Kicking the Coal Habit

Kicking the Coal Habit

America may be coming to grips with the dark side of our cheapest, most abundant energy source, but a plan to unload it on Asia threatens to poison our planet.

By Ted Williams/Photography by David T. Hanson
Published: May-June 2012

While we cannot wean ourselves from coal anytime soon, we're phasing it out. Despite the "clean-coal" media blitz, Americans, from liberal environmentalists to conservative ranchers, now recognize it as a filthy, 19th-century fuel source whose days are clearly numbered.

 

What You Can Do

Conserve electricity and make your home energy efficient. Tell your legislators to support the EPA's efforts to make coal plants safer for fish, wildlife, and people. For more information on coal-fired generation and proposed export of coal to Asia, go to beyondcoal.org.

Magazine Category

Author Profile

Ted Williams

Ted Williams is freelance writer.

Type: Author | From: Audubon Magazine

Comments

What you can do - more ideas

On Facebook, like "Allies and Friends Fighting NW Coal Exports." On this page I link news (including, soon, this article) and resources for commenting on the various government decisions that are required for coal exports. Other ideas too. I will email to those who don't use Facebook.

Visit Sightline.org, a Seattle-based sustainabilty think tank that does credible research on coal exports, and other sustainabilty topics.

Visit PowerPastCoal.org, and sign petitions for the commenting opportunities.

Visit CoalSwarm.org, a global clearinghouse with info on impacts of coal worldwide. It's on Twitter,too.

Keep flexing your wonderful First Amendment Rights to the press, to petition your government, to assemble, to speak out, and practice your religion. All of these rights can help fight coal.

A Collectable Critique

Hey Drew:
First critique I’ve gotten from an admitted non-reader. Thanks. Interesting and collectable. Had you read the piece and responded to what I wrote instead of what you imagine I wrote, you’d have seen that nowhere did I “slam fossil fuels as dirty and untenable” and that I made the some point you do--that we “can’t go cold turkey on fossil fuels.”

Furthermore

I am always interested to read the "environmentalists" bent on hydro carbons and the consumption there of. Having been involved in companies that provide wind energy, solar energy and yes, even coal and oil and gas derived energies, I find above articles to be rather short sited and even ignorant to the degree that they are often founded on emotion and opinion rather than defendable facts. The technologies that are now available to energy, mining and drilling companies is nothing short of amazing and even cost effective. The argument that should be discussed at the table is exactly as my friend above has stated - how can we apply technology to our existing practices to make extraction, mining and drilling more safe and environmentally sound. The idea of a hydrocarbon free society at this stage of human development is a thing of fantasy and fiction. Where government MUST subsidize wind and to some degree solar, the bad guys (aka miners and drillers) actually build businesses with something called revenue. Additionally, it should be understood by all environmentalists that the Hybrid engine, the tires on the cars, the soles of your shoes and the thread stitching your clothing is a product or by-product of one hydrocarbon or another... not to mention, where we would store all the waist should we go to the land of lollypops and unicorns, where do all the metal products get dumped, the stoves, engines, copper wire and even nails and screws that hold the world together?? There is a solution and as stated, be patient and apply your knowledge to answering the questions, not just asking them.

Furthermore

I am always interested to read the "environmentalists" bent on hydro carbons and the consumption there of. Having been involved in companies that provide wind energy, solar energy and yes, even coal and oil and gas derived energies, I find above articles to be rather short sited and even ignorant to the degree that they are often founded on emotion and opinion rather than defendable facts. The technologies that are now available to energy, mining and drilling companies is nothing short of amazing and even cost effective. The argument that should be discussed at the table is exactly as my friend above has stated - how can we apply technology to our existing practices to make extraction, mining and drilling more safe and environmentally sound. The idea of a hydrocarbon free society at this stage of human development is a thing of fantasy and fiction. Where government MUST subsidize wind and to some degree solar, the bad guys (aka miners and drillers) actually build businesses with something called revenue. Additionally, it should be understood by all environmentalists that the Hybrid engine, the tires on the cars, the soles of your shoes and the thread stitching your clothing is a product or by-product of one hydrocarbon or another... not to mention, where we would store all the waist should we go to the land of lolly pops and unicorns, where do all the metal products get dumped, the stoves, engines, copper wire and even nails and screws that hold the world together?? There is a solution and as stated, be patient and apply your knowledge to solutions, not only questions.

"A Hydrocarbon -free Society" Huh?

Dear Anonymous: Who’s pushing for a “hydrocarbon free society?” As you state (and as I reported) we need coal. So why are you okay with sending so much of our coal to China?

C'mon...

This is a long article you're asking people to read, but I was prepared to wade through and see if there was any good learning to be had. (Plus, we Red Sox fans are captivated by anything with the name "Ted Williams" on it.) Fortunately or unfortunately, I never got past the fourth paragraph, where the author ludicrously blame an advertising slogan for gambling addictions and unethical behavior. By blithley dismissing the free will and sense of personal responsibility we all do or should possess, he undercuts his credibility and makes it pointless to read on. Even those of us with a more progressive mindset understand why conservatives paint these types of liberals as arrogant know-it-alls whose attempts to educate the rest of us reek with condescension. The fact is, slamming fossil fuels as dirty and untenable is a lazy and oversimplified argument. For one thing, we need ALL fuels to power our economy, particularly until technology allows us to use rewnewables as a baseload power. Secondly, NO energy production is completely clean. You think solar panels and wind turbines are made of pixie dust and unicorn tears? No, they're made of metals and chemicals and things that need to be mined and processed and manufactured and transported on fuel-burning trucks and trains. They also require space to generate energy and transmission lines to move that energy to places like the Audobon Society's offices. The world is making great progress on new energy technologies - not only wind and solar and biofuels but, yes, "cleaner" approaches to using coal - but we have to be patient and stop naively demanding the world go cold turkey on fossil fuels today. It's simply not possible. It's like demanding an iPad in 1985 - just wait a few years (or decades) and we'll get there....

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