In Coal Blood

In Coal Blood

A great article in Salon about the true costs of America’s coal dependence. Go read the whole thing!

This is the great paradox today: In an age of global warming and greater energy and safety awareness, we are also witnessing the great coal revival. Nearly 50 percent of our electricity still comes from coal — the very energy that runs our computers on which we read this story, or our televisions on which we watch the latest reports of cameras snaking down into the mine in Utah in search of survivors. And as our dependency on foreign oil has spilled into the politics of global warfare, dirty coal has been repackaged as “clean coal” by the current Bush administration, which has championed the growth of coal-based power. The administration has done so with an alliance of congressional supporters on both sides of the aisle. There appears to be no real commitment at this point toward renewable or non-fossil-fuel sources of energy.

My letter to Salon (the first letter posted on the story!):

Fossil Energy is Murder

Whether we consider coal-mine deaths, or [respiratory due to particulate matter] deaths above ground (30,000 – 60,000 in the U.S. annually, depending on which study you read), non-renewable energy takes a stunning toll on humanity. To be sure, going without power would be an even greater killer, since electricity runs most of the life-sustaining and enhancing equipment we take for granted. This boon of energy comes at a huge cost, however, and it does not have to be an either/or choice. Renewable energy has been technically feasible for decades, but a national energy policy which rewards and supports fossil energy producers keeps it from being realized.

The worst travesty is that for all the coal we mine, most of the energy produced is wasted. Over 65% thermal conversion loss occurs (Source: EIA Annual Energy Review 2006) in thermal power plants. There’s got to be a better way.

There are so many alternative choices, it’s staggering. Wind, which is coming on strong, tidal power, solar (100 by 100 miles of solar collectors could supply enough energy for the entire country, according to Sandia National Labs), and the biggest source of all: the hot rock underneath our feet. The USGS has a downloadable document about geothermal energy which states the following:

Even if only 1 percent of the thermal energy contained within the uppermost 10 kilometers of our planet could be tapped, this amount would be 500 times that contained in all oil and gas resources of the world.

I mentioned respiratory deaths earlier, but we haven’t even considered the deaths and massive expenditures required to keep U.S. oil imports flowing. North American natural gas has peaked, and soon we will be importing that too, if the business-as-usual crowd has their way. Now that we have C02 to consider in the equation, it is nothing short of criminal to keep consuming coal and other fossil fuels. There is only one reason it’s happening, and it’s the same motivation which underlies the equally deadly global arms trade–money.

But there are fortunes to be made in renewable energy as well. Big fortunes. All it takes is a government with the political will to slap down the entrenched kleptocrats in the fossil industries. Let’s call a halt to the murderous and wasteful U.S. energy policy. Our planet and our lives literally depend on it.


Comments (3 comments)

Reality Czech / August 15th, 2007, 11:40 am / #1

Well spoken, sir.

Valhar2000 / August 29th, 2007, 3:55 am / #2

I often wonder why the “entrenched kleptocrats” are nto the first to jump on the renewable energy bandwagon. From purely selfish considerations, they should see it as a no-brainer; if they conquer the renewable energy market now, when it is small, they will own all of it when it becomes large, and make as much money as they do with oil. Indeed, oil companies should be they ones leading the charge into oil independence!

Am I really that much smartet than them? What am I missing?

BlackSun / August 29th, 2007, 7:40 am / #3

Exactly Valhar. I was just reading last night how Chevron is spending billions to extract oil from 5 miles below the ocean in the Gulf of Mexico, a ridiculously difficult and risky proposition. Those same billions could be spent setting up algae plants next to coal-fired power plants all over the country. They could capture C02 and have a virtually limitless supply of renewable liquid fuels at the same time. I don’t get it.

Now these people get it.

Post a comment

Comments are closed for this post.