukushima was not a modern reactor and Chernobyl was designed in a way that would never be approved in the west.

            Fukushima is an excellent argument for taking old plants offline and modernizing them or even outright replacing them

      •  Mimi, have you ever been to Pennsylvania? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ybruti, gzodik

        Coal mining  has caused far more damage to the environment here, not gas drilling.

        Gas drilling didn't turn whole watersheds ORANGE. Coal mining did.

        And that's not even to get started on its effects on climate.

        just a little bit bored.

        by terrypinder on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 04:10:26 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  look what the zinc mines did to Palmerton (0+ / 0-)

          Place looks like the fucking moon.

          •  I think things like zinc mining are a more (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            translatorpro

            complicated issue.  I mean, there are galvanized coatings on tons of things that I own.  I use coins that have zinc in them.  I have things made of brass.  I have things painted white which very likely use zinc oxide as a pigment.  It may also be in my sunscreens and ointments.  There might be zinc compounds in my toothpaste and shampoo.  I take a multivitamin that contains zinc.  I have solder that contains zinc - both a couple rolls of it, and bits of solder in practically every piece of electronics that I own.  I've traveled on boats that use large sacrificial zinc anodes to stay afloat.  I have alkaline batteries all over my house.  On and on.  Who the hell am I to complain without being a hypocrite?

            And it's no different for other metals.  Are copper mines somehow better?  Steel?  Silver?  Aluminum?  Everything we use in our lives was in some way or another ripped from the earth.  Not everything has equal consequences, and we can mandate that it has to be done in as friendly of a manner as possible... but ultimately, it all comes from somewhere, mixed with many times more overburden and releasing the other, often toxic minerals it was buried with.

            The difference in the case of fuels is that they're not turned into something lasting.  They're taken up, and then destroyed.  Burned and cast off into the air for us to breathe and to alter our climate.  And it's not necessary.  We can build lasting devices which produce power year after year.  It's a one-time taking from the earth which keeps giving for decades with just a bit of maintenance.  And that's the real difference.

      •  The problem isn't -mining- the coal, (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gzodik, Capt Morgan, 6412093, BYw

        the problem is -burning- the shit, which you necessarily have to do to generate power from it.

        Coal is clearly the enemy.  It's the dirtiest possible way to generate energy, spewing huge lots of carbon -- and huge lots of heavy metals, including mercury and lead -- into the atmosphere.  Even burning wood is better, since it's carbon-neutral assuming that you replant at the rate you use the stuff.  

        While Nuclear isn't exactly happy-friendly-funtime, even the worst disasters with nuclear energy only render a very small portion of the planet uninhabitable, as opposed to gradually rendering the whole thing uninhabitable through normal operation.  If we had ditched coal for nuclear and created a real solution for nuclear waste management 30 years ago, we wouldn't be having this little climate-change problem that you may have heard of.

      •  You are way wrong (0+ / 0-)

        Nuclear is FAR safer and cleaner than coal.  Coal is by far the worst source of electricity generation.  It kills countless people yearly and massively pollutes the planet

      •  Hey, there is no one good answer. (0+ / 0-)

        If a small number of rural people want to use coal, that's not the end of the world.  The real damage that coal does comes from large-scale power generation plants.

        FYI - Coal is easy to distribute, but so it propane, which is what most rural people use for heat.  For people that don't live in coal country and aren't on the gas grid, having a seasonal delivery of propane to get through the winter months just fine.

        Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!

        by bigtimecynic on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 07:22:36 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  What does this mean??? (7+ / 0-)

      A massive push to renewables hasn't shaken the hold coal has over their economy

      Obviously, coal isn't the problem here.  "Coal" doesn't have a hold over the economy, energy demand does.  Coal was brought in in this case as a bailout, a saviour, after it was determined that solar and wind couldn't get the job done.  The problem is abandoning the best, cleanest high-output energy source man has ever harnessed - nuclear.

      I dismiss any "environmentalist" who proposes phasing out coal, oil, and natural gas without massive investment (both financial and practical) in nuclear as either an idiot or a totally unserious ideologue.

      As for Appalachia, build a few factories there that produce parts and materials for nuclear reactors.  Those jobs pay much better than coal miner.

      •  That means we should question their approach (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Roadbed Guy, Odysseus

        Coal is the enemy both in terms of public health and long-term climate change.  Germany has made more out of pushing to renewables than any other nation and the results... more coal with no end in sight to fossil fuel emissions.  

        So, what this means is that maybe this in not how we do it and we should be thinking long and hard about going all-in for wind and solar when the objective is to eliminate Big Fossil from primary energy production.  

        The fact their increase in coal use mirrors their reduction in  nuclear generation highlights a key point: coal and nuclear are interchangeable baseload sources as far as the grid is concerned, except nuclear emits zero GHG and coal is the worst possible emitter of GHG.

        The intrinsic nature of Power is such that those who seek it most are least qualified to wield it.

        by mojo workin on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 12:32:09 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You confuse coal for baseload generation (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BYw

          Yes Germany should have kept its nukes, but coal is not the only other option.  Concentrated solar with thermal storage, hydro, etc are all better options than coal

          Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescendibles.

          by Mindful Nature on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 02:19:47 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  coal appears to be part of the option (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            cynndara

            they're using though.

            just a little bit bored.

            by terrypinder on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 04:26:16 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Definitely that (0+ / 0-)

              The headlong rush out of nuclear was ill  advised I'm afraid

              Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescendibles.

              by Mindful Nature on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 06:58:13 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I think your assessment is a bit premature. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                splashy

                It's too early, and Germany is a pioneer. The experts know themselves there will be mistakes along the way, but that will only benefit those who follow - learning from the mistakes and doing things better.

                „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

                by translatorpro on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 02:18:53 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  It's not. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              translatorpro, Lawrence, splashy

              Assuming by "option" you mean "baseload".  I'll leave it up to the diarist to clarify whether they deliberately lied or simply didn't read or understand their own links, but the new plants are replacing baseload coal with far more efficient coal peakers.  Replacing with a more efficient version = reducing CO2, not adding, != consuming more coal.  Peakers = gap filling for when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing, aka, supporting ever-growing wind and solar penetration.  

              They'll probably function as baseload in the early days (they are replacing plants that are currently running as baseload, after all), but they're clear design intent peakers, taking only 15 minutes to ramp up or down - a role that will become increasingly important as solar and wind penetration keep rising.

              •  i'm referring to the fuelsource (0+ / 0-)

                not the baseload.

                Yes, I am of the opinion that coal, as a fuel source, is not a good thing period.

                I don't understand the hate for this diary. It really wasn't that bad, and it isn't explictly pro-nuclear, and actually has praise for renewables.

                just a little bit bored.

                by terrypinder on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 08:48:45 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

      •  it's not the environmentalists who killed nukes (6+ / 0-)

        It's the electric companies. They haven't wanted them since the 70's, and don't want them now.  Mostly because the economics of nuclear is crippling, even with massive government subsidies and insurance welfare.

        •  Isn't a lot of that due to the massive amount (0+ / 0-)

          of regulation?

          Heck, things are getting bad enough where we should seriously considering having the Government build and operate nuclear reactors...

        •  Um, no. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Capt Morgan

          Two new reactors are currently under construction (Vogtle 3 and 4) and a partially completed reactor (Bellefonte) is being completed. There are several other applications for new reactors with the NRC but I suspect many are waiting to see how Vogtle fairs and are factoring in the costs of cheap natural gas as an alternative.

          The "nuclear is subsidized" meme is repeated often but never put in its most relevant context. The facts are that for every MWh of electricity produced by nuclear power there are a little over $3 in subsidies, and most of that is in the form of federal R&D...very little is direct subsidies to the producer. In contrast, a MWh of wind gets on the order of $56 in subsidies all told. Natural gas and hydro get about $.60 and $.80 respectively.

          •  that's pretty funny, since Progress Energy here in (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            BYw, Egalitare, Lawrence

            Florida wants to build two nukes that are already triple their initial budget--and still haven't been permitted yet.  Oh, and they broke the nuke they already have (while trying to do their own work on it) and that'll cost at least $5 billion to fix.

            Oh, and guess what----thanks to the state legislature, Progress Energy gets to charge its customers NOW for the cost of both repairing the nuke they broke and building the two over-budget nukes they haven't even broken ground for yet----and if they never fix the broken one OR build the new ones, they don't have to give any of the money back.

            Not to mention that the government picks up the insurance tab because no private insurer wants to write a policy for a nuke plant.

            If it weren't for the massive welfare the nuke industry gets, they'd have died years ago.

            Oh wait--they DID die years ago.  (shrug)

            •  So what's your solution? (0+ / 0-)

              Seriously... what's the realistic answer?

              Nuclear is not perfect, but it's pretty clean and orders of magnitude better than coal.

              What other option is there to build us a bridge to renewables or maybe even fusion?

              Generating our baseline load is feasible with nuclear and I see no other option we can use that won't destroy the planet

              •  you're griping at the wrong person (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                BYw, Egalitare

                As I noted before, it's not environmentalists who killed nukes---it was the electric industry itself. Economically, nukes are a nonstarter. They can't get any private investors to finance them, and they can't get any private insurance companies to cover their liability. If it weren't for all the corporate welfare, the game would have ended decades ago.

                Oh, and for those of us who are in love with the thorium vaporware, I simply point out that no electric company, anywhere, is even asking to build a thorium plant.  None.  Not a one. Once again it is the electric companies who are shooting you down, not the environmentalists.

                (BTW, uranium mining is one of the most destructive activities that humans do.)

                •  Wrong yet again. (0+ / 0-)

                  Roughly a third of uranium world wide is mined in conjunction with other operations whose primary focus is extracting minerals like copper and gold such as the Olympic Dam mine in Australia. The incremental environmental effects of extracting the uranium (versus leaving it in the tailings) is all but nonexistent. Roughly a third is extracted through a technique called in situ leaching that involves drilling small wells to dissolve and extract the ore. Compared to conventional mining techniques used to obtain other minerals it is fairly benign. It is the primary method used in the US. Only about a third is mined conventionally world wide and it isn't any more damaging than equivalent operations used to mine copper or other ores.

              •  a big part of the solution would be for the US to (0+ / 0-)

                reduce its per capita electricity usage to the levels in Japan, France, Germany or the UK.

                As in everything else, the US is fat, wasteful, profligate and bloated.

              •  Clean coal-IGCC has the CO2 emissions of natural (0+ / 0-)

                gas by EPA fiat. Nuclear is a nightmare waiting to happen,
                not to mention the radioactive waste which Reagan thought you could put under a desk. The decommisioning cost of nuclear are huge.

            •  So you admit you are wrong. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Roadbed Guy

              You said utilities didn't want them yet you bring up an sample of a utility that does and apparently continues to despite the current price of natural gas.

              You said "the" nuke in Florida is broke but there are in fact five reactors in the state (Crystal River 3 and two each at St. Lucie and  Turkey Point). That the utility tried so hard to try to fix it implies it was a profitable plant for the company.

              It used to be common practice for utilities to be allowed to charge ratepayers while large capital projects like power plants and transmission lines were being built to lower the costs and save the customers in the long run. In my state local taxes have gone up to finance a new professional sports stadium whose construction hasn't begun yet.

              The government does't pay a dime in insurance for nuclear plants. It in fact passed a law requiring utilities to purchase the maximum amount of private insurance available (currently around $375 million through a consortium of the largest insurance companies in the US) and requires utilities enter into indemnity agreements that provide an additional $12 billion in coverage.

              You are just a fountain of misinformation aren't you?

              •  um, no . . . . (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                splashy
                You said utilities didn't want them yet you bring up an sample of a utility that does and apparently continues to despite the current price of natural gas.
                As noted, Progress Energy wants the money.  Under Florida law, they are already charging their customers, and they get to keep the money whether the nukes get built or not (the widespread expectation being that the nukes will never be built, since they are already triple over-budget).
                You said "the" nuke in Florida is broke but there are in fact five reactors in the state (Crystal River 3 and two each at St. Lucie and  Turkey Point).
                Those we all built in the 70's. The industry is currently trying to extend their lifespan for another 40 years because they were so over-budget and expensive to run that the companies didn't make any money from them, and want to extend their planned lifespan to try and make up for some of that expense.  (That's how Progress Energy broke the nuke at Crystal River---they tried on their own to replace some of the equipment, and damaged the containment walls. That nuke will likely never be repaired or restarted)
                It used to be common practice for utilities to be allowed to charge ratepayers while large capital projects like power plants and transmission lines were being built to lower the costs and save the customers in the long run. In my state local taxes have gone up to finance a new professional sports stadium whose construction hasn't begun yet.
                The difference of course is that the nukes will probably never be built, and if they're not, the company doesn't have to give the money back.  The other difference is that Progress Energy is a privately-owned for-profit company with a legal monopoly. It's not a public utility.
                The government does't pay a dime in insurance for nuclear plants. It in fact passed a law requiring utilities to purchase the maximum amount of private insurance available (currently around $375 million through a consortium of the largest insurance companies in the US) and requires utilities enter into indemnity agreements that provide an additional $12 billion in coverage.
                Wrong.  First of all, there are NO private insurers anywhere who are willing to take liability for a nuke.  None.  The "consortium" you refer to is the nuclear companies themselves, who were forced to form their OWN insurance company after no private insurer would touch them. You brag about "they have to purchase the maximum insurance available" without noting that in the event of an accident, $375 million is an insignificant drop in the bucket--and the Federal government has stepped in to assume liability for anything above that amount (because, as noted, NO private insurance company anywhere will insure a nuke for full liability).
                •  That's a pretty dumb and cynical analysis. (0+ / 0-)

                  Progress Energy would be incredibly stupid and short sighted to try to string the state public utilities commission and public along about building the plant. It would generate a lot of bad blood if it didn't voluntarily refund all money that wasn't prudently spent to obtain a NRC COL license. There would be a backlash.

                  Is it part of the standard anti-nuclear activist handbook to obfuscate and blather in an attempt to distract from the fact that you are caught being wrong or did you just forget to take your Ritalin? What do the dates when the plants were built have to do with anything? You made a statement implying there is a single reactor in Florida. You are wrong. Admit it.

                  Progress doesn't operate in Florida as a merchant electricity provider. It is a regulated utility which means the state sets the rates. Transmission lines are not publicly held either. There is no difference.

                  As to whether there are private insurers willing to underwrite nuclear liability insurance, I would refer you to

                  http://www.amnucins.com/

                  It says prominently on its web site:

                  "American Nuclear Insurers (ANI) is a joint underwriting association created by some of the largest insurance companies in the United States. Our purpose is to pool the financial assets pledged by our member companies to provide the significant amount of property and liability insurance required for nuclear power plants and related facilities throughout the world."

                  The indemnification you are referring to provided by the utilities themselves is the secondary insurance. The primary insurance provided by ANI is underwritten by a pool of insurance companies that issue actual insurance policies providing $375 million in coverage and that the utilities pay annual premiums to just like anybody paying for their car or homeowners insurance. To date the primary insurance provided by these very real insurance companies has paid all liability claims associated with nuclear plants and incidents, including Three Mile Island. The secondary indemnity coverage provided by the utilities themselves has never been tapped into. Not even close. If your level of reading comprehension is up to it you might try the Wiki entry for the Price-Anderson Act, although to date you haven't given me reason to expect that you would get it.

    •  There is only one alternative (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Roadbed Guy

      And that's nuclear power.... nothing else can replace the massive capacity provided by coal

    •  You say (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lawrence

      Your diary stated as to coal utilization:

      It is dirty and causes thousands of deaths annually around the world.
      Are you saying that coal burning should be held solely responsible for those deaths?

      Coal plants don't kill anything.  

      Emissions from coal combustion that are associated with air pollution that cause deaths from air pollution exposures can be controlled with existing emission control technology.  After application of technology-based emission controls, emissions of PM 2.5, SO2 and NOX can be limited to a high degree.   SO2 and NOX contribute to PM 2.5 in their ultimate atmospheric fate and transport.

      Constantly saying that coal plants kill people instead of saying that it is PM 2.5 exposure that kills people is a form of scientific misconduct since it is an attempt to ascribe all of the health risk to a single source - coal plants - when PM 2.5 community exposures result from a very complex range of both local and long distant sources, many of which are not coal plants.   The scientific misconduct I'm talking about is erroneous judgment, analysis and finding on the matter of environmental health risk characterization and attribution.

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