Posts tagged ‘Coal Power’

06/14/2012

Coal: Why Don’t Republicans Discuss It?

During the Republican debates, aside from Gov. Romney’s comment that he would promote coal, and Sen. Santorum’s disclosure that he served on a coal company board, the other conservatives simply encouraged oil and gas drilling, criticized clean energy like solar and wind, but said nothing about coal.

Although Republicans argued in favor of repealing regulations that interfere with energy, expressed a desire to eliminate the Energy Dept., and repeatedly demanded that the Environmental Protection Agency get out of the way, they were not specific.

So what would their coal policy be? The question is important because coal remains a major energy source. Large quantities of it are sold to electric power plants, as over half of all electric power in the U.S. is generated by coal. As coal is burned, it heats water in boilers, creates steam, spins turbines, and generates electricity.

The U.S. has one-third of the world’s coal supply, enough to mine for another 350 years. The U.S. started burning coal around 1850 and its use eventually turned America into a strong industrial nation. Most U.S. mining has been located in West Virginia and Kentucky, as well as other parts of the Appalachians, from Pennsylvania to Alabama.

Only Russia has greater coal reserves. Germany’s deposits are in the Ruhr River Valley, Britain’s are in Wales, and China’s are in Manchuria. Historically, coal fields were so important, nations fought wars over them. Germany and France, for example, battled over Alsace Lorraine, Saarland, and the Ruhr many times.

But what are the political issues in the U.S.? One issue concerns mine safety and the rights of coal miners, as coal mining is potentially dangerous. Most coal miners in the U.S. descend about 260 feet underground. Mines must be constructed properly and ventilated constantly. If the pillars in mines supporting their roofs collapse, cave-ins can be fatal. If the air flowing into the mines is interrupted, gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and methane can build up, catch fire, and explode causing death.

Another issue is the air pollution generated from burning coal. While some equipment eliminates some smoke and soot, there remain many environmental costs from using coal.

The two progressive forces that have protected workers regarding safety, and the public as to pollution, namely the unions and the Environmental Protection Agency, are being attacked by the Republicans.

Although the United Mine Workers Union contributed greatly to mine safety laws, such as the Coal Mine Inspection Act, the Republicans have declared war against all organized labor, and cannot be trusted do anything about mining safety complaints.

Although the Environmental Protection Agency has been the watchdog for the public as to air pollution generated by power plants, Republicans have pledged to abolish it, and our air will not be as safe, if the right-wing gains total control.

Although the Republicans have not clearly stated a coal policy, what they have said about destroying unions and dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency is all we need to know to figure out the rest. We should be concerned that if the right-wing takes total control, the coal industry will become more dangerous to workers, and the purity of the air will decline.

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12/28/2011

Climate Change: Let’s Teach the Facts

Climate Change cannot be confused with day-to-day ups and downs in the weather. Being hot one day, and cold the next, or rainy one day, and clear the next, has nothing to do with it. A below-zero day in January, during a Green Bay Packer football game, proves nothing. Climate Change instead refers to differences measured over a minimum of 30 years.

Scientists started seeing temperature changes in the 20th Century, and particularly since 1975. They determined the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal for industries, and fuel oil for motor vehicles, created greenhouse gases, which warmed the atmosphere. They found the oceans warmer now than at any time since record-keeping started 130 years ago. They noted a sea level rise of more than a half a foot in the 20th Century. They now predict unless changes are made, warming will accelerate in the 21st Century, as average temperatures will likely climb another 5 degrees F.

Glaciers that cover 80% of Greenland, which descend below the surface up to two miles, and have existed since the Ice Age, are now melting, due to global warming. If all the ice on Greenland melts, it would be a serious problem, as the oceans would rise 23 feet. Even if only some evaporates, scientists say if nothing changes, the sea will rise about a half of a foot to two feet, by the end of 21st Century.

Other glaciers throughout the world on mountains are also melting and shrinking. Glacier National Park in the U.S., where there has been ice for 7,000 years, will be dry by 2070, if no change occurs. The Alps in Europe have lost more snow and ice in the past decade, than in the previous 150 years. The same was observed in the Andes of South America and the Himalayas of Asia.

Global warming will eventually flood coastal areas, sink islands, and trigger droughts. These changes will in turn adversely affect agricultural food supplies and drinking water. They will lead to starvation, great migrations, and refugee issues. The warming of the oceans will further increase storms and hurricanes.

To address global warming, scientists and instructors must teach the subject to Americans who have no particular interest in it, which means dumbing-down presentations to fifth grade levels. Americans must in turn ignore the ignorant people on Fox News and right-wing radio, who deny science, and make fun of the issue.

Politicians and voters must confront special interests in the coal and oil industries who have vested interests in keeping things just as they are. The federal government must work with other nations towards a global solution. Washington has to strictly regulate carbon dioxide, impose carbon taxes, and eliminate subsidies and tax breaks for fossil fuels. Alternatives to gas combustible engines must be promoted, such as mass transit. Wind and solar has to be developed. Americans must become more efficient with energy and start respecting the earth. It’s the only one we have.