Sunday, March 29, 2015

War on Big Coal is Killing Us?

If you base all your decisions on assumptions that fly in the face of well-over 97% of qualified scientific findings and research, then you can take all kinds of outrageous positions and, when questioned, respond with syllogistic slogans and conclusions like, “Well, I’m not a scientist,” or “The Bible just wouldn’t let that happen,” or hold a snowball in your hand to prove that the planet cannot be getting hotter.
But just here in the United States, without addressing even more disastrous results in other parts of the world, we are facing horrific and unprecedented storm surges, water shortages in Western and Midwestern states that drag on for years, raging and frequent forest fires in Colorado, California, Arizona and New Mexico, coastal erosion plus flooding and impaired fallow farmland that may never grow crops for decades, perhaps centuries or even longer.
Global warming is real, notwithstanding the eastern cold flow from shunted arctic air the last couple of winters. Most of the temperature increases are directly attributable to greenhouse gasses trapped and growing in the atmosphere generated from humanity’s massive burning of fossil fuels. The worst offender is the use of coal to generate electricity, which, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (a federal agency), is used to generate 39% of this country’s electricity (I’ve seen other government agencies put the number at 44%). I’ve discussed the mythology of “clean coal” in past blogs, so it is completely unnecessary to reproduce that information again. See my February 16thblog, Clean Coal is Dirtier than Ever.
We could make a big difference reasonably quickly, if there weren’t so many special interests not remotely concerned with health or safety. “The United States could eliminate all carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired electric power plants [by 2030], according to a recent article in Environmental Science & Technology, a publication of the American Chemical Society.” And it is interesting to note how much of the underlying fossil fuel is extracted from taxpayer-owned land.
 “Taxpayer-owned coal is the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress and The Wilderness Society… The report, released [March 19th], finds that emissions from coal, oil and gas that is mined or drilled on federal lands and waters could account for 24 percent of all energy-related greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 [in the U.S.]. The report also concludes that more than 10 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions result from the combustion of coal extracted on public lands in Wyoming and Montana, primarily in the Powder River Basin (PRB), where 40 percent of all U.S. coal is produced.
“The report was released as coal companies operating on federal lands in the PRB are coming under increasing scrutiny for allegedly evading royalties by selling coal to their own subsidiary companies at depressed prices. With [the March 19th] report, it appears Americans are not only missing out royalty payments that are owed for publicly owned coal, but are also footing the bill for high pollution costs that result from fossil-fuel extraction on public lands.”, March 20th.
Getting back to letting ignorance justify increasingly stupid policies, myth-mongers who collect substantial campaign contributions from the pesky, petulant purveyors of polluting products and processes, seem to think that satisfying greed-needs trumps providing a safe and productive world for the rest of us to live and work in. “Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has begun an aggressive campaign to block President Obama’s climate change agenda in statehouses and courtrooms across the country, arenas far beyond Mr. McConnell’s official reach and authority.
“The campaign of Mr. McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is aimed at stopping a set of Environmental Protection Agency regulations requiring states to reduce carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants, the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
“Once enacted, the rules could shutter hundreds of coal-fired plants in what Mr. Obama has promoted as a transformation of the nation’s energy economy away from fossil fuels and toward sources like wind and solar power. Mr. McConnell, whose home state is one of the nation’s largest coal producers, has vowed to fight the rules…
“[On March 19th], Mr. McConnell sent a detailed letter to every governor in the United States laying out a carefully researched legal argument as to why states should not comply with Mr. Obama’s regulations. In the letter, Mr. McConnell wrote that the president was ‘allowing the E.P.A. [federal Environmental Protection Agency] to wrest control of a state’s energy policy.’…
In addition to stopping state-level enactment of the climate rules, Mr. McConnell’s strategy is intended to undercut Mr. Obama’s position internationally as he tries to negotiate a global climate change treaty to be signed in Paris in December. The idea is to create uncertainty in the minds of other world leaders as to whether the United States can follow through on its pledges to cut emissions…
Mr. McConnell opened his campaign on March 3 with an op-ed article published in The Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky with the headline, ‘States should reject Obama mandate for clean-power regulations.’ Mr. McConnell urged governors to refuse to submit climate change compliance plans to the E.P.A., citing the arguments [that EPA regulations are unconstitutional].
“Mr. McConnell contends that the Obama administration has bypassed Congress and stretched the boundaries of existing law to impose climate change regulations — and that he intends to step outside of Congress and use creative legal methods to push back.
“‘The E.P.A. is bypassing Congress and the American people by unilaterally proposing these crippling regulations that would wreak havoc on our economy and are clearly unprecedented,’ he said. ‘I have used and will continue to use all of the tools available to protect families and jobs, whether that be in Congress, or outside of the legislative process.’” New York Times, March 19th.
Mitch McConnell and his ilk have coined the catch phrase of Obama’s War on Coal, to them a job killer and economic growth destroyer. But coal producers and power generators do not remotely pay for the damage they cause. The medical bills, the farmers who cannot grow crops, the loss of valuable timber from burned forests, the homes and infrastructure lost from flood and storm surges, etc., etc. are all hard-dollar costs that “others” – from taxpayers to those who suffer unreimbursed damage – must pay. That damage eclipses the value of all the potential lost coal-related jobs and profits… but somehow those who inflict that damage and the politicians they have bought and paid for never seem to run those numbers. Coal is killing us, our quality of life, too many farms and coastal properties.
What is the President doing in this area that is, once again, drawing the ire of the Republican Party? “President Obama signed an executive order on [March 19th] to set new goals for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of federal agencies, his latest use of his executive authority to address the root causes of climate change and press private companies and foreign governments to follow suit.
“Mr. Obama’s directive orders federal agencies over the next decade to cut their emissions by an average of 40 percent compared with their levels when he won office in 2008, and to increase their use of electricity from renewable sources by 30 percent.
“The goals are in line with a commitment that he announced in November as part of a climate agreement with China. In the deal, Mr. Obama said the United States would reduce its emissions of the heat-trapping gases that are warming the planet by 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.” NY Times. Who’s fighting which war against whom? Are the American people the victims or the victors? Guess! Money in this country trumps just about every other value we hold dear.
I’m Peter Dekom, and either we care about our world, the quality of our lives and perhaps our survival… or we lie down and slowly see our lives crushed.

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