Sunday, June 28, 2009

I haven't been paying attention

When I saw that the Clean Energy and Security Act, so far passed by the House, includes a LOT of money for the oxymoron "clean coal" and for nuclear projects, which both with tunnel vision allowably would reduce CO2, but with wide vision will continue to destroy the rest of the plane we're trying to save.

If these are necessary to pass the bill, then so be it. Politics is a nasty business.

But once the bill finally gets passed, we'll continue our pressure to drop coal and nuclear entirely as they can be phased out by developing the renewable industry. I haven't studied the Act (see the above link) to see exactly how much is apportioned to coal, nuclear and renewables. But I'm hoping the coal and nuclear part is a small percentage of the total.

If you Google clean energy and security act you can read about the positive and negative reactions to the bill from environmentalists, politicians, newspapers and bloggers. There's a lot to read.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Clean Energy and Security Act took its first step

My email Inbox was full of jubilant emails about how the Clean Energy Bill passed the House by 1 vote today. Of course, it has a long ways to go before it can become law. I have also received emails recently from some environmental groups that don't want it. Carbon Cap and Trade is the baby of Environmental Defense, which does a lot of work with industries to get them to change their ways. I rather think that they are the most pragmatic of the environmental groups I support.

With my background in Environmental Management, I found that getting business to change is probably the most effective way to move in the right direction. That's what cap and trade is all about. But it has to be done correctly. I'm hoping that the people who will implement it have looked to Europe to see what went well, what needs improving, and make the American model better!

Even though the situation requires giant steps these days, politicians are not known for more than baby steps. I think a first step is a good thing, and it can grow to met the task.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

James Hansen and Darryl Hannah Arrested for Prostesting Mountaintop Removal

Elizabeth Kolbert has written a long article in the New Yorker magazine about James Hansen, NASA's chief climate scientist, which unfortunately is only available to subscribers. But this blog item "Elizabeth Kolbert: James Hansen Arrested" - along with Darryl Hannah at a mountaintop removal site in West Virginia - has a link to the abstract (and the whole article if you want to purchase it, or go out and buy this week's New Yorker, which they'd probably prefer!)

James Hansen is the guy the Bush administration hassled because he was trying to wake us all up. Of course it isn't convenient if big financial backers just happen to earn their money with coal. He wants to see all coal fired plants stopped entirely in 20 years, which means we'd better start now to find alternatives, and retire the dirties ASAP, so we don't suddenly find us without enough energy.

There are lots of alternative energy solutions ready to go, so it shouldn't be a problem. We just have to get a move on.

By the way, I was at a job fair today looking for a teaching job. Unfortunately some are quite a ways away. I wouldn't mind an hour or so commute if it could be done on public transportation, so I could sleep or read or grade homework during the trip, but I mentioned that to some people and they were thinking more about total time than total available time. why anyone would take a job where they sit in a freeway parking lot for an hour to get to and from is beyond my comprehension, but that's sort of how everyone does in the LA area, because public transportation does not cover the area enough, does not run often enough (and some of the trains share the tracks with freight trains, who own the track!)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Obama, please save the world for your daughters and my grandchildren

Here on Father's Day, the journalists are all over Obama, our First Father. One of the jobs of a father is to protect his children (and maybe also his grandchildren,) which you would think would include the world they are growing up in. He even gave lip-service to this concept in his Letter to his daughters in Parade Magazine in January:
I want us to push the boundaries of discovery so that you'll live to see new technologies and inventions that improve our lives and make our planet cleaner and safer.
But if Daddy Obama doesn't get it soon, the world his grandchildren play in will be dismal.

If you clink the "label" for Barack Obama in this blog, you will find a blogs at the bottom about how fantastic his speech in Berlin was, and a few other positive items, but then as the campaign neared a close, I got more desperate, because he kept mentioning "coal," while I've been fighting mountaintop removal and coal in general time after time.

Today's news in the LATimes brought it home again. Mr Obama is showing again that he is listening more to Big Coal and Oil, not to the environentalists.
Environmentalists baffled by Obama's strategy
The administration is defending in court environmental measures that the president once vowed to roll back. Officials say it is part of a long-term plan, but critics see it as backpedaling.

As a candidate for president, Barack Obama wooed environmentalists with a promise to "support and defend" pristine national forest land from road building and other development that had been pushed by the George W. Bush administration.

But five months into Obama's presidency, the new administration is actively opposing those protections on about 60 million acres of federal woodlands in a case being considered by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Other cases where our promising administration, who came in supporting sustainability, is backpedalling include "spotted owl protection, energy efficiency standards,...hazardous-waste burning", and of course coal.

Mr. Obama! Coal's costs far outweigh benefits

Ken Ward of the Charleston, West Virginia, Gazette reported today on a study by University of West Virginia researcher Michael Hendryx which found that the costs of coal far outweigh the benefits for West Virginia and the entire Appalachian region.
"Coal-mining economies are not strong economies," Hendryx said in an interview last week. "[Coalfield communities] are weaker than the rest of the state, weaker than the rest of the region, and weaker than the rest of the nation."

Writing with co-author Melissa Ahern of Washington State University, Hendryx reports that the coal industry generates a little more than $8 billion a year in economic benefits for the Appalachian region.

But, Hendryx and Ahern put the value of premature deaths attributable to the mining industry across the Appalachian coalfields at -- by their most conservative estimate -- $42 billion.

"The human cost of the Appalachian coal mining economy outweighs its economic benefits," they wrote.
Far from providing jobs, the report says that the number of jobs has decreased from 122,102 to 53,509 between 1985 and 2005, which
"corresponded to increases in mechanized mining practices and the growth of surface mining, which requires fewer employees than underground mining per ton mined."
Although people point to the cheap electricity you can get by burning coal, the study says that this does not reflect the true cost of coal if you include the costs of the externalities: ruined natural resources on the surface, and particularly the human lives lost or ruined to asthma and other results of coal's toxicity.

The study does not count costs of the loss of jobs, since far more have been lost recently due to mining mechanization. Instead it recommends a new Appalachian economy.
"Potential alternative employment opportunities include development of renewable energy from wind, solar, biofuels, geothermal, or hydropower sources; sustainable timber; small-scale agriculture; outdoor or culturally oriented tourism; technology; and ecosystem restoration," the study says.

"The need to develop alternative economies becomes even more important when we realize that coal reserves throughout most of Appalachia are projected to peak and then enter permanent decline in about 20 years."
The article in the Gazette was written by Ken Ward, who has been following the coal mining situation closely in the Gazette and in his blog Coal Tattoo.

Please, someone, put this article and the report in front of President Obama. He has been listening to the lies of Big Coal and the politicians dependent on Big Coal for too long. Let him know how citizens in Appalachia really live. Let him kick-start a new sustainable economy for Appalachia that will preserve its natural resources and improve the lives of its citizens.

Monday, June 15, 2009

LA Times says Obame is caving in to Big Coal

I don't have much time to write these days. (See why at ToDoTheImpossible), but the journalists are finally catching on what I've been writing all along: Obama is in cahoots with Big Coal!Here is today's editorial from the Los Angeles Times:
Is Obama caving in to coal?
The administration deserves credit for some minimal restrictions on mountaintop mining, but the president's hands-off approach to coal defeats his climate-change efforts.

June 15, 2009

Clear-cutting forests, then blowing the tops off of mountains and dumping the debris into stream beds is an environmentally catastrophic way of mining for coal. President Obama and the green activists he has appointed to run his interior-focused regulatory agencies surely know this. But their contortions over mountaintop mining would make a Cirque du Soleil performer wince.

The administration last week announced a number of new restrictions on mountaintop coal mining in the six Appalachian states where it occurs. They are minimal steps that, among other things, will make it harder for mining companies to escape environmental review when seeking permits to blow up mountains. For this, Obama merits polite applause.

That's in contrast to the much-deserved boos he received last month from environmentalists after his administration quietly sent a letter to coal industry loyalist Rep. Nick Rahall II (D-W.Va.) saying the Environmental Protection Agency wouldn't stand in the way of at least two dozen new mountaintop-removal projects. It was a dismaying move from an administration that in March had blocked several such projects on grounds that they needed further review -- yet some of the ones it greenlighted in May were as big and damaging as the ones it blocked two months earlier. What gives?

Obama is clearly intimidated by coal's powerful lobby. The industry is a major employer in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and other Appalachian states, where miners tend to vote for whichever party is friendliest to Big Coal. Yet there's also strong grass-roots opposition to strip mining in those states because of the effect it has on local communities; the technique poisons water supplies and pollutes the air with coal and rock dust. It also turns forests into moonscapes, ravages ecosystems and buries streams, which is good for neither wildlife nor the tourism industry.

The best approach to mountaintop mining would be to ban it completely. It's cheaper and less labor-intensive than underground mining, but not worth the environmental cost. At a minimum, Obama should address some other highly destructive rule changes imposed by the Bush administration -- a good place to start would be restoring a regulation that forbade mining within 100 feet of a stream, and disallowing the use of mine waste as "fill" material in waterways.

Obama can't sidestep this issue forever, especially because his hands-off approach to coal defeats the purpose of his efforts to fight climate change. Coal is a key culprit in global warming, and it makes no sense to encourage cheap coal while seeking to boost renewable energy.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Obama wants coal ash storage sites to be secret - AP

My husband cut this little article out of our local newspaper, the Ontario, CA, Daily Bulletin, but since it's from the AP, it's all over the web, with various titles, like Communities at risk, but coal ash sites secret. Time and again, our administration, which is doing admirably on other fronts, shows how much it is in the hands of Big Coal. We have to stop him on this one. Obama is too smart to do this. I doubt he wants his daughters to grow up next to a coal ash site!
Officials cite security concerns, don’t alert those in risky areas.
By Dina Cappiello, Associated Press, Saturday, June 13, 2009

WASHINGTON —- The Obama administration has decided to keep secret the locations of nearly four dozen coal ash storage sites that pose a threat to people living nearby.

The Environmental Protection Agency classified the 44 sites as potential hazards to communities while investigating coal ash waste storage sites after a spill at a Tennessee power plant in December. The classification means the waste sites could cause death and significant property damage if an event such as a storm, a terrorist attack or a structural failure caused them to leak into surrounding communities. The sites have existed for years with little or no federal regulation.

The Army Corps of Engineers in a letter dated June 4 told the EPA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency that the federal government should not alert the public to the sites’ locations because it would compromise national security. The Corps said state officials or the owner of the site should communicate the risks to those nearby.

“Uncontrolled or unrestricted release (of the information) may pose a security risk to projects or communities by increasing its attractiveness as a potential target,” Steven L. Stockton, the Army Corps’ director of civil works, wrote in a letter obtained by The Associated Press.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in a press conference on Friday, questioned why coal ash storage ponds are not treated like other hazardous waste sites. For instance, the EPA readily discloses the location of Superfund hazardous waste sites and also annually reports pollution released by chemical facilities and other factories in neighborhoods.

EPA officials said Friday the National Dam Safety Review Board, a collection of federal agencies, state agencies and one private industry representative, was notifying local governments and states, some of which regulate the structures like dams.

Eric Halpin, special assistant for dam and levee safety for the Corps of Engineers, said that “we did not direct anyone to withhold or not release information.”

His agency releases that information to local governments “so they can, in turn, communicate it to the public,” Halpin said.

On Dec. 22, more than 5 million cubic yards of ash and sludge poured out of a storage pond after an earthen dike failed at a power plant near Kingston, Tenn. The grayish, toxic muck covered 300 acres and destroyed or damaged 40 homes.
It's not as if the local people don't know they're there. This article from the Knoxville TN News, reports of 11 sites just as dangerous as the one that spilled last Christmas.
Watchdog groups say coal ash sites unsafe. Report claims cancer risk upped for neighbors
By Michael Collins, Friday, May 8, 2009
WASHINGTON - Eleven coal ash storage sites in Tennessee are among dozens across the country that may pose a serious risk to public health, according to a new study based on government data that environmentalists say the Bush administration kept secret for years.

The data, compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and released Thursday by two watchdog groups, indicates that one out of every 50 Americans living near landfills or ponds used to store ash or sludge from coal-fired power plants has a high risk of getting cancer from drinking water contaminated with arsenic...
Let's get them cleaned up and stop adding to them. Let's stop coal!