Here we go again
I just had an interesting contact from a reporter at an environmentally-themed government publication. The reporter was asking for my comment on a new NRDC report that lists the 20 “most toxic” states in the union. I won’t link to the report because it is easy enough to do a quick search for that publication. Having done that you too can be frightened half to death by the hysterical language and unfounded assertions that pollute that page.
Since I took some time from my daily schedule to prepare a response to the reporter’s query, I figured that I would post it here, to the Coalblog, for your information and edification. I hope you enjoy it.
It appears that this NRDC report is rehashing more of the same tired rhetoric and inflammatory language for which they are so popular. These types of news releases are targeted at frightening the maximum number of people with the most “toxic” language they can wring from their overworked thesaurus.
While they can benefit financially from making these types of frightening claims, industry and those who are actually producing the products that this country needs – especially in these economically fragile times – must stick to facts and science. If any CEO of a utility or mining company came out with this type of inflammatory headlines, they would be fired; tossed out by their shareholders and board of directors.
It is instructive to note that the NRDC is becoming increasingly well known for playing both sides of the “use coal/ ban coal” argument as it suits their purpose. I have articles on this issue that describe how they advocate for the construction of new coal with carbon capture and storage when they need to appear scholarly and reserved in front of legislators (see my Coalblog post on this at http://www.coalblog.org/?p=1088). Then they turn around and hypocritically attack coal as “toxic” when they need membership dollars and headlines.
I have described, in other Coalblog articles, how the contradictory rhetoric coming from these groups offers no realistic alternatives (http://www.coalblog.org/?p=685). They tear down the energy resources that this country needs to thrive and offer up future promises and little else in their place. When utilities come up with serious options, they go on the attack and work tirelessly to shut down progress on the clean energy front (http://www.coalblog.org/?p=849). Sadly, they are not limiting their attacks to coal. They also attack nuclear, large hydro, natural gas, and … yes … even renewables. This Coalblog post – http://www.coalblog.org/?p=1266 – describes how more renewable projects have been shelved as a result of green and anti-development protests than coal projects.
The unfortunate reality is that much of the anti-coal media that you are seeing is actually anti-energy. It is not just about coal. Sadly, the future tied to their protests and plans will be reduced choice, more expensive and unreliable energy options. As we have repeatedly shown, that reduction in energy options hits the poor and minority groups hardest and first (see http://www.coalblog.org/?p=562 and http://www.coalblog.org/?p=1588).
When anyone looks at the real data, the facts are that coal use has more than doubled (almost tripled) over the past 50 years, going from approximately 400 million short tons per year production in 1960 to approximately 1.1 billion short tons production currently. (See: http://www.eia.gov/energy_in_brief/images/charts/us_coal_production-large.jpg). (Over 90% of the coal that is produced in the U.S. is used for domestic electricity generation.)
However, modern technologies have reduced emissions from coal by as much as 90% (http://www.netl.doe.gov/KeyIssues/future_fuel.html – lists several examples of how new technologies are improving overall performance of coal.) Another DOE page describes how over the past 20 years, “scientists have developed ways to capture the pollutants trapped in coal before the impurities can escape into the atmosphere. Today, we have technology that can filter out 99 percent of the tiny particles and remove more than 95 percent of the acid rain pollutants in coal.” (see http://fossil.energy.gov/education/energylessons/coal/index.html).
The affordability, abundance, and increasingly clean and efficient nature of coal-fueled electricity will ensure it plays a significant role in our energy generation profile well into the future. In fact, the EIA is expecting coal production and consumption in its reference case forecasts to continue to grow by just under 1% to 2035. (http://www.eia.gov/oiaf/aeo/tablebrowser/) This would keep coal-fueled generation of electricity in its historical 45 – 50% of generation capacity range.
But we’re not done there. Despite having invested billions in improving efficiency and environmental performance, the coal industry continues to actively research and produce even better emissions reduction measures and technologies. The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity has an excellent map resource on their website that gives details on the continuing work to make coal-fueled generation cleaner and more efficient. http://www.americaspower.org/clean-coal-technology-find-research-project-near-you
I hope this information is a help to you as you’re completing your article. Please don’t hesitate to call or email if you need anything else.
Jason Hayes, M.E.Des.
American Coal Council