The Desolation of Coal

227469274_a0fdccd5c8.jpgKentucky has selected a site to build a $4 billion coal-to-liquids plant in Pike County that would produce 50,000 barrels of liquid coal a day. According to Kentucky’s Lexington Herald-Leader:

…The county would use federal and state grant money to put the basic infrastructure in place, including water and sewer, and the company chosen to operate the facility would pay for the rest.

County officials have not yet secured funding, but Ruther­ford said he has received support from Gov. Steve Beshear, as well as several others, including state Rep. Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook.

Joe has written often about the climate dangers of coal-to-liquids, and recently about the health dangers of living near coal plants. There are also other consequences.

An Op-Ed in the Kentucky’s Lexington Herald-Leader serves as a stark reminder that coal will never be clean. Robert Richardson, a former coal miner, writes passionately about the death of Kentucky’s streams under the onslaught from mountain-top removal. On revisiting a favorite spot, he writes:

I was shocked and completely dismayed by what I found on a recent trip: Roaring Branch no longer roars. It doesn’t growl or even bark; it barely whimpers. There is only a trickle of water down the hollow now. … What could have caused such a beautiful stream of water that has run for thousands of years to dry up like that? For those of us who travel from Lynch across Black Mountain, the reason is very clear when you look at what has happened down on the Virginia side of the mountain. The mountain has been torn to pieces. Mountaintop-removal mining has extended down behind Roaring Branch, and the stream has literally disappeared. Southwestern Virginia has lost one of its crown jewels.

He goes on to point out that coal jobs are not renewable:

The coal companies are like the little boy who cried wolf. When an effort is made to stop mountaintop removal, they cry that their mines will have to shut down and that everyone will lose their jobs. I have yet to see a coal company that actually cares about the long-term financial situation of its employees. When the coal is gone, the companies will lay off the workers and never think of them again. This achieves the desired effect of scaring the men whose jobs are threatened, and thus, politicians become weak in the knees and are scared to do anything about it.

The Army Corps of Engineers turns a blind eye to it because they have been told to do so by politicians in Washington.

In contrast, wind and solar don’t run out, and neither do their jobs.

For more information, try and Coal is Clean.

Related posts:

–Earl K.

8 Responses to The Desolation of Coal

  1. crf says:

    It’s difficult for renewable energy sources to compete when non-renewable energy sources are allowed by politicians to do minimal remediation, or pay nothing at all for the harms they cause.

  2. David B. Benson says:

    And when King Coal receives actual subsidies paid for by taxpayers.

  3. Russ says:

    The jobs argument is especially offensive given the fact that MTR’s main goal is to liquidate most mining jobs. I think MTR employs something like 1/5 as many workers as conventional mining.
    This is just another example of how coal is a fundamental evil, how its effects are completely pernicious, and how such an ethos attracts only the wicked to seek their careers in it.

  4. Peter Sinclair says:

    Does anyone have any figures on subsidies for coal?
    Robert Kennedy mentioned a trillion dollars per year on CNN the other night, but
    I can’t find a source for that>.

  5. Mark Shapiro says:

    Value of the subsidies for coal probably varies with the estimates of the externalities of mining and burning coal.

    You can see the damage of mountain top removal easily on Google Earth. Start about 500 miles above WV and KY, then zoom in on any of the little white scars you see in the green of Appalachia. It’s daunting.

  6. Ken Dannager says:

    Please start a list of people who are actually doing something to stop coal mining in the quickest, surest way possible: by boycotting electical power.

  7. Rick says:

    On July 21st, 2008 at 11:37 am Ken Dannager:

    Please start a list of people who are actually doing something to stop coal mining in the quickest, surest way possible: by boycotting electical power.


    Straw man arguments don’t work here. Besides you can purchase renewable energy in dergulated markets where the money goes exclusively to renewable energy. While the mix still has coal in it you are voting with your dollars to pay for renewables only.

  8. John Hollenberg says:

    > Please start a list of people who are actually doing something to stop coal mining in the quickest, surest way possible: by boycotting electical power.

    Actually, decreasing use of electrical power can have a very powerful effect. This can also be done significantly by increasing electrical efficiency rapidly. I just went through my house with a Kill-A-Watt meter and found 40 watts of “phantom load” power (which I disconnected). A bit of extra hassle to plug in the printer or UPS for computer when I really need it, but this change will probably save me about 10% of my power usage. I plan to buy a new refrigerator in the next month or so, which will use 410 KWH per year instead of the estimated 820 KWH from the 12 year old model I currently have. None of these actions will affect my standard of living, but if everyone in the U.S. did this there would be a significant drop in baseload power demand.