Tumblr Icon RSS Icon

Peabody Chairman and CEO Boyce: We can only save the poor by destroying them — with coal

By Joe Romm  

"Peabody Chairman and CEO Boyce: We can only save the poor by destroying them — with coal"


google plus icon

The greatest crisis we confront in the 21st Century is not a future environmental crisis predicted by computer models, but a human crisis today that is fully within our power to solve. For too long, too many have been focused on the wrong end game.

For everyone who has voiced a 2050 greenhouse gas goal, we need 10 people and policy bodies working toward the goal of broad energy access. Only once we have a growing, vibrant, global economy providing energy access and an improved human condition for billions of the energy impoverished can we accelerate progress on environmental issues such as a reduction in greenhouse gases.

That would be Gregory H. Boyce Chairman and CEO of Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal company.”  Last week he “outlined a multi-step plan to eliminate energy poverty and inequality by unlocking the power of coal to advance energy security, generate economic stimulus and create environmental solutions.”

Yes, the power of coal needs “unlocking.”  Poor, imprisoned, climate-destroying coal — can anyone set it free from its rampant growth curve?

Boyce can relax.  For everyone who has voiced a 2050 greenhouse gas goal there are 10 people funded by the corporate polluters to shout them down, spread disinformation, or lobby against serious action (see “Dirty Money“).

The rest of us, however, can’t relax because here is the “Peabody Plan”:

  1. Working to eliminate energy poverty and propelling global economies by ensuring that at least half of new generation is fueled by coal, the dominant global baseload source of power;
  2. Replacing the 1,000 gigawatts of traditional coal plants with supercritical and ultrasupercritical plants, which are more efficient and carbon capture ready;
  3. Developing at least 100 major projects around the world that capture, store or use carbon dioxide from coal-based plants within 20 years;
  4. Deploying significant coal-to-gas, coal-to-chemicals and coal-to-liquids projects around the world over the next 10 years. Such plants are in heavy development in China, and doing so elsewhere would reduce risky reliance on scarce oil and volatile natural gas; and
  5. Commercializing and deploying next generation clean coal technologies to achieve continued environmental improvement and ultimately near-zero emissions.

If even half of that happens, you can pretty much guarantee unending misery and poverty for billions and billions of people in the coming decades (see “An introduction to global warming impacts: Hell and High Water“  and “Congress should say NO to coal-to-diesel).


While I have argued repeatedly on CP that rich countries will be devastated by unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions, we do at least have the wealth to minimize the worst impacts on most of our citizens for many decades.  The poor around the world, those Peabody claims to be interested in helping, will find that the livable climate that they had depended upon — the water from glacial melt, relatively stable sea levels, and rainfall and arable land — will slowly vanish for a long, long time (see NOAA stunner: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe).

The poor will inevitably suffer from the most from the hit that global agriculture takes from human-caused climate change:

And the poor already suffer the most from climate disruption caused by global warming driven by human emissions of greenhouse gases (see Juan Cole: The media’s failure to cover “the great Pakistani deluge” is “itself a security threat” to America).

Certainly, lifting billions of people out of poverty is a top global priority certainly as important as avoiding catastrophic global warming.  But pretending that greenhouse gas emissions do not have an extremely high societal cost right now is to ignore everything we know about science.  That’s why aggressive deployment of energy efficiency and low carbon energy sources — coupled with a high and rising price for CO2 — remains the only rational strategy for people who care about the poor, future generations, and everyone else.


‹ Climate zombies on the march: Senate nominee John Raese (R-WV) blames volcanoes for global warming

Martin Bunzl on “the definitive killer objection to geoengineering as even a temporary fix” ›

18 Responses to Peabody Chairman and CEO Boyce: We can only save the poor by destroying them — with coal

  1. mike roddy says:

    Progressive citizens around the world should begin to monitor commercial and consumer products made from coal power, and boycott them. Since politicians from the US and elsewhere have been bribed, this may be the only course of action available.

    It would not be difficult to put together a list of these companies’ carbon and pollution footprint, and long ocean voyages to deliver merchandise from bunker fueled container ships should also be part of the calculation. If detailed data is not available from certain countries such as China, then their national coal powered ratio should be applied.

    National Green organizations, with the exception of Rainforest Action Network, have been reluctant to use this tool. This step is long overdue: talk is not working, and our political leadership is hopeless.

    A good start would be to go to Walmarts in Red states, and put together information packets showing the consequences of buying some of these products. Activists should be prepared to distribute press releases and information flyers.

    Peabody and Chinese manufacturers don’t care what people say, because, as is in this post, they are learning to “manage” public perception. Hitting them with boycotts is one of the few tools we have left.

  2. cervantes says:

    And daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County
    G7 C
    Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
    F C
    Well I’m sorry my son but you’re too late in asking
    G7 C
    Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away . . .

    (By John Prine)

  3. Chris Winter says:

    Cervantes beat me to it. But if you Google “John Prine Paradise” you’ll be able to listen to a full version through iLike.

    This Wikipedia entry has quite a bit to say about Muhlenberg County, KY and the world’s largest shovel.


  4. Richard Miller says:

    To Mike Roddy,

    Mike I have read your posts on the carbon capture potential of the Pacific Northwest and the problems of logging in the US and Canada. I am a professor and moderator of our green group on campus and I would like to get students involved in pushing big corporations, those who are destroying old forests etc. Do you have list of corporations and the products they sell who are contributing most to logging old growth forests in the US? Or is there a particular group that knows what corporations to go after? I am also interested in your idea of monitoring companies that are most reliant on coal and targeting them. Thanks.

  5. Nancy says:

    I read an article on Huffington Post called “Chuitna and the Curse of Coal” which is worth sharing.

    The author is working on a “documentary film about the biggest environmental issue in Alaska that no one has ever heard of. PacRim Coal, a Delaware company funded by Texas investors, and Barrick Gold, headquartered in Ontario Canada, combined hold leases to about sixty thousand acres of land (much of it coastal, riverfront, and wetlands) that promise to yield an estimated 1 billion metric tons of low-quality sub-bituminous coal that will be strip mined, crushed, shipped to Asia, burned and returned to Alaska in the form of acid and particulates that will ride the prevailing winds back across the Pacific to rain out on ocean, field, stream and forest of the land from which it came. The Chuitna coal mine would be the largest in the state, and the first large-scale mining operation in Alaska to be permitted to mine directly through a productive salmon stream.”


  6. Windsong says:

    Nancy, that is so depressing! I keep wondering when are we going to stand up to these people? According to Bob Hirsch, lead author of U.S. DOE 2005 Report–we only have about 2- 5 years left before oil shortages begin. Maybe that will bring this whole darn evil culture down!

  7. Windsong says:

    If this occurs– what Hirsch predicted, about the oil shortages beginning in a couple of years, will that mitigate GW?

  8. toby says:

    Still the best comment on Peabody Energy:


    When I was a child, my family would travel
    Down to western Kentucky where my parents were born
    And there’s a backwards old town that’s often remembered
    So many times that my mem’ries are worn

    And daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County
    Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
    Well, I’m sorry, my son, but you’re too late in asking
    Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away

    Well sometimes we’d travel right down the Green River
    To the abandoned old prison down by Adrie Hill
    Where the air smelled like snakes and we’d shoot with our pistols
    But empty pop bottles was all we would kill

    And daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County
    Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
    Well, I’m sorry, my son, but you’re too late in asking
    Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away

    And the coal company came with the world’s largest shovel
    And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land
    Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken
    Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man

    And daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County
    Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
    Well, I’m sorry, my son, but you’re too late in asking
    Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away

  9. mike roddy says:

    Richard Miller:

    Please send me an email to mike.greenframe@gmail.com and I will do my best to answer your questions, and provide links etc.

    Thanks for your interest. If your university is on the West Coast, maybe I could drop by sometime- I’ve guest lectured on college campuses before.

  10. Roger says:

    Meanwhile, to add fuel to the heated discussion of coal’s future, over 100 folks from the Appalachian coalfields, along with climate scientist and hero Jim Hansen, were arrested in front of the White House today.

    They were nonviolently asking the Obama administration to work towards the goal of abolishing the mountain top removal coal mining that is detroying their beautiful US homeland. This was part of a series of “Appalachia Rising” events held in Washington over the weekend.

    President Obama has been a fabulous breath of fresh on climate change relative to the previous administration, but, with SO MUCH at stake for our future, it’s fair to ask him to do more–for us and all our kids!

    Everyone is invited to come to Washington to join the “White House Work Party” in front of the White House” at 1PM on Sunday afternoon, October 10th, as described more fully at http://www.gwenet.org and the links therin.

    We will be thanking President Obama for what he has done so far, then encouraging him to do more. As a leader of the free world, we want him to free us from our heavy American dependence on fossil fuels–both domestic and imported. We want him to lead us to a future that is free of hell and high water for our kids and grandkids.

    Jim Hansen is expected to speak at this 1PM Washington, DC 10.10 event, along with the esteemed author of “Hell and High Water,” Joe Romm, plus Bush administration climate science whistle blower, Rick Piltz, “Plan B 4.0″ author, Lester Brown, and many others.

    For those who can’t make it to DC for this event, you can find an event near you on the 350.org website, and/or sign the petition asking Obama to lead on climate at http://www.change.org/global_warming_education_network.

    Warm regards,


  11. J.A. Turner says:

    It reminds me of the Conservative anti-poverty program: Cull the herd by polluting the air, poisoning the water and denying the poor healthcare when they (inevitably) get sick. Reduce the rate of people living in poverty by reclassifying a bunch of them as non-living.

  12. Doug Bostrom says:

    That graph, where it “turns the corner” and plunges upward: that way lies madness.

    We could increase the incomes of the poorest 1/3rd of the world’s population today by an order of magnitude without even noticing. We choose not to do that and no amount of coal is going to change that basic feature of human nature.

    Boyce counts on another feature of human nature, namely that collectively we behave as chumps. He’s right– just look at the graph.

  13. Bill W says:

    “If even half of that happens, you can pretty much guarantee unending misery and poverty for billions and billions of people in the coming decades”

    And it’s a safe bet that if half of it happens, that half won’t include “ultimately near-zero emissions.” That will be paid lip service, but won’t ever happen.

  14. If mountain-top coal mining is so terrible for the environment and only accounts for a small percentage of coal mined; then why not hust outlaw it altogether?

    Check out proSeed and let me know your thoughts: http://proseedjournal.blogspot.com/

  15. Chris Winter says:

    One reason is that eastern coal is considerably lower in sulfur than coal from Wyoming. Hence it is much in demand.

    But the biggest reason is, of course, the near-total stranglehold coal companies have on Appalachia.

  16. Windsong says:

    To Richard Miller: YES! Read, “Strangley Like War” by Derrick Jensen. He specifically names Pacific Lumber as perhaps the most dispicable of the bunch.

  17. Windsong says:

    Richard, go to pg. 22!

  18. Robert says:

    If you want to understand the statistics and trends better they are available here. The data can be downloaded in xls format from the link in the “Historical data” section:

    Try cutting and pasting the numbers for China (1965 – 2009) into Excel, plot on a line graph, then click the “logarithmic scale” checkbox. The data falls on almost a straight line (i.e. exponential growth) over the entire period. At the end of 2009, at 1537.4 mtoe, China’s consumption is almost half of the world total.