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Coal power plant
Coal is a disaster for the climate and, although it provides good-paying jobs in areas where there often are no others, it also is a disaster for coal communities and miners themselves. For those reasons, with his last election campaign a success, President Obama should push hard to get regulations in place that work to force an end to most coal mining—a ban on mountain-top removal, regulations that control CO2 emissions of existing plants, more funding for enforcing health and safety regulations while coal is still mined, installing every obstacle the executive branch can come up in the path of soaring U.S. coal exports and negotiating a no-exports pact with the world's other leading exporters (Russia, Australia, Indonesia). He should also find various innovative means to support and invest in the future of coal miners and other coal-company employees who will lose their livelihood as coal production is cut back.

Undoubtedly, Congress and the fossil fuel industry alike will try to block such moves in every way they can. But that should not stop the president from trying in every way he can find to act.

Over the past 30 years, we've been through several overlapping phases of denial since the menace of global warming first breached the science labs and journals and made it into the general public's view, most notably when James Hansen testified at a Senate hearing in 1988. By then he'd been studying the subject for more than a decade.

As first, deniers went so far as to claim that the greenhouse effect itself could not alter the chemistry of something as large as the earth's atmosphere. Then they said it could, but that it wasn't happening. That phase of denial lasted a long time. No surprise since it was heavily funded by Exxon and the Koch brothers and other self-interested parties. Shills such as Fred Singer took their money and spread their agenda. Not only was global warming not real, they said, but scientists who said it was already happening were labeled quacks with an agenda. They smeared them, called them liars, said they were just out for grant money and got the likes of Sen. Jim Inhofe and the brilliant climatologist Rush Limbaugh to ridicule them whenever a heavy snow fell somewhere. As recently as eight years ago, they were claiming that the ice of Greenland and the Arctic Ocean were not retreating.

Eventually, the deniers began tempering their remarks. Yes, okay, they said, there does seem to be some warming going on. But it's the natural way. Climate has changed throughout the Earth's history and this is just another example, they said. It's not because of anything that humans are doing. As the evidence poured in and that theme became more and more untenable, another phase of denial began. Yes, perhaps humans are having some effect, but the changes will be small and occur over centuries. And, besides, there's nothing we can really do about it.

Next they said the effects might be great but still happen over centuries. We would figure out what to do about it long before it became a problem.

And then, when it became obvious that change was happening a lot quicker than centuries, another phase made its appearance. Yes, they said, global warming, which long since had been transformed into "climate change" in public discourse, is happening, but look at all the benefits! We'll grow wheat on the tundra and drill for oil on the Arctic seabed. They were silent to the irony of pumping out more of the oil whose burning has contributed so greatly to the melting of the ice which makes the drilling possible.

We're now well into another phase of denial. The backers of this phase say that, yes, climate change is definitely a problem that is already having major impacts, and those impacts will intensify in the coming years. And, yes, we must do something about it. But, they add, we have to fix other problems before we tackle this one.

Those who take this view would never characterize themselves as deniers. They'd be insulted. They accept the scientific evidence as real, they say, and they know the atmosphere and the oceans are heating up. They suspect, as climate scientists in ever larger numbers are saying, that climate change, as predicted, is causing some of the extreme weather we're seeing and will see more of in the future. But, they say, there are just too many obstacles blocking immediate action.

Which means they are deniers. Because delay is denial.

As has been noted many times, "climate change" got little attention from the two major presidential candidates during the election campaign. While candidates like Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson discussed the subject at length, the only guys who had a chance of winning the White House avoided it. The biggest mention it got came during President Obama's press conference after the election, on Nov. 14. After explaining some of the initiatives he took during his first term—negotiating a mandated increase in vehicle fuel efficiency being an important one—Obama said:

But we haven’t done as much as we need to. So what I’m going to be doing over the next several weeks, next several months, is having a conversation, a wide-ranging conversation with scientists, engineers and elected officials to find out what can—what more can we do to make short-term progress in reducing carbons, and then working through an education process that I think is necessary, a discussion, the conversation across the country about, you know, what realistically can we do long term to make sure that this is not something we’re passing on to future generations that’s going to be very expensive and very painful to deal with.
Serious, high-level talks about climate change leading to action are good. So hurrah to Obama's plan on that. But, with Mitt "I like coal" Romney out of the way, some actions can be taken now without further talk. And one of those is turning the mythical "war on coal" that corporate PR firms have been yammering garbage complaints about into the real thing.

That doesn't mean the "war on coal" has to be what it's called. On the other hand, if some terrorist group were knocking off 13,000 Americans a year, poisoning the lungs and hearts of tens of thousands of others and causing $62 billion in annual environmental damage, you can bet the response from Congress and the White House would be to call it war and act accordingly. That toll is exactly what coal mining and burning are exacting.

Whatever it's called, however, taking coal head-on certainly should not mean a war on coal miners.

(Please continue reading below the fold)

The burden on the atmosphere is prodigious. Every ton of coal burned puts 2.86 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. How can one ton create almost three times as much in emissions? Because each carbon atom in coal joins with two oxygen atoms when coal is burned.

Some more statistics (with the proviso that these are constantly changing):

A typical (500-megawatt) coal plant burns 1.4 million tons of coal each year. (That's enough to power just over a quarter-million homes.) As of the beginning of June 2012, there were 1,169 coal-fired electricity generators in the United States, many of them underutilized, older and dirtier than average. As of September, the U.S. had burned 616.8 million tons of coal to generate electricity in 2012. The total for 2011 was 935 million tons. That figure has been headed down since 2007. At its peak, coal was generating 57 percent of the nation's electricity; in 2011, the figure was 42 percent.

coal train
That's come about for a variety of reasons. New regulations have had some small impact, making a few of the oldest, dirtiest plants uneconomic to retrofit. But, in fact, when finalized, the Mercury and Toxic Air Standards rule was less restrictive than had been expected and the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule was vacated entirely. So those attacks about the onerousness of regulations were bogus.

A far greater role has been played by cheap natural gas pried from shale formations by the controversial technique of hydraulic fracturing. In April, for the first time since the Energy Information Administration began keeping records, natural gas and coal each contributed 32 percent of the nation's electricity. There's more to come in this arena.

When it comes to new coal-fired power plants, the New Source Performance Standard issued by the Environmental Protection Agency would be a big factor if the price of natural gas weren't so low. This will limit CO2 emissions from new power plants to 1,000 pounds per megawatt-hour of electricity generated. Right now, the average coal-fired plant emits 1,800 pounds per Mwh. Modern natural-gas plants can meet that standard. Without an economically viable carbon, capture and storage technology, however, even the most modern coal plants are out of the question. And while that CCS technology is being experimented on, it's unproven. But even without the rule, coal can't compete with natural gas.

Thus, in February, CEO Nick Akins of American Electric Power said, "there will not be any new coal plants built, with the current price of gas and the forecast for the future for gas."

Moreover, natural gas prices and environmental advocates are pushing existing plants to close down, too, with 125 shuttered in the past three years. And, as David Roberts of Grist wrote recently, the Brattle Group believes that twice as many coal-fired generators as expected will retire or announce their retirement over the next four years. That's even though an EPA Performance Standard for existing plants has not yet been issued. The Union of Concerned Scientists has concluded that there are 353 more of the dirtiest coal plants that should be retired in the next four years.

All that sounds good. No new coal-fired generators. More closures of existing coal plants. Lowered CO2 emissions.

But giants like Peabody and Arch Coal are planning increases in exports to China and elsewhere, as much as 144 million tons shipped from Northwest ports alone. If that occurred, combined with shipping from other ports, it would mean a doubling of the 107 million tons shipped in 2011. (The record was 113 million tons in 1981.) Given that 59 countries are planning to build some 1,200 new coal-fired generating plants, most of them in China and India, where environmental regulations are far weaker than in the United States, those exports can be expected to soar.

While the United States can regulate new and existing coal-fired plants and lower its own emissions by switching to natural gas (temporarily as renewables expand), exporting the coal that would have fueled those American power plants pumps the same amount of CO2 (and far higher amounts of other pollutants) into the air. Climate change observes no national boundaries.

Exporting coal means continuing to strip it and mine it. It means mountain-top removal, stream pollution, cave-ins and explosions. It means wrecking the health of not just the miners but also their families:

Ken Ward Jr. has written:

“A growing body of studies have found significant associations between coal-mining areas and a variety of chronic disease problems for adults, after controlling for other disease risk factors,” said Michael Hendryx, a West Virginia University professor who has co-written more than twenty such studies. And coal remains a dangerous business for the workers who do the mining. Not only do they face the daily risk of explosions and roof falls, but the deadly black lung disease—meant to be eradicated by a 1969 federal law—is on the rise again, as miners work longer hours in conditions made dustier by more aggressive coal-cutting machines.
My grandfather, who worked underground for 12 years until he became a United Mine Workers organizer in 1927, died of black lung less than two years after his near-decade-long fight to be diagnosed. I spent his last five months with him. It's a nasty way to go.

But not having a job, and coal-mining jobs pay well, can be nasty, too.

That's why everyone who cares about this issue should read in its entirety Matt Wasson's excellent wide-ranging essay (written at Daily Kos under the moniker Lazyhorse). It's not only an examination of the supposed "war on coal" of the recent campaign (complete with maps of how the GOP captured coal-country votes in 2012), it's a prescription for the future. Wasson is director of programs at Appalachian Voices and coordinator of the campaign to stop mountain-top removal, His environmental commitment does not outshine his compassion and connection to the coal-mining families of the region. Let me quote him at length, again urging everyone to read the whole essay:

Another reason that the organizing of right-wing groups like AFP has gone largely uncontested in coal country is a simple matter of resources. There are groups like Kentuckians For The Commonwealth that are doing extraordinarily effective organizing in regions where coal is mined, but when a group like AFP comes in with an $11 million ad campaign and bottomless pockets for on-the-ground organizing, we're in the position of bringing a knife to a nuclear showdown.

Environmental and community advocates will never match the resources of the powerful industries they challenge, but the problem is particularly acute in places like Appalachia where the big climate funders have largely turned a blind eye to the region. They have so far chosen not to support efforts to stop mountaintop removal and other egregious mining techniques, even though those are the issues that have proven to be effective in swaying public opinion and opening minds. In Appalachia, for instance, mountaintop removal and drinking water pollution are potent "gateway issues" that have inspired many residents to question the honesty and benevolence of the coal industry and their political allies in general.

But by far the most effective way to challenge the power of the "agents of climate inaction" in coal country is to enact policies to diversify the economy and build local support for clean energy industries. While a lot of resources have rightly been expended toward building the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries across the country, climate funders and big environmental groups have provided little if any support for economic initiatives to diversify the economy specifically in coal-dependent regions.

To make matters worse, local politicians in the pocket of the coal industry have shown little initiative in seeking to attract clean energy investments to the region, which puts coal mining regions at an even greater disadvantage.

The best thing that "all you climate people" can do to help break polluting industries' grip on the tail that's been wagging the dog of our national energy debate is to support policies to bring clean energy investments to coal-mining communities. Coal use is on the decline, but the political and economic power of the industry in the region where coal is mined has not waned—and won't, until other industries replace it.

That's not just good strategy, but it's also the right thing to do. The communities that have supplied the brunt of America's energy needs since the industrial revolution and powered our rise to the greatest economy on Earth should not be tossed aside as we move toward a future powered by clean and renewable energy—they should be part of it. And the more we make them a part of that future, the faster we'll get there.

As productivity has risen over the past few decades, coal company employment has been falling (except for a recent uptick). While the "war on coal" has been called the culprit by the propagandists, coal companies have been the real killer of coal-related jobs.

Over the generations, coal communities have been devastated by an extractive economy in which workers have risked their lives and sacrificed their health to keep the juice flowing to our refrigerators and televisions. It's a matter of environmental justice to help pull these communities out of a dirty 19th Century extractive economy into a cleaner 21st Century path.

We progressives, environmental advocates or not, don't like the way a lot of people in western Virginia, West Virginia, southern Illinois, Kentucky and Wyoming voted in this election. There are, of course, other reasons than economics for their choices. But finding answers to their economic issues, helping them—really helping them—create sustainable, renewable communities amid the carnage coal has wrought ought to be as high on our list as stopping that carnage.

There are many ways that can be done. The nation already has invested billions of dollars to spur homeowners and commercial operations to install renewable energy. As a nation we spend billions to deal with the diseases caused by burning coal. Given the urgency of getting us off coal, there is no reason billions can't be spent to ease the lives of coal workers and their families as we make this crucial transition.

Delay is denial.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 01:30 PM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Here in Western PA before the election.. (33+ / 0-)

    the backroads were littered with signs calling for the ouster of Obama for his "War on Coal," and the airwaves filled with industry-sponsored propaganda featuring coal miners claiming they had lost their jobs because of "heavy handed regulation" by the Obama administration.

    Obama won PA....and he won OH....both in the heart of the coal country.  Pittsburgh has been fighting for a decade to pass improved air quality regulations in the face of a track record of a high incidence of illnesses related to air pollution.

    The explosion of natural gas supplies as a result of fracking (another story in its own right) has brought coal face to face not with "heavy handed regulation" but exactly the kind of "free market forces" which business loves to tout as the be all and end all of modern economics.

    Now it is happening, and instead of facing the truth that in a head to head competition, gas is less expensive and cleaner and easier to transport than coal, the coal industry is trying to put the blame on the Obama administration.

    Progressives need to be pushing for job training programs that will help displaced coal miners find work in fields like wind, solar and gas technologies, and at the same time educating them that as long as they believe the propaganda their bosses are trying to sell them, they will always be voting against their own self interest in many many ways.

    Free markets would be a great idea, if markets were actually free.

    by dweb8231 on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 01:47:38 PM PST

  •  Please attend Seattle hearing on Coal Port Dec 13 (26+ / 0-)

    if you can 4-7 p.m. Thursday, Washington State Convention Center, Ballroom 6F.

    The wind carries off a million and a half pounds of coal dust from BC's Westshore Terminal every year.

    “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” ~ John Kenneth Galbraith

    by Lefty Coaster on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 01:49:04 PM PST

  •  I remember discussing a similar thing here (16+ / 0-)

    during the BP disaster. It seems many people are reluctant to take bold steps to rid ourselves of deadly energy because of the jobs.

    And I can sympathize with that; those are typically good jobs. But we have to evolve as a society and get past this. We pretend that everything that is naturally occurring is ours in perpetuity, and we have every right to squeeze every last fiber of dirty energy from this earth, consequences be damned.

    So we never look long-term, and we're killing ourselves with short-term thinking and economic blackmail.

    My own grandfather was killed by asbestos. He had a very good job most of his life, and got to spend all of two years enjoying retirement. Some things we should just leave in the ground. I'm not going to speak for him, I honestly don't know if he would have kept working there knowing what his fate would be. Providing for his family meant a great deal to him.

    But I wish I could have had him for a few more years. I don't think all the asbestos in the world was worth his suffering.

    And we're ALL going to be suffering soon by the effects of coal and gas. I think we're smart enough to find a way to create better, cleaner jobs. I know we are because we've done it before.

    P.S. I am not a crackpot.

    by BoiseBlue on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 01:52:01 PM PST

    •  Same excuse for other damaging (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      annieli, BoiseBlue, Eric Nelson, lotlizard

      industries like defense and for-profit health care.

      Changing our priorities and transitioning our economy into higher purposes will NOT kill jobs.  It will create jobs.  The only thing it kills is the harmful industry itself.

      It is shameful that the captains of industry are such cowards as to not see the opportunities of change.  They are only thinking short-sightedly of their own self-preservation.

      "Mediocrity cannot know excellence." -- Sherlock Holmes

      by La Gitane on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 02:27:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  And will we allow (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Nelson, A Siegel, lotlizard

      the industry to become like the tobacco folks and simply export the problem elsewhere?  That is what it seems they are doing, and modernization will simply kill more Chinese and Indians?  We should be innovating and exporting new energy abroad instead.

      So much for the "makers."

      Republicans want to make government small enough to fit in your vagina..

      by ramara on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 03:17:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Green jobs must be targeted to coal regions. (17+ / 0-)

    Good overview.

    We see this playing out in Illinois. The northern half of the state is getting wind farms and sometimes the manufacturing facilities that go with them. That's partly because the northern half of the state is better suited for wind farms. But, southern Illinois is very well suited for manufacturing wind and solar. Regional leaders, including most Democratic politicians, are holding southern Illinois back by maintaining the fantasy that coal is still a viable economic base. Illinois also has a taxpayer funded Coal Development Program that keeps the southern half of the state focused on coal.

    It's not going to change unless there's a federal or state level plan to direct new energy jobs to coal mining regions, despite the lack of interest from local politicians, press and economic development officials. The political power of the coal industry will be broken once there are workers and businesses owners who owe their livelihoods to new energy sources.

  •  more reasons to discuss national industrial policy (9+ / 0-)

    and to retask coal extraction as a strategic reserve/emergency energy industry and to discuss the federal redirection and reregulation of energy corporations as a matter of national security

    While a lot of resources have rightly been expended toward building the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries across the country, climate funders and big environmental groups have provided little if any support for economic initiatives to diversify the economy specifically in coal-dependent regions.
    We progressives, environmental advocates or not, don't like the way a lot of people in western Virginia, West Virginia, southern Illinois, Kentucky and Wyoming voted in this election. And there are, of course, other reasons than economics for their choices. But finding answers to their economic issues, helping them—really helping them—create sustainable, renewable communities amid the carnage coal has wrought ought to be as high on our list as stopping that carnage. There are many ways that can be done. The nation already has invested in billions to spur homeowners and commercial operations to install renewable energy. As a nation we spend billions to deal with the diseases caused by burning coal. Given the urgency of getting us off coal, there is no reason billions can't be spent to ease the lives of coal miners and their families as we make the transition.
    (Deutsche) Bank also said that Chinese coking coal imports could flatten out after 2012, but added that Brazil and India would remain important growth markets for consumption. Further out, the bank said it sees Chinese steel production peaking at 750 million mt/year around 2015/2016.

    yksitoista ulotteinen presidentin shakki. / tappaa kaikki natsit "Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) 政治委员, 政委‽ Warning - some snark above ‽

    by annieli on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 01:54:23 PM PST

  •  Coal mining - jobs for Chinese temporary workers! (5+ / 0-)
    As part of a continuing fight against bringing in foreign workers for the mines, the United Steelworkers Union filed a complaint Thursday with B.C.'s mines ministry over the safety conditions facing such workers at the mine near Tumbler Ridge [British Columbia].

    The letter to Mines Minister Rich Coleman says the Chinese workers hired by HD Mining don't speak English well enough to understand and comply with hundreds of pages of health and safety rules. Nor do they understand their rights in Canada, say the Steelworkers.
    HD Mining International Ltd. is a partnership between China-based Huiyong Holding Group, which owns a 55 per cent stake, and Canadian Dehua International Mines Group Inc.

    The company has been granted temporary foreign worker permits for between 200 and 300 workers at the underground mine. The company said it was unable to find Canadian workers with the necessary skills for the long-wall technique that will be employed at the mine, which is not used at any other operation in Canada.

    They claim the mine also had advertisements that required workers speak Mandarin - a claim the company denies.
  •  MB -- You may be hitting at the heart of (7+ / 0-)

    "denialism"  -- on the order of HL Mencken's old saw about asking questions of somebody whose job depends on the answer.

    You cannot expect people to support you if you are determined to destroy them.

    Ain't gonna happen.

    People need to work.  They need to take care of their families and they need the dignity and sense of purpose that it can.  Too many environmentalists are willing to accept destroyed lives as collateral damage, but that's morally wrong -- as well as one helluva stupid way to get people on your side.

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 01:57:04 PM PST

  •  Also, glad to see more focus on EPA. (4+ / 0-)

    It's the combined impact of half a dozen coal regulations which give me hope that Obama can push a dramatic change in the electric generation sector, even without additional Congressional action.
    The environmental movement needs to push Obama to aggressively enforce those, and we may need to pressure Congress not to take away EPA authority. I'm worried that the green netroots will get distracted with things like a no-chance carbon tax or merely complaining about Obama.

  •  I need an elevator talk for my WVa friends (3+ / 0-)

    I heard a lot of vitriol from my West Virginia friends about Obama, the War on Coal, and what Obama was and is costing West Virginia coal miners. Though I don't know where they heard it, I could tell they were repeating propaganda.

    What can I say to them in just a few sentences (which even then tests the limits of their patience)? Thanks!


    My fantasy: The Great Appalachian National Park. This project, to be completed over the next century, involves relocating the entire population of rural Appalachia to somewhere else, where there are jobs, education, and economic opportunity. Maybe I'm a pessimist, but I can't see it happening up there in the hills.

    “Americans are fighters. We're tough, resourceful and creative, and if we have the chance to fight on a level playing field, where everyone pays a fair share and everyone has a real shot, then no one - no one - can stop us. ”-- Elizabeth Warren

    by Positronicus on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 02:00:08 PM PST

    •  Coal is a sinking ship. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus, SolarMom

      There's nothing West Virginia can do to change that reality. Coal mining regions can find new energy jobs or go down with the ship. Those are the only two options. Should West Virginia get even poorer just to help out the coal CEO's?

      That's what I tell people in Southern Illinois. The coal boosters in deep denial dismiss it, but it works for many.

      •  Its tricky (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        because coal employment has gone up the last few years.

      •  It's the same argument to be used in areas where (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tardis10, SolarMom, A Siegel

        "construction" used to be a major employer, but now with the area in build out, those jobs are nearly gone. There just isn't land to build out anymore.

        It's a hard argument because everyone believes they are the one that WILL have the job in 3 years, not one of those that won't.

        Environmentalists that work on land use issues, like myself, often found themselves at odds with construction unions because of the above. NOW, of course, we are proven right as the county is largely built out. But that didn't help shape better projects 20 years ago when resource after resource was lost because of "jobs" when, in fact, they could have built better and as much on a smaller footprint maintaining jobs and saving some of those lost resources.

        The problem is that in the case above, the unions sided with their bosses which we tried and tried to stop... unsuccessfully.

        It doesn't change my respect and love for unions, but it was a very frustrating time.

        202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

        by cany on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 04:06:07 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Hydropower and pumped hydrostorage is the answer (6+ / 0-)

      Hydropower (from the rivers and water sources in the mountains of WV and KY) packs a lot of energy power because water is 830 times denser than air.

      Hydropower is an important energy resource... In terms of generation contribution it is by far the single most important renewable energy resource...

      Pumped hydro storage is the "market leading technology on a global basis."

      Eastern Tennessee has the Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage Plant that is a part of TVA (a federally funded entity).

      Maysville, KY is getting a closed loop pumped storage system generating 1000 MW in an underground mine.

      The Obama administration and the DOE and the Dept of Interior announced in Sept 2011 the Advanced Hydropower Funding of $17 million for 3 years for hydroelectric power.  Not much in terms needing to go far fast.

      While by far most existing hydropower is from large dams there are other ways to harvest the renewable energy of water flowing down rivers, such as run of the river systems, and that have significantly less impact on the overall river ecology than massive dams do.

      Hydropower is an important energy resource, and moving water packs much more power in it than air moving at the same speed, because water is 830 times denser than air. In terms of generation contribution it is by far the single most important renewable energy resource...

      Hydropower Funding is what we need to push for the mountains and Appalachia. It's a clean, renewable energy source, therefore we do not need to let the filthy Coal Kings destroy mountaintops and push all the boulders and debris down into the rivers and streams and mess up the watershed.

      And, WV and KY are heavily rural states. The people hunt and fish and the outdoors are high on the list of recreational activities. And, our water in Kentucky has a high ranking of cleanliness (compared to more urban states) and ditto with our air. It's important to keep it that way.

      One may live without bread, but not without roses.
      ~Jean Richepin
      Bread & Roses

      by bronte17 on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 02:26:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Don't know about hydro technology, but what (0+ / 0-)

        will it do to the ecology  of the area? Will there be a tug of war between those who support hydro and those who are more concerned about the fishing, land use, etc.?

        It’s the Supreme Court, stupid! Followed by: It's always the Supreme Court! Progressives will win only when we convince a majority that they, too, are Progressive.

        by auapplemac on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 02:33:17 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The pump station can create fishing habitats (0+ / 0-)

          and also supply extra water to local creeks during times of drought (if any) according to the wiki page.

          Bath County VA Pumped Storage Station.

          Hmmm... seems pumped storage actually uses more electricity than it creates, but because the coal and nuclear power plants are tied into the pumped storage plant... during times of peak energy usage when electricity prices are the highest that's when the pumped storage kicks in and delivers hydroelectricity to the other power plants to then deliver to customers.

          Okay... maybe not so great after all.

          And I do know there is talk of flooding entire valley towns in the Eastern Kentucky mountains. Whenever the river rises, these towns always flood. Badly. So, the government is creating lakes there and buying out the people and getting them to move elsewhere.

          One may live without bread, but not without roses.
          ~Jean Richepin
          Bread & Roses

          by bronte17 on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 07:55:48 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  I like pumped storage (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rhauenstein, bronte17

        but you are sequestering a lot of water that normally woujld flow into lakes, rivers, bogs, irrigation ditches, and so on, that someone or some critter may depend on.

    •  Easy (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      White Buffalo, Andrew F Cockburn

      "The money goes out of state and we're left with our rivers trashed."

  •  The only energy source that can replace coal is (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    6412093, Utahrd, Roger Otip

    Nuclear.  So we need to fast track adding new nuclear power plants to replace our coal power plants.

    •  For the cost of these nuclear power plants which (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Calamity Jean

      create waste we have no agreed to solution for, one could invest that money in truly clean energy and save a lot of problems up front and in the future.

      I really don't think your suggestion is coming to pass.

      And this not to mention the shift of liability onto the public via the Anderson Act.

      202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

      by cany on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 04:09:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Burn the waste. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        srlaserguy, 6412093

        Fourth generation nuclear power stations will be able to use today's nuclear waste as fuel.

        When you look for examples of developed countries that have come close to decarbonizing their electricity supplies, those that top the list have done it with a high proportion of nuclear power: France (75%), Sweden (40%), and in the case of Sweden much of the remainder comes from hydro-electric. Getting large amounts of power from intermittent renewables such as wind and solar is a lot tougher and no major developed country gets even a quarter of its electricity from those sources - in most, intermittent renewables account for less than 10% of the supply.

        Romnesia is whatever I said it is though I'm not familiar with exactly what I said but I stand by what I said whatever it was.

        by Roger Otip on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 05:32:18 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  We are not going back to the stone age. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Yes renewables have a place in our energy mix, but they cannot carry the base load which coal and nuclear can.  We have two choices for our energy future; one is coal the other is nuclear.

        Small Modular Reactors are affordable and these units can be factory built with very high safety standards.

        Maybe we in the USA will not build enough nuclear power plants to displace our fossil fuel plants any time some, but we will not return to the stone age, so we burn coal instead.

      •  Do we really all agree? (0+ / 0-)
        "For the cost of these nuclear power plants which
        create waste we have no agreed to solution"
        It is only waste today, because they refuse to reprocess it and GEN IV Thoruim reactors burn it down to almost nothing.

        But wait, there's more: thorium has another remarkable property. Add plutonium to the mix - or any other radioactive actinide - and the thorium fuel process will actually incinerate these elements. That's right: it will chew up old nuclear waste as part of the power-generation process. It could not only generate power, but also act as a waste disposal plant for some of humanity's most heinous toxic waste.

  •  I'm confused (5+ / 0-)

    Conservatives like coal, right?

    But every time I mention electric cars one of them immediately posts some diatribe about "Coal fired power plants! Eeek! Bad!"

    So which is it?

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 02:04:05 PM PST

  •  They can use the mountaintops they've ruined (6+ / 0-)

    as factories for solar panels, for turbine factories, and for power distribution centers for the smart grid.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 02:04:51 PM PST

  •  Rockefeller wanted to destroy the infant (7+ / 0-)

    electrical industry to protect his kerosene lighting monopoly.


    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 02:08:22 PM PST

  •  Diversify or Die. (8+ / 0-)

    But the oil and coal industry executives are so greedy they don't want to invest their profits in green energy.  They want all the money now and to hell with the future.  They won't be here for it.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 02:09:43 PM PST

  •  GOP smart car what runs on "clean coal" (2+ / 0-)

    yksitoista ulotteinen presidentin shakki. / tappaa kaikki natsit "Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) 政治委员, 政委‽ Warning - some snark above ‽

    by annieli on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 02:17:50 PM PST

  •  Check out (12+ / 0-)
    Coal Mega Ports planned for Northwest could surpass CO2 impact from Keystone XL

    The expansion of coal exports through the Pacific Northwest potentially could release more CO2 emissions than building the Keystone XL Pipeline. This report was released by the Sightline Institute:

    Coal Exports Are Bigger Threat Than Tar Sands Pipeline pdf
    A carbon comparison of Northwest coal plans and Keystone XL project.

    By Eric de Place

    The planned Keystone XL oil pipeline has earned major national attention for the damage it would do to the climate. At the same time, another climate drama is playing out with much less attention as coal companies make plans to export huge quantities to Asia by way of Pacific Northwest ports. It’s pretty clear that both projects are environmental horror stories, but I’ve been wondering: which one is worse?

    So, from the “King Kong versus Godzilla” files, here’s my analysis of their carbon impacts. It turns out, coal exports are actually the bigger problem—and that’s really saying something.

    The result surprised me: coal exports look to be an even bigger climate disaster than the pipeline. There are, in fact, quite a bit more direct emissions from burning the coal than from the oil. That’s true even when one counts the energy-intensive tar sands extraction and processing—and, of course, there are plenty of upstream emissions associated with coal mining that I’ve left out of the equation here. (In order to make a roughly direct comparison, I also omitted emissions associated with both products’ mining, refining, transportation, and so forth.) Clearly we can ill afford either one of these projects, but until we have a clear energy policy that respects climate science we’ll be wrestling with these kind of killer projects one at a time.

    “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” ~ John Kenneth Galbraith

    by Lefty Coaster on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 02:18:21 PM PST

    •  Does (3+ / 0-)

      that comparison assume if our coal isn't exported, then coal won't be burnt in Asia at all?

      If so, I doubt it.

      We need to jigger reductions in coal consumption in India, China, South Korea and so on. Merely stopping US exports won't make much difference if they just get it from other sources.

      I'd rather see natural gas exports to Asia from relatively stranded sources in Alaska and Canada, to replace coal combustion.

      •  Just blocking exports would discourage them (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lefty Coaster

        from assuming coal will be readily cheap and available from outside their borders. If they have to rely on domestic and regional coal, alternative energy sources will be more appealing.

      •  Fed subsidies make Powder River coal dirt cheap (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        6412093, SolarMom, A Siegel

        cheap US subsidized coal shouldn't be the low cost answer to Asia's demands for more generating capacity.  

        “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” ~ John Kenneth Galbraith

        by Lefty Coaster on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 06:47:20 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You are (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SolarMom, A Siegel, Lefty Coaster

          right, powder river coal from publicly-owned BLM land shouldn't be sold cheap to crank up carbon emissions in Asia.

          Also, this diary errs by claiming that coal exports will increase mountain top mining, etc., as follows;

               "Exporting coal means continuing to strip it and mine    it.    It means mountain-top removal, stream pollution, cave-ins and explosions. It means wrecking the health of not just the miners but also their families."

          To the contrary, All of the West Coast export proposals will ship out low-value Powder River Basin, Wyoming coal, which comes from surface mines, not mountain-top removal.  The powder River coal mining generates very few jobs, compared to underground mining, but exposes almost no one to mining and processing emissions, and doesn't have cave-ins, explosions or much stream pollution.

          That doesn't make it good, either

  •  What else would they do in coal country? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Utahrd, SolarMom

    Coal exports are rising because cheap natural gas is pricing coal out of the US market. Fracking will do the same in China and Europe but not for several years because the techniques that work here don't work on their different types of shale. It took George Mitchell decades to make fracking a success here.

    China is where coal fired power plants are being built but right now their only alternative is a war for oil. When fracking starts working for them they'll stop building coal power plants too.

    Market forces will eventually close coal mines (but not in time to save earth's climate). When the mines do close, I don't see any replacement jobs for the miners. Coal country looks like an economic desert without coal. I hope something comes along but if I were a miner I wouldn't count on it.

    •  Mountain coal country (7+ / 0-)

      has ample ridges/mountaintops that could be generating lots of power from wind. And there's the tourism biz, including agritourism (farm-based B&Bs, developed CSAs, smallish vineyards, etc). In my mountain region tourists alone are worth $2.5 billion a year.

      But they've gotta stop mountaintop removal in order to salvage the environment as well as the watersheds. Just some ideas. It'll take some subsidizing and effort.

    •  Use coal transportation systems. (5+ / 0-)

      Mining regions need good transportation systems to ship coal. That good infrastructure can be used just as well to ship manufactured goods. Southern Illinois and Kentucky in particular have excellent access to rivers, rail, and interstate highways.

      Also don't underestimate how much mining regions are poor because the coal industry is there. It's a net economic drain by nature. Kicking out coal will open up new possibilities.

      China is also building far, far more wind, hydro and solar than the United States.

    •  The area was self-sustaining before coal (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Nelson

      Industrialization wiped out hunting grounds and agricultural land.

    •  Cheap natural gas (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Nelson, SolarMom

      may not be a given for much longer.

      The current price of natural gas is an aberration. It is abnormally cheap. The idea that shale gas will run out this decade is probably a bit cuckoo. But the costs of extraction may already be proving higher than most of the estimates. Chesapeake and the other big fracking companies have issued a lot of bonds that they may or may not be able to pay back at the margins they're making, and it's unclear who will be left standing when the cost of gas goes back up. Their main competitive advantage is their own propaganda — having a lot of people believe in low gas prices has built a lot of gas plants, which will continue to consume their output even at somewhat higher costs, but that is not without limit.

      Of course, Chesapeake gave some money to the Sierra Club under a previous director, to promote natural gas as a "bridge fuel" when moving off coal. In the long run, it's still a fossil fuel. I don't know if current EPA regulations really put the climate costs of coal vs. gas on a level playing field or not, but gas shouldn't get a free pass.

      Regardless, the coal industry may find a new lease on life if gas prices go back up. While right now, there is little that could save coal, regulation or not, relying on cheap gas as the silver bullet to phase out coal may not work out in the long run. Depending on gas to end coal's damaging effects is paying off now, but that may or may not continue.

  •  The WTO will strike down (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bronx59, Utahrd, Odysseus

    any regional economic development based upon preferential purchasing of locally manufactured equipment.

    Ontario's green jobs initiative has been trashed by the WTO.WTO rules Ontario green energy tariff unfair

    Green jobs in the US and Canada are hard to create with Japanese or EU solar panels and turbines, even assuming that the anti-dumping complaints against China prevail.

  •  I call this "Intelligent Denial" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lefty Coaster, Words In Action

    "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

    by kovie on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 02:26:05 PM PST

  •  Ecological Restoration for Coal Country (6+ / 0-)

    In 2008 John Todd won the Buckminster Fuller Challenge award with an alternative future for Appalachia, a future where

    ...mining toxins are remediated, coal lands restored, and a new economy is based upon renewable energy, natural resources, enterprise diversification and an ownership society... a future in which carbon is no longer an atmospheric pollutant but is sequestered in soils and biota.
    This is a four stage plan using ecological design to first heal the land and biomes, create a working landscape which sequesters carbon to mitigate against and, in some cases, more readily adapt to climate change, build a renewable energy future using only solar income, and establishing institutions and a shared ownership culture with a 10,000 year perspective.

    John Todd has laid out a way to imagine a restored and restorative coal country.  Lots of possibilities there that are currently not in the public conversation yet.

    John Todd's more recent work at

    This is one example of ecological engineering and restorative on a scale that approaches terraforming or geoengineering:

    Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

    by gmoke on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 02:27:45 PM PST

  •  Until we can re-introduce enough demand (0+ / 0-)

    into the US economy that it spreads into Appalachia(& across various sectors not just green energy), Appalachians will support coal mine owner's interests.  

    "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

    by tardis10 on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 02:34:18 PM PST

  •  Thank you (4+ / 0-)

    For saying what needed to be said, but I was too weak to say.

  •  Meanwhile Germany is well on its way (11+ / 0-)

    to its goal of 80% renewable energy by the year 2050.

    A determined nation makes things happen.

    "In the U.S., we now get 6 percent of our energy from renewables, which is exactly where Germany was in 2000."
    "And then it passed the Renewable Energy Act... Twelve years later, Germany gets over
    25 percent of its energy from renewables and it is surpassing all of its benchmarks to be 80 percent renewable-powered by 2050. "
    The United States used to be able to do that... and it can once again... there is no physical reason we can't... if we decide to make it happen.

    "Do what you can with what you have where you are." - Teddy Roosevelt

    by Andrew C White on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 02:49:35 PM PST

    •  ...always sounds better in the original German /nt (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Andrew C White, Utahrd, Odysseus, willyr

      yksitoista ulotteinen presidentin shakki. / tappaa kaikki natsit "Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) 政治委员, 政委‽ Warning - some snark above ‽

      by annieli on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 02:55:40 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Germany is shutting down nuclear. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      srlaserguy, Andrew C White

      Most of that nuclear capacity is going to be filled with fossil fuel burning, leading to far higher emissions than would be the case if they kept their nuclear power stations running.

      When Chancellor Merkel announced the closure of all the country's 17 nuclear reactors by 2022, there were loud cheers from environmentalists.

      But less well heard were the cheers from the coal industry.

      Romnesia is whatever I said it is though I'm not familiar with exactly what I said but I stand by what I said whatever it was.

      by Roger Otip on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 05:06:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, the article addresses Merkel's double (0+ / 0-)

        screw-up in regard to nuclear power. The original plan was to phase out nuclear power plants as they aged and replacement renewable power was ready. Merkel canceled that and granted license extentions for nuclear plants. Then Fukishima happened and she then ordered all the nukes shut down... which, as you say, means replacing with coal rather than renewable's as originally planned.

        "Do what you can with what you have where you are." - Teddy Roosevelt

        by Andrew C White on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 06:54:30 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Black lung is more obvious, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cany, Odysseus, Eric Nelson, Calamity Jean

    but don't overlook the presence of radioactive elements in coal. Coal miners get less dose than uranium miners, but they do get more than most.

  •  Green jobs may be as bullshitty as clean coal. (0+ / 0-)

    We can't hold the planet hostage to something that may or may not be real.  

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 02:59:55 PM PST

  •  An excellent essay. (5+ / 0-)

    Something must be done for the people who live in regions where the sole economic driver is coal.  Their response to the "war on coal" is visceral.  They're desperate.  they have reason to be.  No one but the coal companies shows any interest in them at all.  Of course, it's the interest the wolf shows toward the sheep, and always has been, but for the time being, it feeds them and their children.  

  •  Carbon Tax as a way to fund job retraining (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tardis10, Roger Otip, Eric Nelson

    As the post makes abundantly clear, continuing to burn coal represents a massive threat to the climate of the one planet we have.

    What's less understood: the potential benefits of a carbon tax that reserves revenue for job retraining, health care, pensions and community development for miners and for mining towns.  It's one thing to say that miners will receive support if coal mining ends, but without an obvious revenue source for such job retraining and community development, why should coal miners believe such promises? A carbon tax can raise serious amounts of revenue and part of that revenue should be reserved for those who do have legitimate concerns about their future without coal mining.   I hope someone in congress puts this concept into a bill, so that the public can see a real plan to end coal and provide a future to coal miners and affected communities.

  •  It's always fun when anti-nukes pretend they... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roger Otip, Hiyodori about what Jim Hansen says.

    Apparently they're unfamiliar with the contents of his famous popular level book, Storms of my Grandchildren.

    Apparently they're unfamiliar with Jim Hansen's opinion piece in the Australian, titled, happily enough:  Only a carbon tax and nuclear power can save us.

    I wonder if Jim Hansen walks around muttering distracted selective attention crapola like, um, say, database of PWR reactors around the world

    What I have said all along is that the use of pressurized reactors, including new versions of these machines, is too dangerous to continue for both safety and terrorism reasons.
    Probably not.   He's, um, scientifically literate.    He can certainly recognize that in the more than 5 decades of pressurized water reactor operations that the number of "nuclear terrorism" incidents is um, zero.   Probably he can easily look up the database of all the PWR reactors on the planet and discern that in their 50 year operational history, they were not nearly as dangerous as the next twenty minutes of air pollution, which kills, 3.3 million people per year like clockwork.

    Climate change is a done deal.   It cannot be stopped anymore than a sudden interest in the lives of coal miners can bring back  dead Ukranian coal miners, or Chinese coal miners, or, for that matter, American coal miners.

    Personally, I hold the scientific illiteracy on the left - the fear, ignorance and superstition that the aforementioned quote entails - equally as responsible as the scientific illiteracy on the right, the denialists, etc.

    I just got a real taste of climate change myself in spades, but of course, I knew this would happen, so we can't say I'm surprised.    But what I saw is just the beginning.

    It's a real pleasure to read here, though, how all we have to do is to throw six hundred million dollar subsidies at electric car companies that manage to produce four or five thousand electric cars (cf. google Tesla, car) and all of our problems will be fixed.

    My kid has a tee-shirt with the square root of negative one telling pi to "be rational" and pi replying "get real."

    No one, I assure you, will either get real or be rational.    There is no will in this country to appreciate the contents of science books and to act on them.

    There is will however to cast wild, vicious, and extremely ignorant accusations against the work of the greatest American scientist ever to have given so much of his time to public service,  Democrat  Glenn Seaborg, whose work at the AEC did so much to have prevented the burning of billion ton quantities of coal.

    Certainly though there are many modern Democrats who don't know shit from shinola about Seaborg's work and just hate it out of ignorance.

    Heckuva job, though.

    Have a great week.   Good luck with the coal miner concern trolling.

    •  Still making, I see, the claim that you know is... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Words In Action, k88dad, lotlizard

      ...a lie about my views on nuclear energy since you have been called on it several times.

      For someone who makes every comment about how he is committed to facts, one would think you'd try to get this easy one right. Maybe in an alternate universe.

      That and your relentless expressed view that nobody but you knows the truth or what's being said by various climate change scientists regarding solutions—say, for example, what Jim Hansen's views on thorium reactors are,—are truly pathetic.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 05:21:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  West Virginia (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Andrew F Cockburn

    West Virginia Energy Sector workers need to start voting in their own naked self interest.  That would (maybe counter intuitively) be a step in the right direction.

    Unfortunately they are in a rut of voting in their malevolent overlords' self interest which is far from the same thing.

    What are WV Democrats or the Progressive chattering sort doing to communicate effectively with those voters and change the status quo?

    Not much.  You just seem to write them off, usually with derision.  

  •  What about promises made to coal workers in those (0+ / 0-)

    states, such as Ohio and Penn....wouldn't that have a negative impact on gains we have made and kept, in these states?  They states are now becoming a dark blue and shouldn't that be a concern?

  •  Also note the effects of oil prices on coal (5+ / 0-)

    Of the 1.7 billion dollars Michigan spends on importing coal into the state each year, $500,000,000 of it is spent on diesel to transport the stuff 1000 miles across the country to our coal mines. Just about a third of the cost of the coal here.

    As the cost of oil creeps up, so too does the cost of coal extraction and shipping. It's a HUGE factor in the rising cost of coal.

    •  Except... (0+ / 0-)

      from the standpoint of jobs, exporting money from Michigan to buy coal is not a whole lot different than exporting billions in money from Michigan to buy out-of-state manufactured wind energy systems.

      All of Detroit Edison and Consumers Energy wind projects are using out-of-state manufactures for wind turbine components (apart from foundation/base work)

      •  Not sure that's a 100% accurate statement (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        A Siegel

        Dokka fasteners in Auburn Hills manufactures bolts for turbine blades fixtures and towers used in projects throughout the region from bases on up. The bearings were as likely as not designed by Kaydon Bearings in Norton Shores. Some electronics were as likely as not manufactured by Burke E Porter machines in Grand Rapids...

        Michigan is part of the international supply chain for the 8000 parts in a turbine and we compete globally and supply parts for turbine companies globally.

        Also Energetx has an unidentified buyer contract that enabled them to double their workforce -- my hunch it was Consumer's but they didn't want to broadcast it with Prop 3 on the table.

        And living in Muskegon, I've never seen so much international trade in our deep water ports as came and left through Mart Dock in Muskegon with the import of turbine blades and export of Michigan made turbine blade molds....with logistics handled through Great Lakes Heavy Haul in Grand Rapids.

        •  Sorry....they were out of state turn-key systems (0+ / 0-)

          DTE Energy bought turnkey wind turbine systems from GE in Erie PA and CMS-Consumers Energy bought turnkey systems from Vestas in Oregon.

          That is billions of dollars sent out of state for these turnkey systems.

          Do you know for sure that the vendors you mentioned are actually the vendors to and clients of GE and Vestas?

          •  I don't know for sure. I know Kaydon is the (0+ / 0-)

            largest supplier of turbine bearings in North America and a leading supplier globally...

            And a "turnkey" turbine doesn't mean all the parts were made in one place.  

            Michigan has major, internationally competitive companies making parts for wind turbines. I'd prefer to create demand for an industry I KNOW is employing manufacturers in my state

            The Vestas wind farm currently being explored for the Muskegon waste water treatment facility is on board to use a percentage of not just Michigan made parts, but Muskegon made parts. I know the companies involved.

            Developers of the Gratiot County wind farm (and I've had personal conversations with and was on a panel with Mr. VanderVeen president of Wind Resources responsible for that wind farm) looked for local sources for the blades but without the assurance of the production tax credit, none would ramp up production on the scale the Gratiot County wind farm don't just expand your facility 5x on a one-off order without knowing you'll get repeat utility out of that scale of facility. So the developers had to look offshore for the blades.....the US is dithering on the producction tax credit that would give that assurance, and Michigan just passed up its own potential to give assurances to manufacturers.

            The bottom line is, we do have a renewable energy manufacturing industry here. It is globally competitive. It is diversifying our manufacturing industry. And it is putting people to work. Now the US and our own state needs to say "Yes! We will work with this domestic industry."

  •  I don't think that will happen with Obama (0+ / 0-)

    MB, maybe you have an insight on his plans that I've not heard about (and that wouldn't surprise me and mercifully enlighten me if so), but this seems like one of those cases where Obama continues to surprise his detractors who invent the worst of him, and his supporters who invent their own vision of what they want him to be, by sticking with the same guns he always has, for better or worse unless there is overwhelming evidence of clear and present dynamics to the contrary  (OK, marriage equality maybe being the only key exception I can think of).  

    Barack Obama has always had this technocrat's Tinkerbell fantasy about clean coal, has had since he was in the Illinois legislature.  That's what so nuts about this "Obama wants to declare war on coal!" meme, there's just no evidence then or now to back it up.  Time after time, when he mentions "green jobs" as an objective, "clean coal" doesn't follow far behind in the speech.

    Similarly, he was as I understand it as pro-reformed-nukes as anybody--certainly any Dem.--in his days in the IL State Senate, and still holds that close as a priority.  In several key junctures during his first administration (I'll look it up if you really want me to, I'm sure it's all over the Sierra Club bulletins from a couple of years ago) he personally advanced priorities on accelerated licensing and approval of nuclear facilities.

    Yes, he stood firm against Keystone XL, and is sincere in a future that moves beyond oil.  He simply has never made that claim on coal, nor do I see as I sit here now that he intends to of his administration's own volition.

    He has certainly moved towards greater safety for coal miners and improved environmental standards for coal mines as a subject of licensing.  There are plenty of Republicans in coal states that share that emphasis as well.

    Either way, it doesn't appear to be about coddling votes.  It's part of his core system of beliefs about US energy and its future, unless I'm missing something.

  •  Existing plant CO2 emission control (0+ / 0-)

    In your diary, you mentioned a desire for:

    "regulations that control CO2 emissions of existing plants"
    The problem is that there are no CO2 emission control devices that are economically and technically feasible for controlling CO2 emissions in flue gases from conventional pulverized coal fired power plants.

    Fuel switching to natural and synthetic gas combustion or wood/biomass will provide large emissions reductions in CO2 emissions, but these are not flue gas emission controls.  

    Nominal western lower sulfur coal at about 8000 btu/lb emits about 390 lbs CO2 per million BTU heat input.  Bone dry wood is at 195 lbs of CO2 per million BTU heat input and natural gas is at 117 lbs CO2 per million BTU heat input.

    Burning natural gas in what used to be a coal fired power plant will work fine, but such plants are not the most effective and efficient and least polluting way of combusting natural gas in electricity generation.  It is much preferable to use a combined cycle natural gas turbine generator with a heat recovery steam generator than to burn natural gas in a converted conventional coal-fired plant.

    New pulverized coal-fired power plants should not be constructed, but it is not a very wise decision to write off or opposed gasification processes for coal, petroleum coke and biomass as these technologies are the only ones in which CO2 capture, control and sequestration will be technically possible.

    There are also a lot of Democrats out there that would like to build gasification and chemical production plants that use all sorts of carbon containing materials as feedstock.   Those Democrats are union pipefitters, sheet metal workers, electricians, steelworkers, iron workers, mill-wrights and other trades.  

    Enviros need to negotiate a deal involving gasification with union organized labor that will 'build down" coal-fired baseload capacity with more efficient and greener utilization facilities.

    In my opinion, this is the only policy which makes both political and environmental sense.  

    •  The trouble. (0+ / 0-)

      Even newly proposed coal projects with combined cycle and carbon capture are being abandoned because it isn't economically feasible. Wind and solar are both cheaper and cleaner than IGCC with carbon sequestration. None of the projects proposed so-far offer to capture 100% of the CO2 and of course they can't resolve the problem of deadly pollution from mining and coal ash waste. The unresolved pollution problems plus an unrealistic cost make any form of coal generation a very tough sell to investors. It can't be done without massive taxpayer subsidies, and those are increasingly unpopular.

      I understand why trade unions advocate for any project that gets their members jobs. But, asking everyone else to pay higher electric rates and risk losing their home in a climate change disaster so that a small number of people can have temporary jobs building coal plants we don't need, isn't exactly in the spirit of solidarity. I hope the trades will think realistically about what kind of jobs they can help create for their members down the road. The answer won't be coal plants.

      •  Wind and solar generation cannot do what (0+ / 0-)

        a base load fuel fired electric power plant can do, and you simply can't consider that wind and solar capacity can substitute for base load electric generation.  Assuming that
        you can is junk electric utility operations engineering.

        Gasification project generate a vitrified waste readily suitable as a construction material and gasification plants mean an enormous advantage in residuals processing and re-use.

        Gasification projects are also a key to potential reconstruction of iron making portions of the steel industry and a beneficial way to dispose of municipal solid waste and sewage sludge.

        •  Tired argument. (0+ / 0-)

          We don't need much coal for baseload power. Coal boosters claimed for years that we couldn't quickly make large reductions in coal use. The fact that coal is down to roughly 1/3 of electric generation in the most recent quarter disproves those scare tactics.

          The better bet for job creation is improving the grid so that it can in fact incorporate more wind and solar.

          It's nice that some waste streams from IGGC can be used in enhanced oil recovery operations and elsewhere, but no one has show that it makes building a new plant profitable. That's why no company will consider building one without massive subsidies.

  •  In Virginia, handouts to coal companies . . . (0+ / 0-)

    . . . can be redirected to support economic diversification. Virginia currently subsidizes coal mining with about $45 million annually in taxpayer handouts to coal companies. As I described in my own article on the war on coal, this money would be much better spent helping workers in the coalfields areas transition to new jobs. It has been interesting to see that while the environmentalists support the idea, it is opposed by the very politicians who profess to care about the coal miners.

  •  The anti-AGW movement will have a monumental (0+ / 0-)

    task in convincing societies to leave coal, petroleum and natural gas in the ground. I don't expect the Obama administration even to discuss the concept of restricting coal exports, in particular.

    Even as China tries to diversify its power generation methods, it is expected to have a voracious and growing demand for coal for many years to come. Barring economic collapse, the Chinese demand for metallurgical grade coal in particular will soar.

    Should we seek to reduce or ban international trade in coal? I dunno. The Chinese have very large coal reserves of their own, and it is not clear to me that they would abandon plans for more coal-based industry rather than ramp up their own production. I'd say that barring a comprehensive world-wide agreement on AGW abatement (something I fear has little likelihood of success,) we might as well sell coal to China to offset some of our trade imbalance.

    I am not defending the continuing use of coal and other carbon-based fuels. I am simply saying that a HUGE job of informing and rallying public opinion will be needed before any major reforms can succeed.

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