Monday, May 01, 2006

52% of our electricity???!!! From Coal????

As my Russian friend always says... "can you believe it?" In this day and age, over HALF of all electricity consumed in the United States comes from Coal-fired power plants. It's like a dirty secret. Coal is not of the Victorian era. It is not a relic from the industrial revolution. Coal is here, and it is now, and it is as part of American society today as it has ever been. The difference today is that we have moved the "dirty" aspects of coal to where they are either far away or invisible:
  1. Extraction - the mountains of Appalachia are simply being obliterated.
  2. Heavy Metals - the dangerous metals that exist both in the coal and in the surrounding rock that has been blasted works its way into ground water, poisoning streams, rivers, and folks who have no choice but to drink contaminated well water.
  3. Sulfur/Nitrogen - at the power plant, sulfur and nitrogen are released into the upper atmosphere where they combine with other gases and moisture to produce acid rain. Coal-fired power plants in the Midwest are the source of all the acid rain that plagues the northeastern US.
  4. Mercury - at the power plant, mercury is released into the atmosphere and ends up in lakes and fish. Most states have banned the eating of lake fish due to mercury content. Bigger fish eat these fish and the mercury works its way up the food chain and out to the oceans. We are now warned that pregnant women should not eat large game fish, which all have high levels of mercury...all from coal-fired power plants.
  5. Fine Particulate Matter - there is soot in the atmosphere from these power plants. It is too small to see, but we know that 50,000 people a year die from respiratory and heart conditions caused by fine particulate matter. Though coal-fired plants are not the only source for this, they are a very significant one.
  6. Anyone want to add?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Burning the future: Coal in America by David Novack
released in 2008

Last night at the NUPT magnificent auditorium of the newly built library, students, faculty and administrators gathered to view the documentary: Burning the Future: Coal in America. David Novack, writer and director, took us in a moving and an unforgettable journey through the mountains of west Virginia in Appalachia.
The auditorium was full of students, and usually that meant, noise, but through out the eighty nine minutes of the showing, there was absolute silence.
We were taken on a tour of west Virginia to witness the beautiful landscape, filled with forests and mountains that breathe health and beauty, only to look closer at the devastating top mountain coal mining practices. Maria and the residents of Appalachia lived in the area for many generations and hope to have their children and grand children continue living in their native lands.
Although, the residents are aware of the devastation around them, it is still shocking to them and to the viewers to take a birds eye view, and witness the true picture and the magnitude of the ecological distraction of top mountain coal mining.
David Novack presented us with a great conflict of ideas and interests. He did not take sides, but rather let the viewer decide on the issue. A complex and heart breaking situation between residents. On one hand, the coal mining workers, who depend on the jobs for their livelihood, and on the other, the residents whose lives have been shattered by illnesses and continuous disturbances due to the effect of the coal mining all around them.
Demonstrations, town meetings, arrests and all type of struggle from both sides, but nothing happens. The group of residents, lead by Maria, decides to go to New York to meet with the United Nations. Maria, frustrated, disappointed, and tired looks at the glittering lights of New York city screamed from the top of her head, as if the world icould hear “ turn off the lights !You do not know!”.
She realized then and there the struggle they face, is not only with the coal mine owners but the struggle is with the whole world.
Thanks to David Novack's talent, I heard Maria's message, and so will China and the rest of the world.
For me, the documentary has given me a focus and a desire to act. Every time I reach to switch off the light, turn down the thermostat, or enjoy an evening at a candle light, I think of Appalachia and its residents.
David Novack succeeded were many have failed. The ads and other so called green campaigns, from green conferences to Al Gore green movement, have not given me a desire to act and did not convey a genuine interest to do something. David Novack gave a voice to the people of Appalachia that will resonate loud and clear through many peoples' minds and hearts.

Zoe Kostopoulos Nanjing, China

Maria said...

All our children's futures depend on our ability to transition away from coal and into a truly clean, truly renewable energy resource to sustain all their futures.
With conservation and investments into renewable technologies we can all sustain our energy needs in a less barbaric way. Just imagine if the Government would put the money into renewable energy that they have put into trying to clean up coal.
Where would we be if we had harnessed renewable energy 50 years ago?
Coal is running out. What are we going to do then.?.
We will have no clean water, no energy and no plan for our next generation. We are failing our children if we don't fix this problem globally...