Addicted to Coal 12 things CPS should do instead of burning coal at a power plant

"Coal is the most carbon-intensive of all fossil fuels: For every ton you burn, three tons of carbon dioxide are created. As everyone knows, CO2 is the main greenhouse gas responsible for heating up the planet. Globally, coal is responsible for about 40 percent of all CO2 emissions. In America we burn more than a billion tons of coal a year, mostly to generate electricity...

"America is "the Saudi Arabia of coal."... blessed with a 250-year supply of black rocks... If the CO2 problem can be solved... energy independence won't be far behind...

"Big Coal is an industry that has thrived for 100 years by fighting off change, isolating itself from market forces and generally depending on political muscle to get its way...

"...get ready for years of talk about the promise of carbon capture and storage but very little action...

"Coal's ace in the hole has always been that it's cheap... coal is cheap in the same way that fast food is cheap--because all the health and environmental costs are offloaded onto the public and not included in the bottom line... deploying carbon capture and storage will raise the wholesale price of electricity from new coal plants by 50 percent... a lot of people will ask, Why bother?" (Jeff Goodell. "The Dirty Rock." The Nation, May 7, 2007: 30-32).

"...the New York Times came crashing through with a page one story on August 9, continued in five full-page columns inside. The headline was: "Friends in the White House Come to Coal's Aid."

"Its target was the favoritism to the coal mining industry extended by Bush appointees at both Interior and the Labor Department, both of which are supposed to control (1) the damaging environmental impact of the coal industry's strip mining and mountaintop removal in Appalachia, and (2) the protection of underground mine workers, particularly by limiting the coal dust that kills thousands of them with "black lung disease."

"As we have reported from time to time, the most visible atrocity of the coal industry in Appalachia is mountaintop removal -- the use of giant cranes and earth-movers to shove off tons of rubble, the entire tops of mountains holding seams of coal, and dumpt them into timbered, stream filled -- and people filled -- valleys below.

"It turns out that the second in command at the Interior Department, Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles, was -- well, still is -- a lobbyist for mining interests.

"The Times also found that David Lauriski, a former top executive of a coal mining company, who is now the Bush-appointed head of the Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration, ardently goes along with the coal industry's resistance to any costly coal-dust limits in underground mines. The Times says that black-lung disease "kills hundreds of miners every year."

"The watchdog Center for Responsive Politics has found that in the last six years coal companies and their executives have given $9 million to political candidates and party committees -- 90 percent of it to Republicans" ("Political Cookbooks." Washington Spectator, Sep. 1, 2004: 4).

"...the heart of West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky... the Appalachians... serence, ancient beauty...

"In a cabal of ignorance and arrogance, giant coal corporations and their political henchmen literally are decapitating the Appalachian Mountains. It's called "mountaintop removal" (MTR)--a form of strip-mining that is so dastardly, so perverse, so destructive, so unbelievable, and so unnecessary as to leave anyone who sees it whopperjawed, if not temporarily insane with outrage. To see it is to witness a brutal rape.

"Instead of either tunneling down into mountains or boring in from the side, coal companies devised a nifty new process some 30 years ago that letes them get to the coal much more cheaply and requires only a handful of workers. In essence, they simply blow off the top third or so of the mountains, exposing layers of coal which they then scoop out.

"First, though, they scalp the mountains. They coldly clear-cut valuable oak and other hardwood trees, then brutally bulldoze them into huge piles... and burn them as trash. Next, using massive shovels, they scrape off the ancient forest floor down to bedrock, removing all plant life, organisms, and topsoil.

"After this come the fireworks. Mineworkers drill holes down into the rock and fill them with [explosives]. Next, excavating machines the size of 20-story buildings dig into the rock rubble and remove it, leveling the mountaintop and revealing coal.

"The ugliness isn't over yet. All those tons of boulders, sandstone, topsoil, and vegetation that were scraped, dug, and blasted are now categorized as "spoil" by the industry and must be "removed" from the now-decapitated mountain before the coal can be taken. Do the companies truck the spoil away? Good gracious, no! That would cost money. Instead, these corporations just shove their waste down into the valleys below, buying streams, animals, habitat, and anything (or anyone) in the way. The dumped rubble rises hundreds of feet high from the valley floors. Rather than calling these piles "dumps," however, the industry prefers to use an almost bucolic phrase: "valley fills"" (Jim Hightower and Phillip Frazer, eds. "The Hightower Lowdown." Nov. 2005.).

Colby Glass, MLIS