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I've heard a lot of bashing of the natural gas boom around here, and I think we all need to take some serious stock of the debate. Generally, I think the industry has done a piss poor job of selling the process, mostly because it's the same folks running the Oil biz, and their default response to any questions about pollution is denial and obfuscation. Their methods need to be transparent, their chemicals need to be regulated, and they need to be good neighbors, but ultimately, domestic gas drilling is a really good thing for us. It's high paying private sector jobs, national security, and privately funded infrastructure investment all rolled into one.

   All those things are nice, but I think we need to go straight to the heart of the matter. Natural gas replaces, for the vast majority of the market, coal fired power generation. Burning coal is simply one of the worst ideas around. With centuries of cheap, clean natural gas coming online, I think it's well past time we closed the book on coal.

   Beyond the excess carbon problem, a subject which I even lean a bit right on, the MERCURY being spewed out of that coal is going to slowly poison our entire ecosystem.

 There is a strong body of evidence suggesting that coal's tendency to bind to free mercury and other heavy metals is one of the reasons that higher order intelligent life is able to exist on earth.  An indisputable fact is that such life did not exist until AFTER the carboniferous era roughly 300M years ago. This is the time when fluctuating sea levels and a huge explosion of tropical style bio-mass created the bulk of the worlds coal deposits.

   Shortly thereafter, the extant biome of plants, simple multicellular marine organisms, and insects began an astonishing increase in complexity. The next era gave us dinosaurs, birds, mammals, large fish, etc, as well as the split between angiosperm and gymnosperm vegetation, which defines our current landscape.

   So, whether correlative or causative, we know that complex nervous systems did not exist on earth until there were vast coal seams absorbing mercury out of rain and groundwater. We also know that mercury is a potent neurotoxin. So to dig up the very coal that captured all that mercury, burn it, and spew the shit back into our atmosphere, seems, to put it mildly, like a bad idea.

CO2 and climate change I think can be dealt by moderation of output, human and animal migration, and technology, all things well within our reach.  But if we poison an entire strata, worldwide, with mercury, and every single species on earth begins to become weaker, slower, stupider, and less robust, we will be well and truly f***ed.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    6412093, mightymouse

    Left Coast Libertarian

    by pacspeed on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 10:24:59 AM PST

  •  very important (0+ / 0-)

    The US is currently recovering massive amounts of natural gas and the price is about 30-50%  lower than 5 years ago.

    Even if we fully implement wind and solar energy, and energy conservation, we will still need base load power plants. Gas emits less air pollution than coal, as this diary pointed out, and gas fired plants use much less water also, especially if air cooled.

    Injection of toxic chemicals (fracking) is responsible for a large percentage, but not all of the increased gas production.   We need increased regulation of fracking (and other gas production methods) to vastly decrease the air and water pollution from these techniques.

    For instance gas production includes removal of CO2 and other chemicals from the natural gas. The pure CO2 is then discharged right into the air.  That's an incredibly wasteful usage of a potentially valuable raw material, and also destroys the climate, and should be outlawed.

    The US has the potential to create many jobs by exporting our cheap natural gas to the world but we need to regulate the industry first.

  •  a recent study suggested (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LaughingPlanet

    that from a global warming  perspective, fracking was close to as bad as burning coal.  fracking contributes to about twice as much methane released per unit extracted than traditional drilling and methane is 100 times more potent a green house gas on a 20-year time scale than CO2.

    can't speak much to the idea of coal leading to reduced mercury levels in the ancient world.  certainly arsenic and mercury are bad and are released by burning coal.

  •  Jeeze, the only choice we have is (0+ / 0-)

    between two fossil fuels? False choice.

    Diary FAIL.

    Sunday mornings are more beautiful without Meet the Press.

    by deben on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 11:26:31 AM PST

    •  Nobody said the only choice. (0+ / 0-)

      I said the better choice.

      Offering anything of substance FAIL.

      Left Coast Libertarian

      by pacspeed on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 11:41:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Just what we need... (0+ / 0-)

        An apologist for pumping more carbon into the atmosphere for the coming "centuries."  And for "high paying private sector jobs," just like in Appalachia.

        No. Not any more of this crap.  Peddle it to Fox News.

        Sunday mornings are more beautiful without Meet the Press.

        by deben on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 11:59:42 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  well what do you propose? (0+ / 0-)

          I'm all ears for your suggestions.

          Left Coast Libertarian

          by pacspeed on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 12:16:17 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  A Manhattan project for alternative energies (0+ / 0-)

            Cheap, clean, domestic energy. Upgrade the power grid. Wind farms in the Midwest. Biofuels.  Solar arrays. Learning from successful science instead of shouting it down. Sharing technology globally, instead of watching the Germans and the Chinese pass us, and leave us needing to buy their products instead of making them here. Conservation. Paints. Windows. Architecture. Sensible devises for low electricity use. High mileage cars and trucks. Mass transit. High taxes on dirty fossil fuels. A planet that my grandchildren will be able to live on.

            Off the top of my head.

            Sunday mornings are more beautiful without Meet the Press.

            by deben on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 12:38:22 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  All those ideas are great (0+ / 0-)

              But none, unfortunately can be expected to perform anytime soon..

                 Wind farms: probably the closest thing to an acceptable alternative, but everyone has serious NIMBY syndrome going on. And lets point out the obvious, the biggest NIMBY's are here on the left side of politics. Take Cape Wind as an example. The good folk of Mass. are all in favor of "renewables", but as soon as renewables mean "hundreds of massive windmills off Cape Cod" not so much.

                 Same goes for pretty much everywhere and pretty much all the technologies. It was environmental zealots that shut down a huge solar project in Central California because a threatened tortoise lives there. It was environmental zealots that shut down a wind farm in the Columbia Gorge...simply because they didn't want to see the turbines from the river. It's clueless hippies protesting PG&E's push to install smart meters on every house in Northern California "because of the RADIATION, Man!". The single most cost effective energy saving device at their disposal, and people oppose it because it sends the equivalent of a text message 3 times a day. I guess they'd rather have a fleet of pickups driving around day in and day out to read meters.

              So basically, all these things on your wish list are just that...wishes. None of them can be implemented on the scale required, and none of them are ready to be implemented on PRIVATE funds. Natural gas is. It's CLEARLY better than coal, and it's being paid for by private enterprise. Time to stop letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

              Left Coast Libertarian

              by pacspeed on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 02:59:42 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  There are whole states with wind (0+ / 0-)

                blowing down from beyond forever, from Canada, where huge wind farms are feasible. Solar farms are up and running in Europe and North Africa. Even here in Florida.

                And if you rule out public funding or incentives because, well, just because; who's letting "the perfect be the enemy of the good?" As if sending checks for the rest of our lives to GiantNaturalGas would be better than owning our own solar panels or tapping the wind in North Dakota.

                And what's your authority for pronouncing all alternatives to natural gas infeasible?  You're an anonymous person on the Internet.

                Lastly, your contempt for hippies, environmentalists, and the environment in general is noted.  It's all about magically clean-burning dinosaur gases, environmentally-friendly fracking mining, and high paying jobs, just like the fossil fuel extractors have bestowed to Appalachia.

                Sunday mornings are more beautiful without Meet the Press.

                by deben on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 03:22:43 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

    •  something has to provide electricity 24/7 (0+ / 0-)

      and if we go to electric cars, we will need more energy in the future.

      wind and solar don't generate electricity 24/7.

      the new solar plants can store some energy, but not enough.

      So you got coal, gas, and nukes to choose from as your back-up energy sources, even if almost every square inch of potential land or rooftop sports a windmill and solar panel.

      •  "Even if almost every square inch (0+ / 0-)

        of potential land or rooftop sports a windmill and solar panel?" Still not enough? And therefore the choice is only fossil or nuke? Sorry, to be blunt, but BS.

        Sunday mornings are more beautiful without Meet the Press.

        by deben on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 12:43:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

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