The world is running out of oil and even if it weren’t, burning as much oil as we can results in the degradation of the world’s ecosystems. There is no point in pussyfooting around this subject. The bottom line is that unless the world consumes less fossil fuel energy or fossil fuels are entirely replaced by renewable energy sources (irregardless of the cost) then the world as we know it will face Old Testament-like disastrous consequences. We all should know this by now. The state of energy affairs as I have described them should not take anyone by surprise.

What may be surprising however is how much talk there is of just switching from strictly oil, the lifeblood of the entire industrialized world, to coal. Coal? Anyone that remembers their junior high American history textbooks will recall pictures of coal miners from the days of yore covered in soot from the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, coal. Before I read “The Empty Tank” by Jeremy Leggett I never would have thought that anyone living in the 21st century would seriously contemplate trying to replace oil with coal of all things. I stand before you corrected, befuddled and disgusted.

There has been a push, despite efforts at mainstreaming renewable energy technology, to abandon those efforts and instead move toward a coal-oil world economy. Like all things terrible and complicated in this world, China is the leader of nations aiming to hitch their Communist star to the wagon burning coal. As a matter of fact, China and coal have always been fast friends.

According to American.edu’s study of China and coal, “Coal accounts for about 70% of China’s total energy consumption. The development and production of the coal industry provides stability in China’s economic growth. The coal resources in China have been exploited since 476 BC, and it is estimated that even with all the years of coal exploration, China has total coal deposits of 4, 490 billion tons, which are as deep as 2,000 vertical metres. Eventually China will exploit its coal resources until they are eliminated.”

American.edu reports that China’s shortsightedness will result in massive environmental problems for Beijing and the world over. “The carbon dioxide emissions from coal burning is larger than any other energy sources such as, petroleum and liquefied natural gas. In addition, analysts argue that increases in carbon dioxide will contribute to global warming. Besides carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, which is believed to cause acid raid, is another pollutant generated from coal burning. When sulfur dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere, it takes approximately ten days for it to settle to the earth. In this period of time, the sulfate particles can travel several thousand kilometers. China is not the only country suffering from acid rain problems. Other Asian countries, such as Japan, Taiwan, S. Korea, and the Philippines have all reported acid rain problems originating from China’s coal burning pollution. The Central Research Institute of Electric Power and Industry in Japan has reported that acid rain from the China mainland will soon be a major problem for Japan.”

Aside from the fact that we, of all countries, are in no position to make China alter their pollution spewing ways, much like the old saying goes, we aren’t even trying to beat them, we are actively trying to join them. As I stated earlier, there is a movement in this country to transition from crude oil dependence to coal-oil dependence. This campaign is replete with gimmicks and political chicanery that makes the movie “Wag the Dog” look like a Disney movie.

Like all things, this tale begins with a current story in the news. The Assoicated Press is reporting out of Dallas that, A building boom that would add scores of new coal-fired power plants to the nation’s power grid is creating a new dilemma for politicians, environmentalists and utility companies across the United States.

Should power companies be permitted to build new plants that pollute more but are reliable and less expensive? Or should regulators push utilities toward cleaner burning coal plants, even if it means they will cost more and are based on newer, yet still unproven, technology?

How those questions are answered will have huge implications over the next few decades. It could determine how Americans light, heat and cool their homes and business, the rate of return on utility investments and the potential environmental impact of the new plants.

Nowhere do these competing interests play out with such force as in Texas, where 16 new coal-fired plants are proposed – 11 of them by Dallas-based TXU Corp., the state’s biggest power company.”

There are more examples of this sort of thing all over the news. Despite conventional eco-energy wisdom and common sense, Big Coal is seriously trying to gain market share in an incredibly politicized and imminently important part of the US energy economy. Most experts agree that if we were to seriously consider burning coal at the rate we are currently burning oil, we’d absolutely cook this planet with greenhouse gases. Again, I direct you to The Empty Tank if you want to know what kind of Armageddon a future based solely on coal would bring us. Despite environmental and geological scientists tripping over each other to warn people not to do this, like everything else in America, the business industry shall determine our fate, even if it is on the path to oblivion.

I realized how much trouble we were in while watching television this past weekend. While following the earthquake in Hawaii story on Fox News, I found myself agape as a commercial for “clean coal” flashed across my television screen. The narrator promised that there was “clean coal technology” on the horizon and that coal would indeed make the best and cheapest choice to supplant oil.

“Horse pucky!” I exclaimed to my wife as I bolted up the stairs to compile information for this article. There is no way this can be on the level, and sure enough, the good folks who brought us Fox News viewers this message were indeed sent here by the devil; the Big Coal devil.

You see, the people telling me and you that coal could be burned cleanly were from Americans for Balanced Energy Choices. They misrepresent themselves as a grassroots organization aiming to show the clean benefits of coal as an overabundant source of domestic energy.

Here’s the rub; the nice people over at ABEC are actually coal industry representatives. Like many parts of industry (see my article on bath and beauty reps being determinant factors on legal ingredients in said products) ABEC is engaged in a sophisticated ploy that’s being used more and more by large companies to sway public opinion called which is called Astroturf. Essentially this is when the BIG Business companies try to make something look like a grassroots movement when it’s not.

For example, on its site, Americans for Balanced Energy Choices says only that “initial funding for this worthwhile project” was provided by “America’s coal- based electricity industry.”

It doesn’t say that the coal industry — which in reality has provided virtually all funding for the group since its establishment in 2000 — contributed nearly $4 million to politicians in the 2000 election cycle, primarily Republicans.

Nor does it say that in the 2004 presidential election, President Bush was by far the leading recipient of coal-industry cash, raking in more than $250,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog organization.

Sen. John Kerry, by contrast, received a meager $5,900 in coal money for his efforts.

Americans for Balanced Energy Choices, which bills itself as nonpartisan, also doesn’t say in its ad or online that it receives logistical support, including staff members and other resources, from the Center for Energy and Economic Development, a coal-industry trade group.

The center has aggressively lobbied against limits on greenhouse-gas emissions, widely seen as a cause of global warming.

On its Web site, the center says it rejects “the theory of catastrophic global climate change” and takes credit for helping persuade Bush not to support the Kyoto Treaty on reducing emissions. We can argue about Kyoto all day long but one doesn’t get to call themselves non-partisan and then go about mothballing a piece of legislation detrimental to their business.

Aside from obviously being yet another cog in the machine that helps keep the GOP in office and thus keeps the pro-energy industry legislation flowing, Big Coal also wants people to think about so-called clean coal, which is actually an industry buzz term for technologies that allow dirty- as-ever coal to be burned with fewer deadly emissions.

Contrary to ABEC’s assertions, cleaner-burning technologies focus almost exclusively on toxins such as sulfur dioxide and mercury. They don’t address the more contentious matter of carbon dioxide, believed to be the leading culprit for global warming.

The main technology the coal industry has advocated to cut carbon dioxide is a process called sequestering emissions. It involves pumping millions of tons of the gas into large holes in the ground.

The Sierra Club has described sequestering as “monstrously expensive, unproven technology that’s analogous to nuclear waste.”

The last bunch of hooey these folks have purported is to take credit for improved air quality. Yes, Big Coal is taking credit for clean air. Of course the only reason why that is even remotely true is because the coal industry was forced by the 1970 Clean Air Act to implement reforms, which they spent millions of dollars lobbying against. (source)

Coal isn’t going to work. It will be an unqualified disaster and the people crowing loudest for it are no better than Exxon/Mobile or Shell Oil. Though the renewable energy options are not perfect nor are they cheap, I would prefer an expensive world to a destroyed world, given those options. Don’t be fooled by the Trojan Horses of industry riding atop fresh Astroturf. To paraphrase Groucho Marx, I don’t care what they have to say, it makes no difference anyway, if it comes from Big Coal, I’m against it!

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