Tag Archive: Coal

Nov 19 2014

Can the US political system deal with climate change?

The American “system” has been a bit tardy in its response to climate change. Experts tell us that the longer it takes to make needed changes, the more difficult it will be to make them.

As 350.org’s Bill McKibben puts it:

We’re talking about a fight between human beings and physics. And physics is entirely uninterested in human timetables. Physics couldn’t care less if precipitous action raises gas prices, or damages the coal industry in swing states. It could care less whether putting a price on carbon slowed the pace of development in China, or made agribusiness less profitable.

Physics doesn’t understand that rapid action on climate change threatens the most lucrative business on Earth, the fossil fuel industry. It’s implacable. It takes the carbon dioxide we produce and translates it into heat, which means into melting ice and rising oceans and gathering storms. And unlike other problems, the less you do, the worse it gets.  Do nothing and you soon have a nightmare on your hands.

We could postpone healthcare reform a decade, and the cost would be terrible — all the suffering not responded to over those 10 years. But when we returned to it, the problem would be about the same size. With climate change, unless we act fairly soon in response to the timetable set by physics, there’s not much reason to act at all.

Unless you understand these distinctions you don’t understand climate change — and it’s not at all clear that President Obama understands them.

There are lots of reasons why the response of the system has been so slow. There is significant resistance in the system to the sort of changes that need to be made. That resistance has manifested itself in a number of ways, from President Obama using the spies at the NSA to kill global agreements on climate change to the bipartisan popularity of climate change denial in Congress, the media and the public relations industry, despite virtually indisputable scientific evidence.

Resistance is created by a variety of groups based on their perceived interests. Enormously wealthy, powerful corporations and individuals who want to preserve their profits from fossil fuels and related industries, people who rely on jobs created or enabled by fossil fuel industries, people who fear economic chaos and the loss of their comforts due to actions to stop climate change, and politicians whose fortunes depend upon the money and other resources of the fossil fuel industry are some huge sources of systemic inertia.

Jan 21 2014

West Virginia Dirty Water

Nearly two weeks ago a chemical spill at a storage facility for Freedom Industries contaminated the water supply of over 300,000 West Virginians with  4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol which is used to “treat” coal supplies before they are shipped for burning. The plant is located just two miles up river from a water treatment plant. People were warned to not drink the water, but not before it sickened hundreds flooding emergency rooms complaining of nausea, vomiting, some dizziness, headaches, diarrhoea, reddening skin, itches and rashes,

The water has been declared safe, but the CDC has issued a warning to pregnant women to not drink the water. Now to protect themselves from liability, the Freedom Industries filed for bankruptcy on Friday. However, as Raw Story calls it, this is just a legal shell game

And in a brazen legal gambit, the owner of Freedom Industries has also created a shell company to provide financing to his bankrupt firm, which may allow him to retain much of the assets of the firm if and when it is dissolved in bankruptcy. [..]

The name of the owner of Freedom Industries, J. Clifford Forrest, also appears as an officer in a newly-formed firm – Mountaineer Funding LLC – which Freedom Industries named as the source of debtor-in-possession financing of up to $5 million. In a bankruptcy, the debtor in possession financier is typically placed at the head of the line of creditors making a claim on the assets of the firm. If a bankruptcy judge allows the financing to go forward, Mountaineer – and Forrest – might be expected to scoop up most of the assets of the bankrupt firm without any legal liability for the catastrophic environmental damages wrought by it.

MSNBC’s “All In” host Chris Hayes laid out just how this works for the owner and screws the citizens who suffered damages

Aug 12 2013

Sunday Train: The Myth of Baseload Power

cross-posted from the Sunday Train origin station Voices on the Square

In Baseload power is a myth: even intermittent renewables will work, Mark Diesendorf, Asst. Professor and Deputy Director of the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of New South Wales (Australia), writes:

The old myth was based on the incorrect assumption that base-load demand can only be supplied by base-load power stations; for example, coal in Australia and nuclear in France. However, the mix of renewable energy technologies in our computer model, which has no base-load power stations, easily supplies base-load demand. Our optimal mix comprises wind 50-60%; solar PV 15-20%; concentrated solar thermal with 15 hours of thermal storage 15-20%; and the small remainder supplied by existing hydro and gas turbines burning renewable gases or liquids. (Contrary to some claims, concentrated solar with thermal storage does not behave as base-load in winter; however, that doesn’t matter.)

Anyone who engages in online discussion on issues involving renewable energy for any length of time will encounter the myth that renewable energy is unreliable in supplying base-load demand. This myth is pushed into the discussion with substantial financial investment, directly and indirectly, by vested interests in continued reliance on the Global Suicide Pact power sources of coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Writing from Australia, Mark Diesendorf flags the use of the Murdoch press empire in propagating this myth. Here in the United States, the myth is promoted by both Big Coal and Big Oil funded propaganda mills ~ including those libertarian “think tanks” that argue against the government getting involved in defending our economy from the prospect of collapse in the face of climate chaos …

… because the “free market”, together with billions of dollars of government subsidies for fossil fuel industry and tens or hundreds of billions of unfunded third party costs of fossil fuel consumption, will surely choose best.