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The Audacity Of Coal

I’ve decided I’m in the wrong business. The biggest growth industry in this crappy economy is the Clean Coal Lobby. The main lobbying group, the American Coalition For Clean Coal Electricity spent $10.5 million lobbying for coal last year and $45 million for advertising. They’ve even got the President using the “CC” euphemism. Hey, I could do that! It’s pretty much like what I do now. Just take a few facts, twist them ’til they are unrecognizable and write a story about how clean the industry is. How hard could it be.

Alternet has a story on the “Top 5 Myths About Coal”.  There’s a condensed version on the Huffington Post. Number one on the list:

It’s Clean – Uh, ‘scuse me? Let’s ignore for the moment that burning coal accounts for 30% of our CO2 emissions and is the number one contributor to global warming. Ask the folks in Harriman, TN about clean after a billion gallons of contaminated coal sludge spilled out over 400 acres last December. It will take millions of dollars and many years to clean up the mess. Ask the guys at the Moose Lodge in Colstrip about clean. Drinking the water at the lodge regularly gave them diarrhea and vomiting and they never connected it to the waste ponds a half mile away.  Finally it sunk in and 57 residents sued the power company over groundwater pollution in 2003. It cost PPL $25 million to settle the suit. This is the stuff that is left over after cleaning and burning the coal. It contains up to 300 times the legal limits of arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, nickel and thallium. There are no federal regulations on how companies dispose of this toxic stuff, just state regulations. And that’s the way the “clean coal” folks want to keep  it. In fact, our crack Montana lawmakers recently loosened protections that would prevent coal-ash contamination. Another “Clean Coal” investment by the power companies.

“Clean Coal” is a very costly myth. There are 600 coal plants producing power in the U.S. Not One captures it’s greenhouse gases. Experts say, “Maybe in 20 years…”. The EPA says “Burning Coal is the dirtiest way we produce electricity.” Even if we deal with the CO2 sequestration, we are still stuck with cleaning up all the groundwater pollution from the coal waste. It’s also dirty to get it out of the ground and ship it to the power plants.

Sure, coal is cheap, if you ignore all the environmental and human consequences. But then, the “energy companies” don’t have to deal with that stuff. Just let the state or the Feds clean up the mess. Your tax money at work. I won’t go through the whole list, read the article. It’s pretty amazing what $55 million of advertising and lobbying can buy you.

So, when you see the bills moving in the legislature to make it easier for out-of-state corporations to mine and burn coal in Montana, think long and hard about the real consequences of “Clean Coal”. The legislators aren’t doing this to make the process more efficient. The Coal Energy Compainies don’t want the public involved and they have the funding to stop you.  If you haven’t seen the Coen Brothers new commercial for “Clean Coal” take a look.  If you want to know more about the the travails of Colstrip, read “Coal Ash: The Hidden History” at the Center For Public Integrity.

Okay, coal power is a large part of our power grid. It’s going to be around for awhile, but sooner rather than later, we have to wean ourselves from this filthy, dirty habit. Wake up Montana. Wind power investments produce three times as many jobs as coal. Investment in solar projects produce four times as many jobs as coal. Energy efficiency produces 30 times as many jobs as coal power. Stop making it easier to mine coal and build dirty power plants that ship their power out of Montana.


2 Responses

  1. “when you see the bills moving in the legislature to make it easier for out-of-state corporations to mine and burn coal in Montana”

    What bills?
    Also, you say “Wind power investments produce three times as many jobs as coal. Investment in solar projects produce four times as many jobs as coal.”
    You provide no facts to back these statements up.

    • Thanks for the comment. HB529, HB483, HB566 and SB387 are all bills aimed at removing citizens from the permitting process. See previous posts on the subject. Only HB566 didn’t make it past transmital.

      There are many studies that conclude that investment in clean energy provides more job opportunity than coal jobs. Coal has become much more mechanized. Productivity is going up and the number of jobs is decreasing. The only place coal provides more jobs is in health care.
      One example

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