Global Warming: Coal — It’s Cheap and Dirty

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40% of our CO2 emissions…and counting [detritus / Flickr]

If you’re worried about global warming, coal is almost paralyzingly scary. The statistics, lifted from Jeff Goodell and Erik Reece, tell it all.

Coal is responsible for nearly 40% of America’s CO2 emissions. (Here it’s interesting to remember that the U.S. emits 25% of the world’s greenhouse gases). That’s because over 50% of our electricity comes from coal. Over half! And because — joule for joule — coal emits the most carbon of any fossil fuel.

We haven’t built many new coal-fired power plants in the last fifty years, but suddenly now 120+ new plants are in the works. Why? Nuclear power is, well, scary. Oil & gas are running out. Wind, water, and solar can’t yet keep up with our voracious demand. Most importantly, coal is CHEAP. And we have TONS of it (270 billion tons of it, to be exact) within our own borders — so Big Coal is capitalizing on 9/11 and its aftermath.

Price: Coal is cheap partly because we have so much of it, partly because Big Coal is heavily subsidized, but most significantly because many of its real costs (greenhouse gasses, massive air and water pollution, devastating health effects, flooding, deforestation, etc.) aren’t included.

Supply: The U.S. is blessed with over 25% of the world’s recoverable coal. We have so much of it that coal advocates call us the Saudi Arabia of coal. At the moment, we’re mining 100 tons every 2 seconds — primarily in Wyoming and Appalachia — to feed our billion-plus-ton yearly appetite.

So what we have is a politically connected and savvy industry that’s planning to expand. In ways that will be disastrous for global warming. Although existing “scrubbers” can reduce many of coal’s air pollutants, they don’t work for CO2. Greenhouse gases require something with a fun name: gasification and sequestration. Its potential effectiveness is highly debated. Only a handful of plants are already doing gasification (using integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) technology), but none is sequestering yet. Very few of the new coal-fired power plants will include even the IGCC technology.

Depressed yet? Then don’t look east to China, where coal is providing two thirds of the energy for the country’s incandescent economy…

It’s not clear where to start looking for solutions, but we’re going to talk about it anyway. Because that’s what we do. Please add your voice.

Jeff Goodell

Author, Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future

Contributing editor, Rolling Stone

Contributor, New York Times Magazine

Julio Friedmann

Head, Carbon Storage Program, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

David Hamilton

Director, Global Warming and Energy Progam, Sierra Club

Extra Credit Reading
Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt, The Price of Climate Change, New York Times, November 5, 2006: “Rain raised food prices, and those prices, in turn, led hungry families to steal in order to feed themselves.”

Tina Vital, The Democrats’ Energy Game Plan, Business Week Online, November 12, 2006: “While some energy subindustries, such as “homegrown” alternative energy, may be given more support by the Democrats than the Republicans, S&P believes the Democrats will be less friendly towards certain key industries that they perceive to have been unduly favored by the Republicans. For example, energy companies are likely to be in for a rougher ride, and may face hearings to investigate price levels.”

S. 342 Climate Stewardship Act of 2005, GovTrack.us, February 10, 2005: “A bill to provide for a program of scientific research on abrupt climate change, to accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by establishing a market-driven system of greenhouse gas tradable allowances, to limit greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and reduce dependence upon foreign oil, and ensure benefits to consumers from the trading in such allowances.”

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, Fight Global Warming, PostGlobal, November 7, 2006: “The U.S. does not need to like the Kyoto Treaty. There are other ways to reduce emissions. The U.S. does not need to talk about “global warming.” “Energy independence” is fine for now as long as the new sources of energy are clean. In the end, there will be no energy independence without conservation.”

Simon Romero, 2 Industry Leaders bet on Coal but Split on Cleaner Approach, New York Times, May 28, 2006: “But while sooty smokestacks are no longer a big problem in modern coal-burning power plants, the increase in global warming gases is. A typical 500-megawatt coal-fired electricity plant, supplying enough power to run roughly 500,000 homes, alone produces as much in emissions annually as about 750,000 cars, according to estimates from Royal Dutch Shell.”

Michael Arndt, The New Clean Fuel: Coal Producer Goes Green, Business Week Online, September 26, 2005: “If regulators side with AEP, it could lead other power companies to make the switch. That could boost clean-coal technology from the pilot-project stage, where it has been stuck for more than a decade, to full commercialization. Since these plants wring out pollutants instead of sending them up the chimney, their wider use could reignite demand for high-sulfur coal, which has been in decline since the Clean Air Act of 1970, and thus return jobs to the coal basin in the rural Midwest. Indeed, AEP’s impact may reach all the way to China, which is facing global pressure to clean up its growing fleet of coal-burning generators.”


  • Old Nick

    First: thank you Katherine for this show. Global warming, despite its unseemly inconvenience for the secular faith called ‘capitalism’, simply cannot be swept under the rug (especially since the floor beneath the rug is about to become permanently soaked from our rising oceans).

    Second, what is the (actual) proposed or expected air date for this show?

    Third, for a tune-up (or preview), here’s 52 minutes with Jeff Goodell: http://www.kuow.org/defaultProgram.asp?ID=10933

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    I just got my new Earth First! Journal featuring the blockade of American Electric Power’s Clinch River Coal Power Plant. To briefly paraphrase from the EF!J why this Plant was the object of protest is because it is one of the dirtiest coal plats in the Southeast releasing more than 4 million lbs of carbon dioxide annually plus hundreds of lbs of mercury, lead, arsenic and other heavy metals. According to the EPA the plant is responsible for 59 “premature� deaths per year.

    This plant is in the Appalachian Mountains where the county adjacent to the Clinch River Plant currently has 41,000 acres of mountains permitted for MTR (Mountain Top Removal) and other forms of strip-mining. In Southern Appalachia 800 sq mile of mountains have already been flattened and more than 1,200 miles of streams have been buried due to MTR.

    Following this summer’s annual Earth First! Rendezvous hosted by Katuah Earth First! (in Appalachia), Earth First!ers and blockaded the plant amid surprisingly cooperative workers and law enforcement.

    short article and lots of pictures

    http://www.mountainjusticemedia.org/article/22

    Katuah Earth First!

    http://www.katuahearthfirst.org

  • jdyer

    Every one is against “global warming.”

    What I am against is the use of the seemingly misleading phrase “global warming.”

    Where I sit, in the Boston area we have had some very cold winters, cool springs and not to warm summers. What’s up with that?

    Perhaps we should call the concern for climate change, “detrimental claimate change,” rather than “global warming.”

    The next question should be: “why is this climate change different from all other climactic changes?” Is it a cyclical event which humans in their hutzpah or arrogance believe to have brought it about, or is it one of the negative consequences of “progress?”

  • 1st/14th

    When this episode is run perhaps it might be a good idea to invite a guest or two who actually has some specific working knowledge about this industry. Perhaps an invite to someone from Parsons, Bechtel, EPRI, Sargent and Lundy, Black & Veatch, or Fluor might be appropriate. I know, it’s crazy, like asking a dairy farmer to come on and talk about diary farming instead of a PETA member, but it might open the dialogue up some.

    As far as nuclear being “scary�, perhaps its because there is so much “fear mongering� and disinformation done in the name of the politics of fear, although I realize that this fear mongering is only being done for “altruistic reason�, and for “our own good�. Nuclear has, in fact, made significant advances in the past 10 years. Streamlining refueling cycles and overall process efficiencies (thank you deregulation) has increased the total MW hours every year for the past 15 even while the number of units in operation has decreased! And with serious proposals for 20GW of new generation in the next 20 years, the future looks pretty bright for nuclear.

  • 1st/14th

    And Katherine, the coal industry is “essentially unregulated�?!? You must have not spent much time in the industry to make a statement like that!

    A few other corrections; on gasification and sequestration, it has never been used, only proposed. You might be reefing to IGCC, or integrated gasification combined cycle, a process in which coal is gasified, burned in a combustion turbine, and exhaust heat scavenged by a heat recovering steam generator, or HRSG. There are currently only 5 IGCC’s in use today in the US, none outside the US and none sequester CO2. On the supply of natural gas being low, that is only true if one does not account for offshore deposits of methyl hydrates. Coal

  • 1st/14th

    My bad, I forgot about several European IGCC projects.

  • Katherine

    1st/14th: No, i’ve never worked in the coal industry. I’ve removed the “essentially unregulated” — the research i’ve done so far indicates that the industry is not tightly regulated, or at least that there are many environmental loopholes — but it’ll be a good question for the guests.

    I also edited the gasification & sequestration part to make it clear that IGCC (but not sequestration) is currently in limited use. Thanks.

  • 1st/14th

    “Tightly regulated� is subjective. What the term means to a coal miner and an environmentalist are likely to differ, with the truth falling somewhere in between.

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    Here are links to:

    Union of Concerned Scientists

    http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science/

    RealClimate: Climate Science from Climate Scientists

    http://www.realclimate.org/

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    And a few Climate Change blogs…

    Climate Change Action

    http://climatechangeaction.blogspot.com/

    Mark Lynas (author of High Tide) blog

    http://www.marklynas.org/

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “First: thank you Katherine for this show. Global warming, despite its unseemly inconvenience for the secular faith called ‘capitalism’, simply cannot be swept under the rug (especially since the floor beneath the rug is about to become permanently soaked from our rising oceans).”

    What relationship do you see between capitalism and global warming?

    Capitalism is simply a means of allocating and organizing resources.

    You may be right that we would have less global warming under a different system – say, socialism – but the REASON for that would be that energy consumption rises with prosperity. People who are materially better off can afford cars and driving, and bigger houses and more appliances, etc. And capitalism has consistently proven to raise material living standards better than any other system.

    But still, following that logic to its conclusion suggests that the best antidote to global warming is poverty.

    I prefer the second-best antidote, namely massive investment in R&D into new, cleaner, more efficient technologies. And because capitalism is better than any other extant system at allocating resources, motivating innovation, and rewarding the best ideas, I’ll bet capitalism will innovate cleaner, more efficient technologies faster and more broadly than any alternative system could.

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “Where I sit, in the Boston area we have had some very cold winters, cool springs and not to warm summers. What’s up with that?”

    Where **I** sit in the Boston area it’s been getting warmer and warmer. And all the statistics back me up. Four of the 5 warmest winters on record have been in the last 10 years here.

    I’ve been a gardener here since the late 60′s and the growing season gets longer and longer. I used to not put my tomatoes in the ground until Memorial Day; now i put them in on May 15. In the last few years I’ve been able to successfully grow varieties of sweet potatoes native to Georgia that I could never grow here 30 years ago.

    Last winter in January not only was it in the high 60′s and I was working in my garden (I live near Lowell) shirtless, but I was putting in new fenceposts and the ground wasn’t even hard, There were earthworms and little beetles scurrying around. Around the same time I was at the Highland (AMC) Center in Crawford Notch NH when we got hit by a THUNDER storm. (in January in the White Mountains?!)

    I’m sorry but both the scientific data and the anecdotal data agree – our winters are getting warmer.

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “I just got my new Earth First! Journal featuring the blockade of American Electric Power’s Clinch River Coal Power Plant.”

    I consider myself and environmentalist but earth First is just a gang of criminals. Basically, what they are doing is theft. AEP is a legal business and its workers have a right to earn a living. Earth First is stealing from the workers and the company through a criminal activity.

    I don’t like any of the things that AEP is doing but we are a nation of laws and Earth First should use legal political means to achieve their goals. Taking the law into your own hands is what the Bush Administration has been trying to do with its wiretapping activities. It seems that Earth First agrees with Mr Bush that if you think you are right then that’s all the justification you need to ignore the law, or the legal process.

  • rc21

    plnelson ; I live in the same general area as you,and yes the winters do seem to be getting warmer.I guess the real question I have is why?

    Obviously our increase in population plays a role. How much I’m not sure.

    I posted somewhere else on here earlier about Gores hockey stick theory. It seems that the truth is far different than Gore would have us believe. His supporters have missused data that was dubious to begin with.

    So how does one really know the real answer? Is this all due to mans excesses or are we going through a natural cycle that we have little control over?

    I certainly cant trust Gore and his minions for the truth. They are in it for power and money.The thermometer was not invented until the 1600′s. Data collecting becomes less reliable the further back in time that we go. Is it all really just educated guess work? By the way did you notice how cool the summer was this year in our area? I’m sure it means nothing, but my beach time was cut down significantly. Heres hoping for a white christmas.

  • 1st/14th

    I will say RC21, Chicago has not had a hot summer in years.

  • http://civilities.net/people/JonGarfunkel Jon Garfunkel

    I am quite sure that the show will produce some scientists, if this group of citizen-observers is not sufficient, to explain that the a particular season over a particular city in North America, as observed from your back porch, is hardly adequate to gauge the the global trend in warming. (plnelson’s regular observations over forty years are far more compelling)

    Clearly, the only thing to bolster such direct empirical observations is the assumption of guilt upon “Gore and his minions” who are “in it for power and money.” You might excuse the targets of Gore’s rage, those in the petroleum industries, whose claim to power and money doesn’t need much explanation. It’s not like Gore got a $400 million retirement package.

    That warming is happening is real. Yes, rc21, I will concede it is a real question whether it is due to rising CO2 levels, or part of some other natural cycle. You still may have your doubts about the scientific testimony on the part of the former, but really, what do we win by putting all of our chips on the latter?

  • Old Nick

    plnelson @ 4:43 PM, September 14, 2006:

    What relationship do you see between capitalism and global warming?

    Capitalism is simply a means of allocating and organizing resources.

    First, thanks for your reply, which got me to wondering if I’d sloppily glossed the meaning of capitalism. I went to Wikipedia’s excellent (although disputed) entry – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitalism – and found a wealth of talking points relevant to what I take to be your objection to my original (admittedly offhanded) post.

    For starters:

    “The concept of capitalism has evolved over time, with later thinkers often building on the analyses of earlier thinkers. Moreover, the component concepts used in defining capitalism—such as private ownership, markets, and investment—have evolved along with changes in theory, in law, and in practice. The following subsections describe several schools of thought in which the thinkers involved do not necessarily agree on all analytic points, but participate in a common general approach to understanding what capitalism is.�

    (Their italics, not mine.)

    What I find most pertinent in that quote is this: “the component concepts used in defining capitalism—such as private ownership, markets, and investment—have evolved along with changes in theory, in law, and in practice.�

    Especially the reminder that private property is a concept. Private property is in fact nothing more than a socio-cultural convention, and not, by any scientific measure, the veritable ‘natural fact’ we collectively seem to assume it to be. Yet capitalism is built upon the foundation of this unnatural convention. And capitalism-the-activity seems to depend utterly on the cultured greed of its participants, whose openly admitted goal is the accumulation of ever greater quantities of this socio-cultural convention called private property. It doesn’t matter whether the private property is real estate, money, stocks, pork bellies or oil futures: the convention is that the world has resources that our socio-cultural forebears decided could be ‘owned’ by individuals instead of by the societies as a whole, as is the norm in the hunter-gatherers we all have descended from.

    Has capitalism afforded its participants (both its active and passive ones) a recent explosion of ‘higher living standards’? I suppose so. But it has done so at great cost to its least favored (essentially ‘passive’) participants? I’m damned sure of it—and I’ve been one of those ‘less favored’ much of my life.

    That, however, isn’t an argument appropriate for this thread; and, more importantly, it’s not nearly as important as how the concept of private property is complicit in the emission of greenhouse gases.

    (quote)

    Some of the main sources of greenhouse gases due to human activity include:

    burning of fossil fuels and deforestation leading to higher carbon dioxide concentrations; livestock and paddy rice farming, land use and wetland changes, pipeline losses, and covered vented landfill emissions leading to higher methane atmospheric concentrations. Many of the newer style fully vented septic systems that enhance and target the fermentation process also are major sources of atmospheric methane; use of CFCs in refrigeration systems, and use of CFCs and halons in fire suppression systems and manufacturing processes.

    According to the global warming trend, greenhouse gases from industry and agriculture have played a major role in the recently observed global warming. Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and three groups of fluorinated gases are the subject of the Kyoto Protocol, which entered into force in 2005. Methane, nitrous oxide and ozone-depleting gases are also taken into account…

    (unquote)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gases#Anthropogenic_greenhouse_gases

    Can anyone honestly pretend not to see the link between, say, the expropriation of coal and petroleum for private profit, and the warming atmosphere? Or the notion that forests are ‘property’, and therefore fair game for the plundering called deforestation? (See the above quote for deforestation’s role in global warming.)

    Does modern capitalism drive greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and therefore global warming?

    I’m pretty damned sure that it does.

    I’m also pretty damned sure that if we could begin to rethink this private property convention – not necessarily like Marx – but just enough to reconceptualize earthly resources as planetary commonwealth instead of as a pool of potential ‘properties’ awaiting efficient extraction and the plundering called profiteering, we just might reverse the otherwise predictable ruin of our biosphere.

    However, the fact that the country that exalts the world’s most rapacious version of capitalism is governed more by corporate interests than by concern for commonwealth leaves me feeling sick about our prospects. Corporate culture, via the legal subterfuge called lobbyists, makes certain that concerns over profits are awarded far more of the government’s attentions than concerns over the irreplaceable planetary resource called ‘climate’.

    How’s that, pl? Did I answer your question about how I see the relationship between climate change and capitalism?

    (I hope so, cuz it sure took a darn lot of words!)

    I’ll try to embellish this viewpoint over the weekend.

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “Can anyone honestly pretend not to see the link between, say, the expropriation of coal and petroleum for private profit, and the warming atmosphere?”

    The REASON why it’s profitable to expropriate coal and petroleum is because there is a demand for energy. There is a demand for energy because people want to drive cars, heat and air-condition their houses, etc. So you haven’t said anything to dispute my claim that it is MATERIAL PROSPERITY that results in all this coal-mining and drilling.

    The fact that the mines are privately-owned is irrelevant. If we had a socialist economy so the government owned all the mines there is no reason to think we would have any less mining, if, by some miracle, consumers had as much money to spend.

    The empirical evidence is very clear: NON-capitalist economies have had an even WORSE environmental record than capitalist ones. The environmental depradations of the the USSR and east European nations prior to 1989 make Big Coal and Big OIL look like the Sierra Club by comparison.

    “Or the notion that forests are ‘property’, and therefore fair game for the plundering called deforestation? (See the above quote for deforestation’s role in global warming.)”

    The worst forestry abuses occur in the ABSENCE of private property. Ever heard of a “national forest”? Those are the ones being plundered. Because they are owned collectively, like you suggest everything should be. Some forests are actually on land owned by timber companies and those are usually far better managed.

    People (including companies) tend to take better care of things that belong to them. They tend to be careless of things they are just using or borrowing or sharing, like a national forest or grazing land in the west. There’s a name for that – “the tragedy of the commons”. The solution to many environmental problems is MORE private ownership, not less.

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “Private property is in fact nothing more than a socio-cultural convention, and not, by any scientific measure, the veritable ‘natural fact’ we collectively seem to assume it to be. Yet capitalism is built upon the foundation of this unnatural convention.”

    But it’s a convention people LIKE. Lots of things we do are unnatural. Electronics based on semiconductors is unnatural. Yet here we are conversing via computers on the world wide web.

    Private property equates to personal freedom. Because I own a car I can come and go as I please, on my schedule, between any two arbitrary places, and I can take stuff with me. Because I own a house I can live as I please – getting up and going to bed when I want, playing loud music as I please, walking around naked if it suits me, painting, decorating and arranging furniture to suit me, gardening and planting on my property as I see fit.

    Private property is simply the material expression of personal freedom and liberty. Some people have thought it odd that socialist economies (where the means of production are owned by the state) always seem to be politically oppressive. “Why can’t you have a socialist economy and a pluralistic, multiparty democracy?”, they ask. But there IS a reason: you can’t have political freedom in the absence of economic freedom. Is the reverse true? We’ll see: there’s a big research project going on right now called China. The results should be available in a decade or two.

  • rc21

    Jon ;I dont put my chips with either side. Thats my point. I was having a conversation the other day with a biology professor. He told me that 50% of all scientific research papers and reports that are published are at a later date proven to be false. He wasn’t speaking specifically about global warming,just the world of science in general.

    As to Gore I’m sure he is not the best friend of petroleum companies,but they are not the only groups with money. His crusade against global warming has made him quite a bit of money from many sources. From his movie, books, lecture, circuit, donations from environmental groups etc I like to look at a mans actions more than his words. When he stops living the lavish life style that he now enjoys I will take him a bit more seriously. Sorry if you think i’m being sceptical.

    My own thoughts are probably similer to yours I am a believer in conservation. I do think we have been getting warmer,We also need to find alternitive fuel sources. I’m a big believer in wind farms( Dont get me started on what has been happening off the cape, massive hypocricy)

    We also need to look at nuclear power. We have come along way in 30 years environmental extremists need to do their research. We need to be realistic,nuclear power can go along way towards solving some of our problems. Tax breaks for people who use solar energy or hybrid cars are also great. I’m open to all ideas.

    We also have to look at the fact that the world population is growing. They need fuel also. I read Old nicks post above mine I will let plnelson respond. but I dont think blaming capitalism for our problems holds much weight. We all just cant revert back to the hunter gatherer culture of mans early begininings.

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    plnelson said: “Earth First is just a gang of criminals”

    In this particular case (the protest at AEP) the Earth First! Activists tried to compensate the workers for lost wages but the workers refused the money telling the activists to save it for their next project. Earth First! activist Judi Bari did a great deal of work uniting the activist environmental movement with labor. That is when someone planted a bomb in her car.

    “Starting from the very reasonable, but unfortunately revolutionary concept that social practices which threaten the continuation of life on Earth must be changed, we need a theory of revolutionary ecology that will encompass social and biological issues, class struggle, and a recognition of the role of global corporate capitalism in the oppression of peoples and the destruction of nature.”

    Judi Bari

    http://www.judibari.org/revolutionary-ecology.html

    There is a real welfare crisis in this country, subsidised big business. For example, tax payers foot the bill for building logging roads into our National Forests even into pristine wilderness areas and often in violation of federal environmental laws like the forest act, clear water act and the endangered species act to name just a few. Earth First! is known for its splashy protests but many thankless hours are spent researching and writing appeals and taking wilderness surveys.

    You are correct that Earth First!ers break the law using nonviolent civil disobediance. This is in the tradition of Gandhi & King unlike Bush who breaks the law in order to unleash violence. Sometimes the law does come down on our side. Judi Bari won her case against the FBI and the Oakland police.

    I won a lawsuit against Idaho County, Idaho.

    Seattle was 2 degrees hotter this summer. Eastern Washington is still on fire.

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “You are correct that Earth First!ers break the law using nonviolent civil disobediance. This is in the tradition of Gandhi & King unlike Bush who breaks the law in order to unleash violence.”

    Wrong analogy. Gandhi and King did what they had to do because they were not ALLOWED legal means to accomplish their goals. The British ruled India so the Indians didn’t HAVE a legal method to effect change. And in the south, in the 1950′s and 1960′s black people were disenfranchised so they didn’t have a legal method of effecting change.

    But this is not true WRT to AEP and Earth First. No one is being prevented from using perfectly legal political tools to change the laws to stop MTR.

    A political campaign is HARD WORK – I know; I’ve been involved in several successful ones, including the Massachusetts Bottle Bill, and the campaign to have James Watt removed. It’s boring and UNglamorous – stuffing envelopes, standing on streetcorners getting petitions, etc. It does not have the masturbatory self-indulgent thrill of chaining yourself to a tree or blocking traffic and attracting TV cameras.

    Furthermore it is totally irrelevant whether Earth First! activists tried to compensate the workers. (did they offer to pay them their full pay and benefits?). If Goldilocks breaks into my house and eats my porridge and sleeps in my bed and startles Mrs Bear and Baby Bear when they get home, I want that kid arrested and I want to know where her parents are! I don’t care if she offers to compensate me out of her allowance.

    Earth First is following EXACTLY the same philosophy as GWB – if you think your cause is just you can just ignore the law and it doesn’t matter who you hurt in the process.

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    plnelson – You obviously have an opinion of Earth First! that you cherish more than learning anything new. You have absolutly no idea how much hard work within the legal systems Earth First!ers do. And obviously you don’t want to know. Fine.

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “plnelson – You obviously have an opinion of Earth First! that you cherish more than learning anything new. You have absolutly no idea how much hard work within the legal systems Earth First!ers do. And obviously you don’t want to know. Fine. ”

    So you’re saying that if the mafia also works hard to legally change the laws regarding family-owned businesses, insurance, concrete mixing, and the importation of olive oil, that this excuses their criminal activities?

  • rc21

    The other more important problem with environmentalist extremist groups,is their total disregard for people in underdeveloped areas such as Africa. There fight to ban DDT has contributed to the growing number of deaths in young children. Millions have died.

    Environmental activists have also made fraudulent claims against companies who are involved with natural resources causing them to be banned or heavily fined. Thus causing the decline of progress in these countries. Millions are forced to live in mud huts with no electricity or running water. Dung is used for fuel and food is a precious commodity. But the environmentalists say this is needed. Besides it helps the population maintain its history and culture.

    Sustainable development is what this is called. It relies on big companies being forced to use corporate and social responsibility. In the meantime Africa dies a little more each day.

    This is just another example of affluent mainly white liberal activists attempting to ram their political agenda down the throats of people who have little political power and who always seem to bare the tragic effects of these illogical policies.

    ”Cute indigenous customs and cultures are not so charming when they make up ones day to day existence”. Kenyas Akinyi Arunge observes. “What they mean is indeginous poverty,indeginous malnutrition,indeginous disease, and child death. I dont wish this on my worst enemies. I wish these environmentalists who claim to be our friends would stop imposing it on us”.

    Why dont some of the left wing environmentalists who live a very comfortable lifestyle try living like the the people they are repressing. They would not last a month.

    I will close with one of the most arrogant comments I have read in sometime. This is from former Earth Island editor Gar Smith

    “I dont think electicity is a good thing. I have seen villages in Africa that had vibrant cultures and great communities …that were disrupted and destroyed by the introduction of electricity. Once they got it they spent all thir time watching tv and listening to the radio”.

    Earth First People second. Sorry I mean Earth first poor powerless foreign people second

  • Potter

    plnelson:

    The worst forestry abuses occur in the ABSENCE of private property. Ever heard of a “national forest�? Those are the ones being plundered. Because they are owned collectively, like you suggest everything should be. Some forests are actually on land owned by timber companies and those are usually far better managed.

    That happens when you get an administration and laws/ interpretations of laws and cronies to follow that don’t believe that the land should be managed for all of the people and for future generations– which is the whole idea of “national forest”. The fault lies not in the collective ownership but with the breach of a trust that we place in our leaders to take care.

    “People (including companies) tend to take better care of things that belong to them. They tend to be careless of things they are just using or borrowing or sharing, like a national forest or grazing land in the west. There’s a name for that – “the tragedy of the commonsâ€?. The solution to many environmental problems is MORE private ownership, not less.”

    Hogwash and a bankrupt concept if you think it through. Okay sometimes yes ( maybe rarely) sometimes no. Depends on the company and it’s goals and leadership. Could be the bottom line is all that’s important. In Maine you can see whole areas of forest that have been clear -cut and then planted with one species of tree that destroys habitat/diversity and inviting problems of disease or the use of pesticides. So whose concept of “better care”?

    And should we sell our rivers and indeed our lakes and oceans so that companies won’t dump waste in them?

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “That happens when you get an administration and laws/ interpretations of laws and cronies to follow that don’t believe that the land should be managed for all of the people and for future generations– which is the whole idea of “national forestâ€?. The fault lies not in the collective ownership but with the breach of a trust that we place in our leaders to take care.”

    I’m not sure what your point is. That’s like saying that the problem with socialism is the the people who run the state car company or the state computer company or the state airline don’t care sufficiently about quality, innovation, or customer service, not a problem with state ownership, PER SE.

    Mismanagement or careless oversight of national land and other resources has ocurred in EVERY administration on both sides of the political spectrum. There’s no obvious way to prevent such problems given the citizens we have. But the way to INSULATE the environment from the results of public mismanagement is to have more private ownership.

    Did you see the EPA report yesterday on air quality in the northeast? BIG improvements in recent years. And one of the factors was pollution-trading.

    “In Maine you can see whole areas of forest that have been clear -cut and then planted with one species of tree that destroys habitat/diversity and inviting problems of disease or the use of pesticides. So whose concept of ‘better care’ ”

    And most of that land is national and state forests. Maine’s state forests, especially, are basically handed over to the timber companies to do with as they will.

    Timber is a renewable resource, so as long as things are set up so the timber companies have a vested economic self-interest in maintaining the viability of their land, they won’t be motivated to do stupid things with it. But the current system of NON-ownership gives them no incentive to behave responsibly.

  • Potter

    plnelson: Mismanagement or careless oversight of national land and other resources has ocurred in EVERY administration on both sides of the political spectrum. There’s no obvious way to prevent such problems given the citizens we have. But the way to INSULATE the environment from the results of public mismanagement is to have more private ownership.

    I’ll take Bruce Babbit over Gale Norton and all the industry insiders that filled environmental positions in the Bush Administration. I’l take Clinton over Bush on the environment. The differences are huge.

    From NYTimes article “Key Player for President is Resigning� March 11th 2006 ( about Gale Norton)

    During her tenure, snowmobiles returned to Yellowstone National Park and extensive areas were opened up for oil drilling and mining, although the Arctic refuge was not. She also presided over the department as it became enmeshed in a corruption scandal involving the lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

    Her resignation elicited mixed responses. In a statement, the Industrial Energy Consumers of America praised Ms. Norton as ”outstanding.” Defenders of Wildlife said, in a two-word news release, ”Good riddance.”

    At the Natural Resources Defense Council, Chuck Clusen, a senior policy analyst, discounted the idea that Ms. Norton had involved others in decision making in a way that helped the environment. ”She bent over backwards to involve the development interests, whether they be local or corporate,” he said. ”The overriding theme always was development.”

    ( he was joined by Michael Bean at Environmental Defense in harsh criticism of allowing “energy production on delicate land� although he gave her better marks on continuing Bruce Babbitt’s “safe harbor� provisions for landowners seeking to help an endangered species )

    According to the NYTimes

    In 2003 Gale Norton decided to remove from protections 2.6 million acres of Federal land in Utah that Bruce Babbitt had put in the pipeline for wilderness designation.

    From an editorial “Valuing Wildernessâ€?: “At the same time, in a novel and cramped interpretation of federal law, the secretary renounced her authority to recommend to Congress additional lands for federal protection — a truly startling turnabout in federal policy.â€?

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    pinesol said: “Timber is a renewable resource”

    That is true if you are harvesting a tree farm but there is a huge difference between a tree farm and a viable forest ecosystem that supports habitat especially larger mammal species.

    “But the current system of NON-ownership gives them (timber industry) no incentive to behave responsibly.”

    At least when it is public land we have a chance of enforcing protective legislation in sensitive wilderness areas. And we do have some protected public land even though we as citizens are already donating much of our public resources from our public land to private industry. Private industry does not have a very good track record of caring for sensitive ecosystems. Take Hurowitz in California. He’s busy clear cutting the last of the Redwoods – on private land.

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    rc21:

    Blaming poverty in Africa on environmentalists after the colonizing industrial powers have already denuded the continent of its natural resources is a rather twisted point. Poverty in Africa has more to do with the World Bank that it does with hippies sitting in a trees eating granola and reading Edward Abbey. Do some homework.

  • Potter

    plnelson said: And most of that land is national and state forests. Maine’s state forests, especially, are basically handed over to the timber companies to do with as they will.

    Timber is a renewable resource, so as long as things are set up so the timber companies have a vested economic self-interest in maintaining the viability of their land, they won’t be motivated to do stupid things with it. But the current system of NON-ownership gives them no incentive to behave responsibly.

    More hogwash.

    This report/study indicates that it is the industrial landowners who are clear-cutting. Large-scale forest liquidation lead to regulations in the mid-1990’s in Vermont.

    It not only takes laws, but the enforcement of those laws to insure that the land is not raped and sold for other development ( for instance).

    I have a garden. The land is mine although I don’t believe it is really mine; I am stewarding. I manage my garden so that I have bees, butterflies, toads, a variety of birds, and other wildlife (including a groundhog family but I am going to move them next year). If I were a local farmer I would probably manage my land differently. I would cut down the trees, plow the fields, fertilize, bomb the groundhogs, use pesticides ( perhaps) and weed killers ( perhaps). I would have to get the most out of my land for my living. If I were managing an “agribusiness� and owned land across the area I would again be managing differently. I might have investors to please and big equipment bills to pay.

    So it depends on what your primary goals are. You may love the environment as an owner but your investment may lead you to make decisions that are not in the interests of the environment for more immediate and pressing gain. Then you go and sell it for another use ( housing development for example). And this might lead you to support those who make and execute the laws to your benefit as you rationalize.

    What goes on in Maine has also to do with the fact that there is a need for jobs in the timber industry.

    It’s the same for coal. Strip-mining is more lucrative. The land gets raped and it takes laws to try to make it whole again. But you can’t go home again.

  • Potter

    Nick Thanks for the above post on capitalism and your thoughts on ownership. I agree . Because we own does not mean we can do as we please entirely.

    rc21: Gore and how he lives resurfaces. This is tantamount to sticking your fingers in your ears and saying “La La La La La.. I can’t hear you!” Back at the other thread there was evidence given that Gore indeed lives a green lifestyle, it just the lavishness that you resent. To be consistent you would have to disbelieve everyone who lives a lavish lifestyle. Or okay disbelieve everyone who you think does not live a green enough life and is lavish. The truth is probably you don’t like Gore. Fine.

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    The COAL PLAYLIST

    obvious contenders for the COAL PLAYLIST are:

    Working in a Coal Mine – Lee Dorsey

    Coal Tattoo – Judy Collins

    Coal Miner’s Blues – Doc Watson

    Coal Miner’s Daughter – Loretta Lynn

    There is a great Michelle Shocked song where she grows up thinking her Daddy is a black man but he’s a coal miner – I forget the title.

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    Oh and of course, Dark as a Dungeon – many have recorede this but I like the Johnny Cash version

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    Sixteen Tons – Tennesee Ernie Ford

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    I HATE THE COMPANY BOSSES (I HATE THE CAPITALIST SYSTEM) (1930s) by Sara Gunning

    Here is what Woody Guthrie says about Sara Gunning…

    “She’s a housewife and more than a housewife. A mother and more than a mother. She’s worked and slaved and fought to save the children of her own home, and to keep her own house, and she was so full of the Union Spirit that she found time to get out in the wind and rain and the hail of bullets from the deputies guns, and make up her own songs and sing them to give nerve and backbone to the starving men that slaved in the coal mines…. (Her songs) are deadlier and stronger than rifle bullets and have cut a wider swath than a machine gun could.

    Sara loved her husband. He’s dead from hard work in the mines. She loved her baby that died. She loves the two she’s still got, and she hates the system that wrecked her family. Hates the set-up that robbed her kids’ mouths. Hates the guns of war that aim at her sons and daughters. Hates all of these big Crooks and Greedy Rich Folks, reason is because she Loves what she Loves, and she’ll fight to protect her Home.

    (The big rich guys) claim they own all of this stuff. Sara says they don’t. Sara says it belongs equal and alike to all of us. I say Sara is right. It damn shore don’t belong to no one special feller, nor no few special families. It belongs equal and alike to all of us. Me, and you. Us.”

    WOODY GUTHRIE

  • Potter

    The Winter 2006 issue of Waterkeeper Alliance’s magazine featured an article by Robert F. Kennedy, ,Jr. It was revised a little from one that apeared in the SeattlePI in ’04 as part of a series from his book “Crimes Against Nature”. They are essentially the same article but here are both links.

    Would RFK be a good guest. Or perhaps Judy Bonds, the woman he mentions who runs Coal River Mountain Watch, would be good too or better.

    King Coal Pillages Beautiful Land

    The Seattle PI version: King Coal Pillages Beautiful Land

  • rc21

    Peggy sue The post mainly talks about how US and European environmental groups pressured African countries to stop using DDT, mainly because it didnt fit their idea of a safe and sustainable theory that they believe should be followed world wide. The results have been devestating Millions of children have died of malaria and other diseases caused in large part to the ban on ddt spraying.

    Sometimes the truth hurts. Your precious environmental groups have been contributing to the slow and painful deaths of millions. I suggest you do your home work. These people are so arrogant and full of hubris that it really is not important as to how many die as long as there enviro-friendly policies are implemented.

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  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    rc21: I do understand that these are complex issues and that Malaria is a serious problem yet DDT kills more than mosquitoes – it will kill birds ect as its poison works its way up the food chain – read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring . Mosquitoes also adapt very quickly developing immunity to DDT.

    The multi-layered problems of Africa have more to do with severe poverty and lack of adequate health care facilities than the hubris of western environmentalists. Of course anyone who sets out with an agenda to vilify environmentalists will do so no matter what.

  • rc21

    To Potter Your right I dont like Gore. As a matter of fact I dont much care for anyone that tells me how I should run my life and then does the opposite. He may have sold his stocks. but what did he do with the money. Money that was made by destroying natural resources. As I said Gore started to go with green energy for his mansions after he was confronted not before. Gore has recently bought a 4th residence. 3 must not be enough. How much timber was used in building these houses? how much land had to be cleared? How much does he get paid for his lectures? Hes making a living off of scaring people about global warming.

    I believe lots of people who live lavish life styles, as long as they are not lecturing me about the ills of living a lavish life style.

    Gore is an opportunist. He is reminiscent of a travelling snake oil salesman of the old west.Plying his wares on the ill-informed and the gullible.

    This is what professor Bob Carter of Australia said about Gores movie

    “Gores Circumstantial arguments are so weak that they are pathetic”

    Surely Carter is a shill for some petroleum company. Actually he is one of hundreds of non-governmental,non-industy, non-lobbygroup climate experts,who contest the hypothesis that human emmissions of CO2 are causing significant global change. Climate experts is the operative term here. Why? Because what Gores “majority of scientists” think is immaterial,when only a small fraction of them work in the climate field.And these focus mainly on the impact of warming not what causes it.

    We should listen to scientists who use real data to try and understand what nature is actually trying to tell us about the changes and extent of global climate change.In this small community there is no consensus despite what Gore and others would suggest.

    Here is almost something the media never reports. Appearing before the Commons comitte on Environment last year Carelton University paleoclimatoligist prof Tom Patterson testified “There is no meaningful correlation between CO2 levels and earths temperature over this geological time frame.

    In fact whenCo2 levels were 10 times higher than they are now the planet was in the depths of the absolute coldest period of the last half billion years.On the basis of this evidence how could anyone still believe that recent relatively small increases of CO2 levels be the major cause of this past centurys modest warming.”

    As I said on an earlier post forgive me for being a bit sceptical as far as Gore is concerned. I’ll read more and do more research. I dont have the difinitive answer.But why are you so willing to buy what he is selling? He is not even a scientist never mind a climatoligist.But he is a Democrat maybe that is enough for you.

  • rc21

    Peggy sue Im not condemming all environmentalists. I’m sure many are well intentioned. As I said earlier I love nature and am all for methods to reduce pollution and conserve our earth. Where I differ with many of these groups is in there callous almost fanatical way of trying to ram there agenda down peoples throats,and more importantly when it has a direct correlation in the deaths of millions of innocent children. I find this unconsionable. DDT is not the scourge that many make it out to be. Millions of soldiers were sprayed during ww2 and there is not one documented death due to the spraying. Heck I grew up next to a farm that sprayed ddt costantly. No early deaths in the farmers family or any of the locals. We also drank well water that i’m sure was contaminated.

    Many countries are just asking to spray inside homes never mind outside.

    Even liberals like Desmond Tutu are begging to let the spraying come back.

    If this were taking place in Europe or the US you can be damned sure we would be spraying. 2 million children is alot, think about it. And the death is a long painful one, not short and sweet. At some point common sense has to take the place of blind ideology. I dont need to vilify environmentalists they are doing a good job of it themselves. I do distinguish between conservationists who dont hurt other people or other peoples property vs hard left enviro-activists who put political agenda ahead of human life.

    I’m willing to go along with you on your ride to save the planet from pollution and decay I think you are sincere in what you believe and many of your causes are noble I really respect you for this. But you have to let me off when you or your friends start hurting others with their policies. or exploit or minimilize the poor and helpless as so many of the enviros are doing in Africa.

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    rc: “Im not condemming all environmentalists”

    Gee Thanks.

    Some people do still associate Earth First! with Dave Forman. Dave Forman was a powerfully inspiring founder of Earth First! But, he was only one of the founders. Forman was politically conservative and held several controversial anti-social opinions.

    A rift developed in the 80s when Judi Bari got involved with Earth First!. Bari’s genius was in connecting the issues. She did incredible work breaking down barriers between the environmentalists and the timber workers in Northern California. She addresses issues with Forman and describes her own vision in the essay

    Wild Earth magazine. Earth First! still primarily focuses on the preservation of biodiversity but views that within a compendium of other related issues including issues of class and race. It was at that juncture I became most active in the movement. I worked with the Earth First! Journal Editorial Collective and on the Idaho Cove/Mallard forest preservation campaign. I’ve had the honor to known brilliant, talented and dedicated people who you misjudge most offensively when you condemn us all.

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue
  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    I just tried to post a link in the above post after the word essay but it did not post

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    and the blank post from me is trying to post the link by itself

    Revolutionary Ecology: Biocentrism and Deep Ecology.

    http://www.judibari.org/revolutionary-ecology.html

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    sorry, I just had an extra

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    Sorry again…. the link should follow the 2nd paragraph’s last word “essay” She addresses issues with Forman and describes her own vision in the essay…

    Revolutionary Ecology: Biocentrism and Deep Ecology.

    http://www.judibari.org/revolutionary-ecology.html

    The 1st sentence in the 3rd paragraph should say, Dave Forman split off from Earth First! and began publishing Wild Earth magazine.

    Judi Bari never wrote for Wild Earth magazine.

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “This report/study indicates that it is the industrial landowners who are clear-cutting.”

    What the industrial landowners do is irrelevant to the discussion. They have no vested interest in the long term of their land for timber production. That’s why they’re “industrial” landowners – their interests are elsewhere.

    Anyway, New England has FAR more forest-cover today than it did in the mid-19th century. See: http://harvardforest.fas.harvard.edu/data/p01/hf013/hf013.html

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    In addition to the empirical problem that Maine has more forest area now than at any time since 1830, no one here has addressed my other objection to collectivism, as I noted above:

    Societies with economies based on collective or state ownership of natural resources consistently have a worse environmental record than the US.

    As I said originally, this is a problem of PROSPERITY. We live under a democratic system and voters are free to vote to restrict coal, oil, and timber extraction processes, but the price of anything is set by supply and demand. You can’t legislate your way out of that inevitability.

    Even if demand were to remain flat, restricting cutting, drilling, mining, etc, will restrict the supply and thus raise prices. But demand is NOT flat. The US has a growing economy, which means growing demand. And other countries, notably China, have DRAMATICALLY growing natural resource demands.

  • 1st/14th

    That is true if you are harvesting a tree farm but there is a huge difference between a tree farm and a viable forest ecosystem that supports habitat especially larger mammal species

    No its not. I used to go hunting in Georgia Pacific’s managed forests all the time when I lived in North Carolina. Nice place, lots of deer.

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    1st/14th

    No its not. I used to go hunting in Georgia Pacific’s managed forests all the time when I lived in North Carolina. Nice place, lots of deer.

    That proves nothing. I could shoot deer from the window of my apartment building in Friday Harbor.

  • 1st/14th

    That proves nothing. I could shoot deer from the window of my apartment building in Friday Harbor.

    They look like real, honest to goodness forests! Like the kind you would find in Wisconsin or West Virginia, not like neatly planted rows of trees.

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    I’m sure they do. But there is a difference. They are primarily monoculture. If they are well managed they will have some diversity but naturally the priority of Georgia Pacific will be the species that are most profitable. I thought I grew up knowing what a forest was. I’ve spent most of my life living in or near woods in Washington State. But it was not until I spent time in the old growth forests on Vancouver Island that I began to understand what a primal forest really is. It is almost a psychedelic experience to be in a forest like that. Where I live there are woods but because this Island has been logged over several times it is mostly tall skinny Douglas Fir growing too close together. They blow down easy in a wind. Still, it is very good deer habitat.

    But I guess this doesn’t have much to do with coal.

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “But I guess this doesn’t have much to do with coal.”

    It does in the broader sense of how to best manage natural resources.

    As I said, demand for coal, timber, oil, etc, is driven by prosperity. Prices for all these things are climbing steadily. It’s true for all raw materials – the price of copper is so high now that across the country we’re starting to see a new kind of burglary where thieves break in and steal your PIPES (and flood your basement in the process). This high demand will continue to increase as more and more of the world becomes prosperous enough to afford acrs, houses, appliances, etc.

    Any proposals to address strip-mining and MTR, ANWR oil drilling, clearcutting, etc, must take into account these economic realities and the fact that we live in a democracy where ultimate authority comes from the voters (yes, those same voters with SUV’s in the 3-car garages, and 48″ TV’s in their 4500 ft^2 detached houses) and not from a gang of protesters blockading a mountain road.

  • Potter

    rc21 This one’s for you.:

    (quote)

    As with most right wing smear efforts, the article entirely misses the point. Al Gore is championing action against global warming, not recycling, not sustainable mining, and not the green character of the democratic party. What he is doing is advocating explicit action to curb and control carbon emissions, and he is living his life 100% consistently with this aim by going carbon neutral. This is the entire point behind Kyoto and other efforts, not to prescribe what we should and should not do or consume, but rather the leverage the power and innovation of the free market and allow businesses and citizens the maximum amount of flexibility in bringing our carbon impact under control.

    With a google search you can find right wing web sites pushing this.

    But may Gore push on because for all the eggs and tomatoes being thrown at the messenger for the most irrational of reasons and the sand being thrown in our eyes by these smears,he is having some effect.

  • Potter

    (Gore is) having some effect.

  • Potter

    I found this wikipedia article on to be helpful as the many other categories on the subject.

    It begins:

    The global warming controversy is an ongoing dispute about the effects of humans on the global climate and what, if any, policies should be followed to avoid future effects. Current scientific opinion on climate change is that recent warming indicates a long-term trend (as opposed to a short-term variation that will soon reverse), that it is largely human-caused, and that serious damage may result at some future date. Mainstream scientific organizations worldwide (e.g. American Geophysical Union, Joint Science Academies, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, American Meteorological Society, and American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)) agree with these general points. However, there is a small but vocal minority of climate scientists who disagree.

    There is considerable opposition too in the realms of politics and business. Chiefly, this arises because the worst-case projected effects would cause enormous expense and disruption. Mitigating these effects would also be expensive and difficult (though the magnitude of the expense is itself in dispute). Hence, objections are raised because the grounds for committing to such effort are allegedly dubious.

    As you read and scroll down you come to a list of the supporters of “global warming theory” and the list of the vocal minority (one of which, Lindzen was cited on the fear-factor thread). The number of supporters is probably too large to list by name so it is by organization. It’s obvious that it is an overwhelming consensus. One can argue what consensus means and what weight that should have but it’s a steep hill to climb I think. Also this does not mean that there are no other factors involved in climate change. It’s very difficult and complicated for the scientists to understand not to mention the rest of us. I will go with the consensus. How could accelerated use of fossil fuels brought on by increasing development and advances not be implicated?

  • Potter

    ( Wow- I did not mean to do that! Sorry, but I guess it works)

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “This is the entire point behind Kyoto”

    No, Kyote was symbolism and grandstanding. The actual numbers advocated by Kyoto would have had no discernible effect on climate change, or at least were well-within the noise margins of our ability to model these things. Even its advocates admitted the the real point of Kyoto was to make a statement, not to actually make a difference.

    The September 2006 issue of Scientific American is devoted to energy and everyone here should read it, if only to gain some grasp of the sheer SCALE of the problem. We cannot have an intelligent discussion on this topic if we can’t do the math.

    One of the problems with modern life is that MANY of the problems we face – environmental/climate, energy-policy, economic, fiscal, retirement and social security, etc – are pretty technical and require a grasp of the numbers. American voters are not reknown for their ability to grasp technical problems or do the math. But we live in a democracy so the task before us to somehow get their attention and propose policies that will work but are still understandable by the voters.

  • Ben

    Human development is responsible for some climate change and all sorts of other environmental changes that aren’t really beneficial to ourselves. It seems that any new coal energy plants being slated to be built in the future have got to be better at having smaller negative impacts than the plants of the last century. (There is some info from the DOE here… http://www.fossil.energy.gov/programs/powersystems/cleancoal/ )

    Are new technologies going to be good enough and will they be applied on a scale that makes a real dramatic difference or is “Clean Coal” just a bunch of vulgar propaganda coming out of DC via Wyoming?

  • Peggy Sue @ work

    plnelson said: “Any proposals to address strip-mining and MTR, ANWR oil drilling, clearcutting, etc, must take into account these economic realities and the fact that we live in a democracy where ultimate authority comes from the voters (yes, those same voters with SUV’s in the 3-car garages, and 48″ TV’s in their 4500 ft^2 detached houses) and not from a gang of protesters blockading a mountain road.”

    There are 2 points to being a gang of protesters blockading a mountain road. The first is media. There is nothing like a gang of protesters, especially if they can create a good visual message, to draw attention to an issue. If the protesters are viewed by some as “too far out” they have at least widen the spectrem of possibilities to the extent that they make ordinary liberals look more normal and acceptable.

    The 2nd point is slightly more esoteric. This is beyond the media stunt and more philosophical. This is about stopping the damage right where it is happening. It is when – (and I wish I remebered the quote from the Free Speech movement in the 60s) when the system becomes so odious that you are compelled to throw your body onto the cogs of the machinery.

  • Old Nick

    On the question (plnelson @ 1:17 PM on Sept.18th) of ‘how to manage natural resources’:

    Stephen Jay Gould’s excellent Full House http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=62-0609801406-0 argues that we tend to judge entire systems by their most noticeable exceptions, rather than by the overall characteristics of their systemic wholes. It’s a book worth reading for its explanation that ‘progress’ in evolution is an illusion, for its explanation that .400 hitting in baseball has disappeared for unexpected reasons (that’s for all you Ted Williams BoSox fans), and for its explanation that all developing systems have limiting ‘walls’, which, de facto, allow evolutions (biological or other) to proceed only away from the original limitation (‘wall’), but not toward a ‘higher goal’. (I err by giving it short shrift: read the book for yourselves. It’s an easy read, and lots of fun, too.)

    It also offers the pearl of wisdom that this post will try to summarize and apply to our thread-topic: earthly life began as bacteria, and has evolved biotic side-lines away from those original micro-dimensions, but not purposefully toward ‘complexity’.

    The common junior high school science-class notion that earthly life began as the Age of Bacteria, then ‘progressed’ toward the Age of Fishes, and then the Age of Reptiles, and then the Age of Mammals is an illusion stemming from our simple inability to easily discern the vastly greater mass of microscopic life. As an example, Gould cites the existence of the millions of species of bacteria, and yet only four thousand species of mammals (approximately). How, he asks, can such an insignificant ‘tail’ define the huge ‘dog’ that is life-as-a-whole?

    The obvious answer is: ‘only our parochial fixation on life akin to us’. In other words, he says, the emergence of life on Earth was the beginning of The Age of Bacteria – and yet we’re still living in The Age of Bacteria even today! In another illustration, he says, “Size increase…is really random evolution away from small size, not directed evolution toward large size…” (p.162)

    …Because life began ‘small’ and ‘simple’, and had no other dimensional venues available to it aside from ‘larger’ and ‘complex’ (in the multi-cellular sense). Yet this isn’t a ‘progression’. It’s a simple (and accidental) matter of dimensionality.

    So, if you’re onboard with the notion that ‘progress in evolution’ is an illusion (grounded in socio-cultural conceits, like those of class, and other associated prejudices) and not, in any scientific meaning, ‘real’, then we can dispense with the concomitant notions that phenomena like human-driven global warming is somehow a natural consequence of life’s evolutionary ‘progress’. As if all that oil and coal was put into the ground by either ‘God’ or by some unattributable natural ‘preplanning’ by Earth, in anticipation of the eventual, triumphant emergence of Homo Sapiens with its needs for ever more complex technologies.

    Gould says,

    “On any possible, reasonable, or fair criterion, bacteria are—and always have been—the dominant forms of life on earth. Our failure to grasp this most evident of biological facts arises in part from the blindness of our arrogance, but also, in large measure, as an effect of scale… Individual bacteria lie beneath our vision and may live no longer than the time I take to eat lunch… But then, who knows? To a bacterium, human bodies might appear as widely dispersed, effectively eternal (or at least geological), massive mountains, fit for all forms of exploitation, and fraught with little danger unless a bolus of imported penicillin strikes at some of the nasty brethren.” (p.176)

    Now, in case you were wondering if any of this is ever gonna relate to global warming and coal…

    If the (still speculative) Gaia Hypothesis has any merit, perhaps we’re acting like “bacteria to whom the biosphere appears as an effectively eternal source of resources, fit for all forms of exploitation, and fraught with little danger…”

    In which case rising global temperatures might correspond to nothing other than a fever that kills the parasitic bacterial infection – i.e., humankind.

    Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way, because, unlike bacteria, we humans have wide-ranging sensory organs (and augmented by technological aids like telescopes and microscopes), brains complex enough to scientifically analyze the data streams from the senses, and the marvelous reasoning faculties to recognize our parasite-like cultural behaviors and to then reform those behaviors so that we voluntarily desist from the parasitism.

    But we apparently don’t have the will. Our myopic fascination with ‘growth’ (and greed) seems destined to keep us operating as parasites instead of as healthy earthly symbionts.

    I’ll try to better tie this all together in a (temporarily stalled but eventually forthcoming) reply to plnelson.

  • Potter

    Once more I hope correctly:

    I found this wikipedia articleto be helpful as the many other categories on the subject linked.

    It begins:The global warming controversy is an ongoing dispute about the effects of humans on the global climate and what, if any, policies should be followed to avoid future effects. Current scientific opinion on climate change is that recent warming indicates a long-term trend (as opposed to a short-term variation that will soon reverse), that it is largely human-caused, and that serious damage may result at some future date. Mainstream scientific organizations worldwide (e.g. American Geophysical Union, Joint Science Academies, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, American Meteorological Society, and American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)) agree with these general points. However, there is a small but vocal minority of climate scientists who disagree._There is considerable opposition too in the realms of politics and business. Chiefly, this arises because the worst-case projected effects would cause enormous expense and disruption. Mitigating these effects would also be expensive and difficult (though the magnitude of the expense is itself in dispute). Hence, objections are raised because the grounds for committing to such effort are allegedly dubious.

    As you read and scroll down you come to a list of the supporters of “global warming theory” and the list of the vocal minority (one of which, Lindzen was cited on the fear-factor thread). The number of supporters is probably too large to list by name so it is by organization. It’s obvious that it is an overwhelming consensus. One can argue what consensus means and what weight that should have but it’s a steep hill to climb I think. Also this does not mean that there are no other factors involved in climate change. It’s very difficult and complicated for the scientists to understand not to mention the rest of us. I will go with the consensus.

    How could accelerated use of fossil fuels brought on by increasing development and advances not be implicated?

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “If the protesters are viewed by some as “too far out” they have at least widen the spectrem of possibilities to the extent that they make ordinary liberals look more normal and acceptable.”

    There’s no actual evidence that this is the case. One could easily find counterexamples, such the way the right wing is able to characterize centrists like John Kerry and Bill Cinton as “liberals”, or the way the rush Limbaufgh’s of the world can get away with calling anyone who advocates even the most basic rights for women as “feminazi’s” or “bra burners”.

    “The 2nd point is slightly more esoteric.

    . . .

    when the system becomes so odious that you are compelled to throw your body onto the cogs of the machinery.”

    Compelled by irrational impulses, perhaps, not by any regard to actually accomplishing anything useful.

    In the end, the ONLY way environmental depradations will be addressed is by developing a comprehensive plan that is based on economic and scientific realities and making a clear, convincing case to the voters.

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “In which case rising global temperatures might correspond to nothing other than a fever that kills the parasitic bacterial infection – i.e., humankind.”

    The problem with this is that it’s very unlikely to kill us, as a species.

    We’re very adaptable and human civilizations have grown and flourished in much warmer and more tropical climates than the New Yorks and Beijings and Londons of today.

    So if the average temperature of the planet rises by, say 10 degrees C, it may cause some temporary disruptions, flooding of low-lying areas, tropical disease outbreaks, some famines and human migrations, etc. But if it killed a BILLION people we’d still have 5.5 billion people left, and over the next decade or two we’ll probably have effective treatments or prophylaxis of malaria, dengue, and other tropical diseases. So human life may become different, but I don’t think human life will come to an end, or even be horrible for most people.

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    pinesol: “In the end, the ONLY way environmental depradations will be addressed is by developing a comprehensive plan that is based on economic and scientific realities and making a clear, convincing case to the voters. ”

    There is no “ONLY way”. There are many ways. Besides nonviolent civil disobediance which has honored and historic place in the history of creating change there is art. Plays, novels, film can be employed to raise conciousness and bring about change. Why create restrictions and limititations? Especially when the issues are so critical we need to consider opening up the possibilities not resticting ourselves to a narrow vision.

  • rc21

    potter No one said global warming was not happening. There are plenty of scientists who dispute Gores theory as to how much is man made I gave you some testimony. If they are not in agreement with gore,they are right wing extremists. There is no point in talking about it . If you dont agree then marginalize them.

    The person who is trying to create fear is Gore . As plnelson stated humans adapt, If the climate warms, upper Canada and Siberia may become popular places for people to live. If you own ocean front property,my advice would be to sell. As to Gore like I said, I have a problem with people telling me how to live my life when they wont make the same sacrifices. Actually he should make more of a sacrifice,because he is such a strong believer that the world is in desperate shape.

    When he trades his 4 houses for a modest cape. trades in his car for a bike(he could stand to loose a few pounds) I will believe he is really serious and not just in it for power and money. Lets get back to coal,I also would like to know if any one on this forum thinks that we should look into using more nuclear power?

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “Besides nonviolent civil disobediance which has honored and historic place in the history of creating change there is art. Plays, novels, film can be employed to raise conciousness and bring about change. Why create restrictions and limititations? Especially when the issues are so critical . . . ”

    If the questions are really so critical then you should honor their seriousnous by choosing methods you can have a high degree of confidence will WORK. Plays, novels, and other “consciousness-raising” are propaganda designed to appeal to believers’ passions. But well-funded industry groups can use those same techniques through mainstream media even more effectively. They can afford more media access, better writers and production values, and they can get their message across via channels far more mainstream than novels and plays, which, let’s face it, are only ever seen by a tiny self-selected elite.

    Why choose the weapons and battlefields (media, drama, symbolism) that your enemy has superior numbers and weapons in? Liberalism has been in steady decline in the US for at least 25 years, and it is EXACTLY because of this preference for the grand, fatal self-indulgent GESTURE, rather than a hard-nosed calculated strategy for actually WINNING a campaign.

  • Cave_Blogem

    pnelson said: “Prices for [coal, timber, oil, etc.] are climbing steadily.” Historically, there is nothing steady about energy prices. Indeed, almost all of the rules and laws in place in the U.S. regulating the energy markets were championed and (again mostly) written by major energy companies. And the reason they put that regulatory regime in place was to stabilize the system. And the main instability that they feared (and with good reason): falling prices.

    And he also said “the price of anything is set by supply and demand. You can’t legislate your way out of that inevitability.”

    The second part of that last statement is true. I can’t legislate my way out of anything, this being a representative democracy where our legislators, backed and advised by multinational conglomerates, are the ones who do the legislating. But the first is countered by the fact that these representatives can and do legislate changes to the price structures we all face.

    To think of supply and demand as pure democratic forces in the energy markets is naïve but understandable. But any aspiring oil company executive who said to others in his company “let’s leave it up to the market to decide” would be laughed out of a job.

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “pnelson said: ‘Prices for [coal, timber, oil, etc.] are climbing steadily.’ Historically, there is nothing steady about energy prices. ”

    Averaged over time there is a clear upward trend, and all demand projections are that this will continue and probably accelerate. The semantics of “steadily” are just useless quibbles.

    What are the “good reasons” why they should fear falling energy prices?

    The fact is that the profit margins of oil companies are tiny by the standards of many industries. I only own stock in one oil company, but I own stock in several “high tech” companies because, as an engineer, I have more insight into their prospects. And I can tell you that most of the companies I invest in would be embarassed, not to mention roasted alive by their shareholders, if they turned in profit margins as small as the oil companies.

    Americans, who are huge consumers of oil, should have more appreciation for where their oil comes from. The newest oil wells today are offshore in deep water and after planting their gear on the seafloor a mile below the surface they THEN have to drill another FIVE MILES through rock to actually get to the oil, so we can fill up our cars. This is an AMAZING (and very expensive) technological accomplishment.

    In addition to the capital investment required to do this, oil companies (and US oil consumers) face the reality that most of the world’s oil comes from dangerous or politically unstable or highly corrupt places: the mideast, Nigeria, Russia, Venezuela, Mexico, etc. Terrorism, local politicians and officials demanding bribes, kidnappings, threats of nationalization, hurricanes, and war all overshadow the sheer engineering challenges of getting the oil out of the ground or making business plans. I don’t envy oil industry execs one bit.

  • Cave_Blogem

    The “good reason” I mentioned in my post was that that was the danger that oil companies faced at the time, threats of large discoveries by wildcat drillers, which they feared would render all of their valuable investments worthless. The industry structured the regime around the threat of abundance, which made it difficult to react to scarcity, when that inevitably occurred in 1973-83.

    I don’t think that “the sematics of ‘steadily’ are useless quibbles.” If gasoline cost in the U.S. the same that it cost in 1983 in real terms it would be priced at nearly four dollars. The nominal terms we see every day that create an illusion of a steady upward trend. And even there we see a 50% drop in nominal gas prices over the last couple of months.

  • Cave_Blogem

    Whoops, I meant 50 cents drop.

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “If gasoline cost in the U.S. the same that it cost in 1983 in real terms it would be priced at nearly four dollars. ”

    First of all, I was talking about the price of oil, not gasoline. And anyway, what we saw between 1978 and 1983 was a spike. From 1986 all the way to 2001 they were much lower. If we smooth those anomolies out the overall trend in oil has been going up, as new sources of oil become harder to exploit and worldwide demand grows. There are many perfectly plausible models that suggest oil at $100-125 / bbl in the next few years.

    I saw one article recently suggesting that some of the newer deep-water wells I mentioned are so expensive that they are predicated on $150/bbl oil – that otherwise they’ll lose money on them.

    This whole topic is a good example of what I mentioned above that US voters can’t do the math. Many Americans seem to think that when they pay $3/gallon (or whatever), all that money is going to profits for oil-company fat cats. But infact if the oil companies made NO profits whatsoever it might reduce the cost of a gallon of gas by 9-11 cents.

    People who think oil companies are making obscene profits are welcome to partake of those profits by buying stock in them.

    I generally regard high oil prices as a Good Thing because they’ll encourage conservation and alternative energy investment. Although I have to admit that

    my current record for filling up my Subaru Forester is $43.56, versus maybe $25 when I first bought it, and I haven’t really changed my driving behavior.

  • Cave_Blogem

    You were talking about commodities, including coal and timber, not just oil. And my point was that oil companies have a tremendous influence upon those prices (um, not timber, necessarily, but energy prices) through the legislation that they author, lobby for, create statistics in support of, etc. They influence coal, nuclear, natural gas and electrical costs not only by being the main substitute for these but through massive ownership stakes in those industries, usually hidden through the banking system.

    I offered gas prices up because people tend to relate to gas prices more easily than the price of oil, to which it is intimately related. Oil prices, in real terms, dropped about 20 percent from the 1950s to the 1970s. Did the 1950s represent a spike?

    As to the profit structure of the industry, I simply can’t imagine a productive discussion about something so easily hidden and fudged by a multinational corporation with that much power. Take a look at _The Oil Follies of 1970-1980: How the Petroleum Industry Stole the Show (and Much More Besides)_ for some excellent examples of this. Special bonus: a young(er) reporter for _The New York Times_, one Christopher Lydon, is cited more than once by the author.

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “oil companies have a tremendous influence upon those prices”

    But most of the things the industry lobbies for, like less regulation, looser environmental standards, and the right drill EVERYwhere, would have the net effect of LOWERING prices.

    Anyway, as I said above, people who think that oil companies are just big money-making machines should put their money where their mouth is by INVESTING in them so they can have some of those obscene profits to themselves.

  • Cave_Blogem

    plnelson, do you honestly think that the industry would be interested in lowering prices, all things being equal?

    Is there someone in particular you are responding to when you say “people who think that oil companies are money-making machines”? I certainly didn’t mean to imply that I don’t like it when people make money. I’m all for that. It is the other things that large multinational corporations do, the bad things, that I object to.

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “plnelson, do you honestly think that the industry would be interested in lowering prices, all things being equal?”

    I’m an engineer and I’ve worked for 7 different companies in several different industries over about a 30 year career and I have never worked ANY company that was not interested in lowering prices.

    “Is there someone in particular you are responding to when you say ‘people who think that oil companies are money-making machines’?

    No, just the American public. Most Americans fill up their gas tanks while muttering about the “obscene” profits that the oil company is making (typically 6% GPM) on their way to the mall to buy their kid the a new XBox from Microsoft with a 40% GPM.

  • rc21

    It is so easy to bash oil companies. I’m no fan but I dont hate them either. Ive been investing in them and other energy related companies for some time. If you cant beat em join em. plnelson is right. Oil ccompanies usually dont turn the profit that some companies, that people are perfectly happy with do

    Does anyone know the actual cost of the common CD that you purchase at your local music store?

  • Potter

    rc21: There are plenty of scientists who dispute Gores theory as to how much is man made I gave you some testimony.

    It’s not “Gore’s theory”. Once again, there is little dispute about the man-made contributions. Those that dispute it that have credibility can be named on a short list.

    To paraphrase: It’s so easy to bash Gore.

    rc21: The person who is trying to create fear is Gore . As plnelson stated humans adapt, If the climate warms, upper Canada and Siberia may become popular places for people to live. If you own ocean front property,my advice would be to sell.

    No problem just move to Canada and Siberia along with all the Pacific Islanders, the Caribbeans, Coastal Europeans, Japanese, Tasmanians, Indonesians, etc, etc. Let them all sell ( their homes or huts- to who? ) and move.

    There will be more water everywhere and so it will be easier to go via ships. But then we will have to make a lot of ships. More jobs! Hey this global warming could be good.

    Yes I think Gore is fearmongering and claiming credit for global warming theory just like he claimed credit for inventing the internets.

  • jazzman

    There is good evidence that Earth is getting warmer on average and probably has been with perturbations for thousands of years. While this is part of a long term heating/cooling cycle, the modulation of this cycle by humans is also evident. The questions are: how much extra heating is responsible due to human activity and will this human contribution to the cycle cause a catastrophic resonance (near-term unrecoverable runaway heating) in the heating/cooling oscillation, and can it be damped, or reversed by cessation of the human activities that are deemed to be exacerbating this trend or proactively engaging in activities that might mitigate this trend (without running afoul of the law of unintended consequences?

    I think the jury (and science) is out regarding these questions. Humans contribute to the greenhouse effect in various ways (as chronicled by Old Nick above) not the least of which is destruction of plant life (which acts as a CO2 governor) thru deforestation and pollution. The demand for beef worldwide (particularly in the West) has resulted not only in the reduction of carbon capturing plant life but wholesale methane production as well. Pollution could be largely eliminated but Green costs a lot green which even though it might be recouped in long term secondary benefits, it’s another thing to pay up front for deferred benefits which might not materialize. A slash & burn farmer in Brazil or Africa isn’t concerned with the environment, he is concerned with his family’s survival, benefits are needed now.

    The universe is composed of energy but storing it in a usable form for transferring it to power our modern lifestyle in a responsible way is the rub. Oil, wood, coal and organic material are comparatively easy to convert to our use as their energy is already being stored in themselves, ready to be oxidized – which creates all the noxious and undesirable by-products that are in question. IMO the ideal form of oxidizable energy storage is sunlight energy stored in the form of Hydrogen. It has more power than gasoline and pollutes with H20. There is a virtually limitless supply of sunlight and water on the planet and if production and distribution logistics were implemented then much human contribution to Global Warming would be eliminated. That doesn’t mean that the planet won’t still trend hotter however and if so as plnelson says: humans will adapt. Some life forms won’t and will become extinct (polar bears) etc. We’ll just have to see – seemingly negative conditions often spur the catastrophic conditions that necessitate and instigate the solutions to problems.

    plnelson says: I’m an engineer and I’ve worked for 7 different companies in several different industries over about a 30 year career and I have never worked ANY company that was not interested in lowering prices.

    The only reason that companies are interested in lowering prices is they face price erosion from their competition. A sole source manufacturer makes customers pay whatever the traffic will bear until a competitor starts undermining their position. As they lower their prices they try to keep profits flat by reducing costs and increasing volume. If your business plan is high-volume low profit margin (like Wal*Mart) then you’d better sell a lot and stomp your competition (like Wal*Mart). If you have a high profit low volume business then you have to keep up your profit by quality and innovation and always be 1 jump ahead of the competition. No company wants to make less profit – they only lower prices if they are forced to or go out of business.

    Peace to ALL (including the environment),

    Jazzman

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “The only reason that companies are interested in lowering prices is they face price erosion from their competition.”

    Or to gain market share. If Shell could offer the same gas as Texaco and Exxon/Mobil for 5 cents a gallon less while sustaining a good profit margin they would. Since petroleum is (literally) a commodity most of the competition takes place at the level of refining, shipping, retailing, discovery and oilfield-services, but you haven’t suggested any reason to think that they would not be under the usual motivation to try to lower prices if they could.

    “If your business plan is high-volume low profit margin (like Wal*Mart) then you’d better sell a lot and stomp your competition (like Wal*Mart).”

    Actually, Walmart’s whole business model is based on low prices. They put their entire supply chain under INTENSE pressure to lower prices.

  • Potter

    Jazzman: No company wants to make less profit – they only lower prices if they are forced to or go out of business.

    plnelson: The solution to many environmental problems is MORE private ownership, not less.

    So where would concern about and care of the environment ( the land, the air, the seas) and thus the human causes of global warming fit into the above mentioned companies’ ( or most companies’) business plans?

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “plnelson: The solution to many environmental problems is MORE private ownership, not less.

    So where would concern about and care of the environment ( the land, the air, the seas) and thus the human causes of global warming fit into the above mentioned companies’ ( or most companies’) business plans?”

    The context of the above comment was timber extraction.

    In that context, if I’m in the timber business then the value of my land is tied to its ability to remain productive which means I have to take proper care of it. Clearcutting creates erosion which damages its economic value to me. Planting a tree monoculture risks devastating wood-parasites and diseases. So proper forestry management is key to maintaining my land’s value to me.

    Private ownership is not the answer to everything – for example air pollution, because you can’t own the air. But even in air pollution the free market can work wonders. Did you see last week’s EPA report on NE air quality? BIG improvments and one of the major factors they cited was pollution-rights trading.

  • rc21

    If a lumber company owns a large area of timber it is going to harvest a portion and then reseed the area that has been harvested. In this way the company can keep replenishing it’s product. It will also do everything possible to make sure that the reseeded forrest grows healthy and strong. If fishermen owned parts of the sea they would make sure that they did not over fish and kill off there profit. They would also take measures to keep there area from becoming polluted.

    Here is a rather disturbing but true analogy. During the time of slavery their was a lesser known form called indentured servitude the difference was slaves were owned by there masters forever or until the master wanted to sell the slave for profit. Indentured servants were only owned untils there debt was paid off usually a number of years.

    There is much research to show that indentured servants were treated much worse than slaves they were beaten more they were fed,clothed and housed much worse than most slaves. Of course there were exceptions on both sides.

    But the masters knew that eventually the servants would be free so they had no vested interest in treating them well. On the other hand a master with slaves had a much greater incentive to treat his slaves well. The healthier they were the more work they could produce. And when it came time for auction a strong healthy slave brought a bigger profit tan a sickly weak slave.

    It is the same with cars you treat your own car much better than you do a rented car.

  • Potter

    rc21 Right. That is not at all consistent with the the good of the commons. If a lumber company owns an area of timber they are going to harvest and farm it for profits, not for biological diversity or the ecology of the total environment. Nor are they going to care about aesthetics. They might sell it after to developers or miners in fact.

    We have had a problem of overfishing as well. Taking measures to keep fishing grounds clean is a political battle against other interests.

    Your slave analogy works to suggest that profit was unfortunately the motive for i the slaveowner. If the slaveowner really cared about the slave- he would have set him free, but the slaveowner really only cared about himself and his profits.

    As for cars (and homes)- whether you rent or lease (or own or pay a mortgage) you do not treat them differently because they serve the same function either way (to get you places or place a roof over your head and comfort beneath). Pride of ownership is down on the list from function, comfort and convenience.

  • rc21

    It doesnt matter if the lumber company cares about ecology or profit the motive is not relavent. As long as he replaces the trees he cuts down and does his best to see that the new ones grow properly.

    You prove my point with the slave analogy. Yes he treats them better because he owns them and they bring profit. The same as a company that owns its own forrest.

    You may treat a rented car the same as the one you own but you are in the minority.

    No one has ever warned you about purchasing a car that had previously been owned by hertz,or avis.

    People beat the crap out of these cars. they have them for a few days and could care less about treating them well.

    Your problem with over fishing would also be solved if fishermen owned or had exclusive rights to certain areas.

    You asked how concerns for the environment would factor in with private companies business plans. I gave you two examples. It wont work for everything just certain cases.

  • Potter

    rc21

    The slaveowner was only concerned with his own profit, not with what effects this practice might have for the whole country in the future, the price to be paid by all of society for generations. This is regardless of how well he treats a slave in an essentially immoral practice.

    So too with the environment. Once an ecosystem is disturbed it is not the same again especially if it is in the interest of the landowner to plant for only trees ( a monoculture) that can be harvested at a later date. Call it replacement. It’s not.

    This is a funny thing to be arguing on a coal thread but there is a history of how coal mining companies don’t take care of their workers health and safety until they are forced to.

    http://www.aflcio.org/issues/safety/ns02022006.cfm

    And the strip mines would be left as open gashes were it not demands made upon them.

    Look at these pictures of a strip mine, before, during after.

    http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/razingappalachia/mtop.html

  • rc21

    To potter: The facts of safety in coal mines differ from what you would have us believe I looked at your link. It seems that once again Bush is to blame.

    Now lets get to the truth. Coal mining deaths are at there lowest rates ever. The stats for 2006 obviously are not out. From 2000 to 20005 The Bush years Coal mining deaths have fallen to the lowest numbers in history. So what is your point with the afl-cio link. I already knew mining deaths had gone down under the Bush presidency. Liberal propaganda notwithstanding.

    I also took a look at your other link. I watched a documentary on coal mining last year. Yes it is an ugly business but mining companies are trying to clean up the landscape after they are done mining. They reloam areas plant grass and trees and generally try and do as much as possible to the areas that were mined.

    Obviously the mined areas are not going to look like they did premining.The person who made the film that you linked to obviously has an agenda being an environmentalist. That is fine as long as she presents a fair and honest picture of the whole coal mining industry. Something I doubt she will do,seeing as her favorite film is Bowling for columbine. A film that was filled with lies and half truths.

    Bottom line. People need fuel and energy. Coal fits this demand. Someone has to mine it. It may as well be coal mining companies. They have the expertise. It would be great if they could return the environment to its previous condition when they were done. But they cant. No one can,it is physically impossible. So they try and come as close as possible using realistic expectations.

  • Potter

    rc21- I will give you your points about things being better now and that we need coal ( even though we need more energy conservation and cleaner burning). Please concede that these companies were forced to improve on all fronts. There is a long history and it was not ownership that forced this change as you claim.

    Horrible accidents in the mines occurred. Black lung disease became known more widely. Then action: strikes and muckraking articles and films/publicity, environmentalism and plain old shame kicked in to improve things.

    By the way did you hear that it was Al Gore who inspired Richard Branson to donate 3 billion$ to combat global warming?

    “Al Gore came to my home in London and said, `You are in a position to make a difference, and if you make a giant step forward, other people will follow,”’ Branson said.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601102&sid=aCZ3cwRKQdg0&refer=uk

    Peace.

  • rc21

    Potter; Things are not only better, they are much better. Under Bush we have seen an alltime low in coal mining fatalities. You were quick to try and blame him with that AFL-CIO propaganda B.S.Now that you know the truth about coal mine deaths, will you praise him ?

    Improvements in coal mining safety are due to many factors. You tell me who is responsible for the fatality rates going down? The owners can’t shoulder all the blame for black lung disease. No one really knew what it was or what its long term effects would be in the early days.

    Much of the improvements in mine safety are due to technological progress and from mine owners and workers gaining more experience with each year of operation. It’s called progress. Do you really think mine owners wanted to see there mines blow up or cave in? Do you think they enjoyed seeing there best miners getting killed? Mining disasters caused mine owners to lose money and worse, valubale exerienced labor,which if you know anything about construction (as I do ) is almost irreplacable.

    Do I think mine owners are wonderful people who say”profit be dammned I’m going to make sure we leave this mine sight as pristine and beautiful when we leave as it was when we started” Of course not,there are good people and bad.

    but remember this, coal mining was just about the only form of employment in Kentucky,W.Virginia and the surrounding areas. Many miners fed,clothed,and raised there families from generation to generation. Coal kept people warm and helped the nation run.It still does.

    Another thing, liberals never seem to understand Americans have choice. No one is forced to be a miner, or anything else for that matter. If we dont like a job we quit. Move on find another line of work.

    I’m glad Branson is giving his cash. Is he not the owner of Virgin Air? It’s a bit ironic, he makes a fortune polluting the skies and burning up fuel. Then when prices get high he figures its time to find a cheaper source of fuel. Thats Ok better late than never. Now if we can get Al to sell 3 of his 4 houses and donate his profits we will all be heading in the right direction.

  • Potter

    rc21-Now that you know the truth about coal mine deaths, will you praise him ?

    And just how responsible is Bush for imporvements?

    Do I think mine owners are wonderful people who say”profit be dammned I’m going to make sure we leave this mine sight as pristine and beautiful when we leave as it was when we started” Of course not,there are good people and bad.

    So how much of this improvement had to do with lawsuits, health costs that haad to be covered by owners, bad publicity( shaming) and labor legislation?

    Don;t go overboard just b/c I said things are better noe than they were. Due to what?

    Another thing, liberals never seem to understand Americans have choice.

    ( Oh boy!) No one is forced to be a miner? Where are the moners going to come from if not from the area where the mones are and the culture that has grown up around the mines? How many would relocate for this job???

    REgarding Al Gore and Branson- you don’t give an inch do ya? You conceded nothing, which taints all your arguments as pure partisan.

  • Potter

    ( sorry for the typos- I wuz angry there)

  • rc21

    Hi Potter; As to Bush I really didn’t expect you to give him credit. And you say I don’t give an inch.

    If you look at my post again I said there were several factors that went into mine safety improvements. I just pointed out the ones that you were not aware of or were unwilling to acknowledge. Yes lawsuits,bad publicityand legislation also played a role,but you already knew that. I did not see the need to repeat it.

    As to a persons choice to become a miner, I stand by my statement. It’s a free country No one is forced to mine. Mine owners advertise there job openings and people reply. You might not like the way the system works but it is still free choice.

    Regarding Gore. I was just having some fun with you.No need to get angry.

    You must admit it is somewhat ironic that a man who made a fortune in part by polluting the skies and burning up more than his fair share of fuel now wants to help stop pollution?

    Pats are on soon. see ya later.

  • girlsforscience

    I believe it is important to consider some of the inherent dangers that exist for workers who mine coal. Mining history provides some excellent examples. Certainly we have progressed, but mining incidents are on the rise again for good reason.

  • rc21

    Girlsforscience; coal mining is dangerous,but as I stated earlier coal mining deaths are not on the rise they are on the decline. Actually there has been a rather steady decline for many years. Occasionally you will see an upward spike for a given year,but on the whole the the facts show deaths are going down.

    Why do you say they are on the rise and for good reason?

  • J Dub

    Other playlist picks

    Blackleg miner – Richard Thompson

    Coalminers – Uncle Tupelo

    Just a question if you have any industry people on – exactly how expensive is it to produce electricity with the cleanest available coal burning technology? In all the reporting on this subject, I think I’ve only ever heard industry people claim that this is “too expensive” to implement. I suppose the full meaning is “too expensive to be economically competitive with a dirty plant”. But I pay a small premium to my power company so that they will obtain the electricity sold to me from wind farms. As long as no price is identified, “too expensive” is an eternally unassailable abstract. If we were to develop an idea about actual costs, I could compare my desire for clean power to my desire for another double tall latte.

  • girlsforscience

    rc21 – you are correct that overall deaths are statistically on the decline because when compared to the unregulated days of mining, regulation improved the safety of miners drastically. Incidents continued to decline as the use of coal was replaced in favor of other energy methods. However, with rising energy costs associated with oil, the coal mining industry found that coal was more valuable, and mining activities increased once more. For instance, the Sago Mine disaster. At the same time that activities were increasing, funding for oversight wasa being cut. We have entered a hazardous time for workers in this industry. Environmental regulations are on the books, but soft on oversight. Our equipment for miners, should an emergency occur, is horribly outdated. OSHA no longer protects worker’s rights as they once did, which for the working class is the only avenue to address grievances. Whistleblower laws have been slaughtered. Therefore, the statistics may support your premise, but the Sago Mine disaster is indicative of something brewing under the surface. Mining workers are taught to rely on and believe in an emergency system that is no longer functional.

  • girlsforscience

    If you would like to see my rational, please visit my blogspot at:

    http://chargeyourvoice.blogspot.com/

    I have some articles posted there as references, as well as “Sago Mine Disaster” which also utilizes government data. I would post it here, but my references are lengthy. However, please review them if you are interested.

  • girlsforscience

    You will need to access the July 2006 archive.

  • girlsforscience

    I would like to state that this matter is important to me, because of my extensive training that I procurred for hazardous environments and safety issues. I understand first hand that regulatory oversight in these areas can clearly be shown to be underfunded and the training outdated. Banging on roof bolts and waiting for equipment to arrive that is of little use is no longer enough. The oversight necessary to prevent and anticipate potential problems is not sufficient. The whistleblower laws necessary for workers to feel that they will not jeopardize their livelihoods should they seek redress for violations or redress is a skeleton of what existed before. The Sago Mine disaster and other incidents in recent years is a wake-up call.

  • rc21

    girlsforscience; This is really “Much ado about nothing” I read your links.My comments are these. Sago mine appears to have had many problems,but the govt had fined them numerous times. So saying there are not enough inspectors or the Bush admin is not doing their job seems to contradict the facts stated in your link. Unfortunately with all the lawyers running around it is not suprising that Sago mine has yet to fully pay their penalty. You cannot blame Bush for this. This is a problem that affects many parts of todays society and is a discussion for another day.

    I concur that there are some simple things that can be improved on,this should happen as soon as possible. I know a little about the breathing apparatus. Having been in the service I was part of many fire control teams. OBAs as we called them can be quite tricky, are not always reliable and subject to human error. Try putting one on correctly in the midst of a fire or emergency. It is much harder than in a drill. You also use oxegyn faster because you breathe much faster and harder than you would under drill circumstances.

    Another point mining like construction fishing or other labor intensive jobs is by nature demanding and at times dangerous. I worked in the construction field for over a dozen years. No matter how careful and safety conscious one is accidents happen. We do our best but it is reality. Always trying to lay blame on someone usually come down to political or financial motivation. If you look at coal mining deaths for 2006 you will find that many are really unrelated to actual coal mining. several are driving related one death was that of a man clearing brush on mine property. He accidently touched a wire and was electrocuted. This could hardly be called a coal mining death as unfortunate as it was.

    I’m all for continuing to find ways to improve safty standards the fewer deaths we have the better. I suspect as technology advances more improvements will be made.

    You also stated that coal miner deaths are only on the decline due to Govt regulation. This of course would make sense. But the big suprise is, it is actually not true. coal mining deaths were declining well before the govt got involved in regulating the mines. I guess you didn’t know that.

    Finally as you admit,and I will once again reiterate. Coal mining deaths are on the decline and under the Bush watch we have seen them hit there lowest levels.

    People can use all the antidotal stories they like,but the truth still remains the truth. Under Bush deaths have decreased.

  • girlsforscience

    Of course we all want to find ways to improve safety standards so that fewer deaths occur. I whole heartedly agree! I still believe that government regulation helped to standardize safety and health standards the mining industry. Private business is always free to go above and beyond the basics, but I think that it is essential to have standards. I also still believe that it is a good idea to review the equipment available for disaster scenarios. Thank you for your response! Technology IS always advancing, and I have always taken great pride in that.

    However, I must take issue with your trust in statistics. I have worked superfund sites, meth lab cleanup, the Hurricane Katrina disaster and elsewhere. I know that I can trust my first hand experience and excellent training in the HAZMAT field. This is not a political issue…even if someone does feel the pinch while it happens on their watch…this is a reminder of the importance to always be vigilant, as every good safety and health expert knows. I take great pleasure in the advancements in technology, but I understand the necessity of recognizing that believing everything is predictably as it should be leads to more accidents than it prevents.

  • Dick King

    Let’s go back to this nuclear issue.

    Maybe I have time to look into this issue and decide whether global warming will be a multi-megadeath multi-trillion-dollar problem and maybe I don’t. However, we have a real window on whether people like Al Gore believe that global warming is this bad.

    Can you really believe that Al Gore believes that an expanded role for nuclear power [perhaps displacing half of the US coal consumption, and maybe a significant piece of China's too] is worse for the world than he claims that global warming would be?

    He has never advocated such an expanded role for nuclear power. I must conclude that either he doesn’t care what happens to the world or he honestly believes that nuclear power is the greater evil.

    If he does so believe, he either believes that nuclear power is as bad for the world as the events of Inconvenient Truth, in which case he is sufficiently ill informed that he can reasonably be ignored, or [more likely in my opinion] he doesn’t really believe global warming will really turn out to be as bad for the world as he claims but he’s having too much fun using global warming as a stick with which to beat political opponents to admit it.

    -dk

  • ptkdb

    Something to keep in mind. Lincoln did not free the slaves, Coal did. Until the invention of the steam engine, you had limitted choices for ‘motive power’. Windmills, water wheels, draft animals, and human beings. You used what you had available to get the crop into the field and the crop out of the field. Then comes along a new power source, the steam engine. Now you can plow, harvest and gin without having to put someone with a brain and a soul into chains. Granted, the issue is much more nuanced and complicated, but the availability of steam power(coal power) to replace human muscle power began to reduce what little moral imperrative people felt they had for keeping slaves, “how else am I supposed to get all this work done.”

  • tbrucia

    Interesting that almost all the postings assume that ‘we all know what coal is’…. So I checked to see how much of what I know about coal is true…. Here’s an interesting link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal . Don’t miss the section on ‘Composition’. For those who are weak on chemistry, ONE of the ingredients of coal is carbon, and combustion is the combination of oxygen and carbon in a reaction that releases energy. The results of carbon (C) and oxygen (0) combining are (in a normal environment) carbon dioxide (C02), or in an oxygen-starved environment, carbon monoxide (C0). Note that most coal is only partly carbon. Where it contains sulphur, combustion will generate other chemicals during combustion (for instance, sulphur dioxide). For those who haven’t simply decided “Coal is Evil, and I’m Against Evil”, I heartily recommend LEARNING (sometimes a painful, but always an interesting process)… The wiki article isn’t a bad place to start this journey!

  • tbrucia

    As far as the wisdom of burning coal in order to obtain energy, well… life is all about tradeoffs. And changing things we can, and accepting the things we cannot (apologies to St. Francis of Assisi). Ultimately, humans can scrub the non-energy outputs of combustion (undesirable side effects), or simply suffer the consequences. The earth doesn’t really give a damn either way. So, if humans are smart and choose to do some cost/benefit calculations, and then apply intelligence and knowledge to the challenge of reducing undesirable side effect, good for humans. If humans can’t or won’t do so, the species will simply pay the price of not doing so. Again, the universe doesn’t really care. And if humans are not constituted in such a manner as to make the right decision, the world will march on regardless. It is NOT about ‘protecting nature’ (which has now endured for about 14 billion years), but protecting a single species, Homo sapiens sapiens, which goes back less than 1/14,000 of that time.

  • Katherine

    Hi everyone. A lot of you are writing about global warming per se (not necessarily related to coal), so if it interests you, you can find our whole global warming series here.

    Also: although the meanderings in this thread are interesting, it would be great to hear more of your thoughts on GW + coal specifically…

  • http://energypriorities.com dubois

    You’re right that we’re stuck with coal as fuel for a long time. Direct combustion is the major drawback. Power generation from burning coal emits significant amounts of sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), mercury and carbon, contributing to numerous health and environmental concerns.

    Subsidies and pollution standards can drive solutions into place, while efficiency measures buy us more time.

    The Clean Air Act of 1970 set emission standards, but existing plants were grandfathered. Today, 850 of those plants are still operating, exempt from the 1970 emission standards until they upgrade something.

    The primary clean coal technology under discussion is coal gasification. This allows some of the impurities in the coal to be removed before it is burned.

    EPAct 05 encourages clean coal commercialization and helps huge companies like GE Energy — they purchased ChevronTexaco’s coal gasification business and want to offer an integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) facility. It also helps small companies like InnovaTek — they can extract hydrogen during the gasification process.

    Coal is subsidized, like every other source of energy in the U.S. If subsidies are the carrot for reducing toxic emissions from coal, separate legislation intended to curb pollutants would be the stick. Before utilities upgrade their grandfathered plants, they want assurances regarding which pollutants — SO2, NOx, particulate mercury and carbon — they’ll be required to manage.

    http://energypriorities.com/entries/2005/02/2005_energy_bil_1.php

    http://energypriorities.com/entries/2004/08/coal_energy_is.php

  • metolius8

    Coal? You can get energy from Coal? Gee, who’d a thunk it? Cheap and dirty? Bring it on? Somewhere there are CEO’s about to get 10-20% bonus for this NEW idea.

  • metolius8

    This just in : “China iwill outstrip the US as the primary immitter of grean house gases in the year 2009, a full decade earlier than was originally projected.” Anyone want to taKe my bet that it happens before the end of 2007?

  • jazzman

    I just happened upon an interesting (to me anyway) fact about the Coal Fired electricity generating Scherer Plant in Forsyth, GA burns ~28 billion lb. of coal per year and plans to expand. That 14 million tons takes over 1,000 110-car unit (over a mile long) coal trains per year to supply the fuel and that’s just one power plant.

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    I just read an article in the new Earth First! Journal about an Uprising in Bangadesh this August… breifly paraphrased…

    Six people were killed and 100 injured in Northern Bangladesh when 70,000 people marching in the streets against the British firm, Asia Energy Corporation’s plans to spearhead open pit coal mines were met by police with tear gas who were firing live amunition. The protest was then supported by a general strike. Protesters burned 6 homes of AEC officials and an effigy of Bangladeshi Energy Advisor, Mahmudur Rahman. Unions, Students and the opposition party shut down 2 districts and riots ensued. Demonstrators cut the telephone lines and burned a rice mill donated by AEC as a “good will” gesture. The goverment gave in and cancelled AEC’s contract.

    The protesters claimed that the open pit coal mines would displace 40,000 people and destroy a 3,200 acre forest as well as pollute rivers, destroy biodiversty and farmland and ruin historic and religious archeological sites.

    I’d say that’s tellin’ um!

  • http://mazar.ca Rochelle Mazar

    But…surely the kids wouldn’t lie to us about coal! Technology is the answer! :P

  • Avi Chomsky

    Here in Salem Massachusetts, our power plant (owned by Dominion Energy) imports most of its coal from Colombia. This is increasingly true throughout the eastern U.S. and Canada. The mines in Colombia are huge, open-pit mines (including Cerrejon, the largest open-pit coal mine in the world), and they are all foreign owned. I just got back from a delegation sponsored by the union at the Cerrejon mine, and representatives of Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities that have been displaced or are being slowly asphyxiated by the mine. There is very exciting organizing going on there, and in the US, Canada, and Europe, in support of these communities. See http://home.earthlink.net/~sintracarbon/ and http://home.comcast.net/~nscolombia/ for more information.

  • lagoa

    Chris, 1,000 Americans die mining coal every year? This must be wrong.

  • mbswartz

    Chris,

    Plenty of people still burn coal to heat their homes. I heat my home with a 100-year old coal stove, and save enormous amounts of money compared to wood and oil. It’s not for everybody, but the economics are compelling.

    Paying $78/ton for nut anthracite compared to 180 gallons of fuel oil at $2.85/gal for the same BTUs delivered is a no brainer. There is no way I can afford not to use coal.

    MB

  • http://mazar.ca Rochelle Mazar

    Re: coal mining deaths, from Mine Safety and Health Administration fact sheet:

    Where annual coal mining deaths had numbered more than 1,000 a year in the early part of the 20th century, they decreased to an average of about 451 annual fatalities in the 1950s, and to 141 in the 1970s. The yearly average in coal mining decreased to 45 fatalities during the 1990′s.

    So there you go.

  • mbswartz

    As the discussion on radio evolves, you can talk moral issues all you want… my moral issue is keeping my family warm at a price I can afford. For me, $78 of coal equals $513 in oil. Who among you would switch for that price?

  • 1st/14th

    A few things to mull over. The statement of 150 “plants” should more appropriately be called “units” (and many of these are new units on existing sites to replace smaller older units) and is an estimate and like the expansion of combined cycle natural gas plants in the 90′s (only about 60% of which were actually built), will be governed by the cost of the fuel vs capital expense to build a plant. When a BTU of gas was only twice what coal was it made sense to build gas fired plants that cost about 350 $/kW as opposed to 800 $/kW, but since gas prices climbed steadily for the past 15 years, it was inevitable that Coal would make a comeback, big time. The date this come back of coal began, had nothing to do with who was in the Whitehouse in 2001, it was all about economics, and a lot of big new coal projects were in the works as late as 97-98. The up front capital cost of coal is far offset by the low cost of the fuel. The expansion of coal mining in Appalachia also has as much to do with the bottleneck in the Powder River basin rail transport. Utilities prefer to burn PRB, and there is plenty of it.

    As far as there not being anything novel about new coal plants, that just demonstrates Goodell’s ignorance. Circulating fluidized bed boilers are low emission (except for CO2) and is a relatively new state of the art technology. And China going green?!? The Chinese have near 400, +600MW units coming on line in the next 5 years!

    I found it a shade dishonest when Goodell claimed that the “coal industry” does not want us to know where our power comes from, and “hides” it. The fact that people don’t know much about where their electricity comes from is a testament to the professionalism and dedication of the men and women who make this marvel of technology run so seamlessly. We don’t think about it, because we don’t have to! Every time we turn the lights or TV or computer on, it works so well that people take this convenience for granted. Does the “water industry” try to “hide” the process of water purification because no one knows how it works? Does the “dairy industry” “hide” it dirty business because no one knows how cheese is made? Come on, this is just silly.

    And I just loved how Goodell got PWNED by Friedmann when it was time to talk about how the technology actually works and how it could be applied.

    Its all moot though, nuclear is the wave of the future.

  • gwiegand

    Burn coal, don’t burn coal. Like most of the problems facing the world today, it really doesn’t matter if you don’t curb population growth. Conservation and increased energy efficiency are great, but we can’t “conserve” our way out of our energy problems if increased conservation is offset by more people consuming. We can’t depend on renewable energy sources either, if we can’t curb or rather decrease our population. Every problem facing the world today is exacerbated by increasing population – pollution, crime, famine, energy – you name it. So, along with offering tax incentives for conservation, let’s really get serious and offer tax incentives for not having children or for having only one child instead of rewarding people for procreating and making the problems worse.

  • lagoa

    Rochelle Mazar – Thank you for the stats — Wiki says there were 28 coal mining deaths in 2004. This is so far away from the 1,000 deaths/year that Chris claimed that it surprises me that it would pass his smell test. In any case, an extra fact check is in order for the next time. For anyone who missed it, here’s my transcription of what was said in the intro on coal:

    “a prodigious cost for getting it out of the earth — 1,000 deaths per year for the last century.”

    Saying ’1,000 deaths per year IN the last century’ would have been a correct, if unenlightening, statement.

  • jeffgoodell

    Great show, inspired discussion. I was glad to be part of it. To respond to a few of the comments above:

    1. Yes, 1,000 deaths a year is wrong. 45 coal miners have been killed in the US so far this year, more than twice as many as last year. http://www.msha.gov

    2. Circulating fluidized bed technology has been around since the 1970s. It offers some effeciency improvements, but doesn’t help with ability to capture CO2.

    3. On the show, Julio Friedmann suggested that you could capture CO2 from a conventional coal plant for 10% increase in electricity price. This is a wee bit — shall we say — optimistic. The recent IPCC report on carbon capture and storage, which is considered by many the best study out there, put the cost increase at between 40 and 90 percent (www.ipcc.ch/activity/srccs/ — see chapter 8, table 8-3a). The fact is, because of the costs and ineffeciencies, nobody in the industry that I’ve talked to believes we’ll be capturing CO2 from conventional combustion plants — especially combustion plants that are already built — anytime in the forseeable future. The game here in the US is to get grandfathered in, then keep dumping CO2 into the air while you rake in cash. In many cases, it’s really that simple. Carbon capture and storage may be a workable solution to CO2 emissions from some coal plants, but it’s misleading to suggest that it’s easy or cheap. And we haven’t even touched on safety issues connected with burying billions of tons of CO2 underground….

  • http://www.eaa-phev.org rfulcher

    It all comes down to one word… “Combustion”.

    We need to Question Combustion. Be it coal, oil, or forests, the act of combusting hydrocarbons in the presence of Oxygen will releases CO2. It can’t be avoided, so we need to stop combusting things. There are plenty of ways we can maintain our modern lifestyles without combustion by using solar energy more directly. Coal, Oil, NG, and trees are “Old Solar Energy”. Hydro power, Solar PV, Solar thermal, and Wind are near term solar resources. We already power our homes and industries with electricity, we can also power our cars with electricity. In fact our electric cars will have more performance and last longer with less maintainance than the ICE (Internal COMBUSTION Engine) currently have. So, in the end it all comes down to utilizing near term solar energy and moving away from combustion in all it’s various forms….

  • Old Nick

    Thank you, Jeff Goodell, for your corrective post, for your participation on the show, and for your eye-opening book.

  • 1st/14th

    Circulating fluidized bed technology has been around since the 1970s. It offers some efficiency improvements, but doesn’t help with ability to capture CO2.

    CFB have comparable efficiency to other types of boilers. Their advantages comes in through lower emissions and fuel flexibility, not efficiency and did not come into service until the mid 80’s.

  • plnelson

    “Its all moot though, nuclear is the wave of the future.”

    There’s no technical reason why nuclear couldn’t/shouldn’t be the wave of the future. The reasons are all political.

    1. Lack of storage for nuclear waste. It’s criminal to let long-term nuclear waste pile up without anywhere to put it. Yucca Mountain is decades overdue and the government keeps dragging its feet on resolving this vital issue.

    2. Insurance liability. The risk of a nuclear accident is very low, so insurance for it should be cheap. Instead, it’s unobtainable, thanks to the Price Anderson Act. The premise of the Price Anderson Act is that the nuclear industry’s liability should be set artificially low, commercial insurance should be limited or blocked, and that if there was a major accident Congress would step in make everything alright. But most business and home owners have never believed this, and in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, their skepticism has been reinforced.

    We could have a thriving nuclear power industry in the US if #1 and #2 were properly addressed. But until they are most people would be sensible to oppose nuclear power.

  • plnelson

    “Burn coal, don’t burn coal. Like most of the problems facing the world today, it really doesn’t matter if you don’t curb population growth.”

    Technically you’re right, of course, but it ain’t gonna happen. This is “Think Global, Act Local”‘s worst nightmare.

    At a local level many places ar now promoting MORE people. Several European nations have recently instituted incentived to have MORE children because of the declining labor force and fear of having to rely on immigrant workers. Even China is said to b rethinking their “one child” policy in the wake of recent projections of labor shortages in future years!

  • http://www.radioopensource.org Chris

    My figure of 1,000 deaths a year in the extraction of coal was wrong for recent years, but neither is the 45 figure quite right. I interpolated sloppily from Corey Powell’s review last summer in the NYT Book Review. It noted:” More than 104,000 Americans died digging out coal between 1900 and 2005; twice as many may have died from black lung.” So I should have said something to the effect that: over the past century, on average a thousand miners have died digging coal every year, not counting untold thousands more who died slowly of the direct effects like black lung disease. Apologies for my mistake! And thanks for the authoritative corrections and the significant swing toward safer mining.

  • zeke

    I haven’t heard the show yet. I am recording it now to listen to in the car. However, I want to pass on that this morning I got a phone call from some organization (actually from the phone bank they hired) to invite me to join some sort of “nonpartisan advocacy group for balancing electric costs and resources.” Or something like that.

    I was told that at no cost to me I could be listed as a supporter and member. I would receive updates on legislative issues etc.

    When I pressed the caller regarding the funding for this group, I was passed on to the supervisor. She informed me that it was sponsored by the electricity and coal industries.

    Interesting.

  • mark rostron

    Superconductors change everything.

    If you can transmit power over large distances with zero transmission loss, it means that you no longer need to co-locate power supply and demand.

    American Superconductors is an example of a company that is already transmitting power over large distances on the american east coast with zero tranmission loss.

    Here is an article:

    http://www.mitforumcambridge.org/archive/r_apr02.html#sponsor

    So, given this technology, why can we not consider re-building (again) a set of large wind-power stations – in the areas where they are most efficient – and using cryogenic technology to transmit the power to the demand – probably retaining most of the existing grid in the demand areas, and re-furbishing the real estate currently occupied by fossil-fuel power generators to act as drop zones.

    Yes, this is probably about a 20-year plan, but we must start sometime, and think of the jobs and technical opportunities that it would retain in this country in the meantime.

    thanks for reading this post.

    mr

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