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A Bruising Month for Big Coal

 by Keith Goetzman


Tags: Environment, energy, coal, carbon dioxide, activism, civil disobedience,

If I were a coal company executive, I’d feel like I was getting beat up on: The entire month of February has seen big coal being pummeled by politicians, environmental groups, and activists as if it were something dirty. But if I had any sense I’d realize I deserved a beating for shamelessly propagating the most polluting energy source we use—and I’d prepare for another thrashing next month.

Let’s recap. On February 4, the New York Times’ Green Inc. blog chronicled “A Tough Week for Coal,” but that was just the beginning. On February 17, Grist reported on a crowd of coal foes who marched on the Kentucky State Capitol to listen to speakers including actress Ashley Judd and novelist Silas House demand an end to mountaintop removal coal mining. The same day in Washington, writes SolveClimate, the Obama administration’s EPA said it would reconsider whether carbon dioxide should be regulated as a pollutant, a move that would target big coal burners. And yesterday, the anti-coal Reality Coalition released a new mock ad (below) directed by Joel and Ethan Coen that ridicules the spin-speak behind the phrase “clean coal.”

 

So that was coal’s bleak February. Its March starts off with another doozy, a civil disobedience march Monday on the coal-fired power plant that Congress owns. Among the marchers at the Capitol Climate Action event will be high-profile figures such as Bill McKibben, who writes for Yale Environment 360, “Why I’ll Get Arrested to Stop the Burning of Coal.” We wish him the best of luck in both endeavors.

UPDATE (3/2/09): Despite a late-winter D.C. snowstorm, more than 2,000 protesters turned out at the Capitol Climate Climate Action event Monday and blockaded the three main gates to the Capitol Power Plant, according to Jeff Biggers at Huffington Post. No arrests were made. See McKibben's account of the protest at Mother Jones' Blue Marble blog.

Sources: New York Times, Grist, SolveClimate, Reality Coalition, Capitol Climate Action, Yale Environment 360Huffington PostBlue Marble 

carrie_3
3/11/2009 11:20:30 AM

Ray--a rebuttal (maybe this is the clean coal technology you're thinking of): Coincidentally (maybe not) I came across this article in the Appalacian Journal (win09) about the state of coal plants, and they report that in 2003 the Bush admin. and the DoE (department of energy) planned to launch a "near-zero emissions called FutureGen, which was scheduled to be operational by 2012...a new kind of coal plant that can capture CO2 emissions and store them undergroudn, would be ready between 2008 and 2010". Now they say "after spending for FutureGen had nearly doubled to $1.8 billion, the DoE ditched the project, citing cost overruns. And despite the promises form coal CEOs, not a single new coal gasification plant is in operation in the U.S. In fact, not a single coal plant of any type in America, new or old, is currently capturing and storing a single ton of CO2" FURTHERMORE, Jim Rogers, the CEO of Duke Energy (one of the largest coal-burning utilties in America, "admitted at an electric-power-industry conference that carbon capture and storage has been oversold as 'a magical technology that solves the carbon problem for coal plants.' !!! There's so much more in this article about coal, and who do you think knows better about coal than energy CEOs and the Appalacian U.S.??


dbrklyn
3/6/2009 4:22:41 PM

There is no such think as clean coal. Even if we cleaned it at the power plant and sequestered the carbon (at an enormous scale, risk and cost), the extraction of coal is destroying vast parts of the earth and fresh water supply - right here in America. See www.burningthefuture.com for a major award-winning film on the subject - like the mountains of Appalachia, you will be "blown away."


dbrklyn
3/6/2009 4:22:04 PM

There is no such think as clean coal. Even if we cleaned it at the power plant and sequestered the carbon (at an enormous scale, risk and cost), the extraction of coal is destroying vast parts of the earth and fresh water supply - right here in America. See www.burningthefuture.com for a major award-winning film on the subject - like the mountains of Appalachia, you will be "blown away."


keith goetzman_1
3/4/2009 3:50:52 PM

Ray, I'm not sure which two "cleaner coal" technologies you're referring to, but there is not a single power plant demonstrating the commercial viability of such technology in the U.S. And personally, I don't consider a campaign to raise public awareness about the fallacy of "clean coal" to be "whining about the problem." Finally, there are plenty of people and organizations trying to "bring real solutions to market," but most of them are more interested in developing renewable energy sources than trying to clean up coal. Keith Goetzman


r cree
3/4/2009 8:25:44 AM

Yes, there is cleaner coal technologies available now. I know 2 of them---and that does not include a host of other energy efficient solutions sitting waiting for someone to wake up and invest. Unfortunately, the environmentalists are as lazy as the investing class---instead of whining about the problem--why don't they invest their propoganda dollars in bringing real solutions to market? Why don't they spend some of that advertisement money on studying the economic dislocations of the poor and middle class and the real costs of their energy proposals? Given the massive costs that the poor and middle class are paying for the stupidity and arrogance of the investor class, I seriously doubt that the poor and middle class can afford another experiment in new energy markets given the disaster of allowing uncontrolled free markets.