Bob White letter: 'Cheap' power from coal hides real damage, costs
In the spring 2006, edition of a magazine published by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the lead article is titled "Cleaning Up Coal's Act." A subheading says: "We must not allow new coal plants to sabotage the fight against global warming."...
In the spring 2006, edition of a magazine published by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the lead article is titled "Cleaning Up Coal's Act." A subheading says: "We must not allow new coal plants to sabotage the fight against global warming."
Many people don't realize that more than half of our country's electricity is supplied by coal-burning power plants. In North Dakota that is not a big surprise. We've been using lignite coal in our power plants for years because it's readily available and low-cost. With the cost of oil above $70 a barrel and natural gas prices skyrocketing, there's no doubt that using coal to power our plants seems better all the time. Why, then, did the magazine article's subhead say "We must not allow new coal plants to sabotage the fight against global warming"?
Here's what the article said in answer: "Coal's proponents want you to believe that coal power is cheap. Electric rates, however, don't reflect the staggering and lasting costs of coal-related air and water pollution, mining accidents, permanently altered landscapes and, most importantly, climate change." It goes on to say: "The scientific community has reached an overwhelming consensus that the Earth's climate is warming and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change concluded ... that human activities are largely to blame."
The United States has just five percent of the world's population but we generate one-fourth of the world's heat-trapping emissions, and the U.S. Department of Energy says that carbon dioxide emissions will increase an additional 52 percent over 2003 levels by the year 2030. That's only 24 years away. In China and India, where industry is expanding at a terrific rate, forecasts are that their emissions "could surpass United States CO2 emissions by 2025." That's only 19 years away.
The chairman of the IPCC, Dr. Pachauri, says that we (the world) have less than a decade to make deep cuts in emissions or risk reaching a "point of no return" for catastrophic climate change. That's only 10 years away.
The new issue of Science magazine reports that Greenland's glaciers are moving toward the sea at an "alarming rate." Warming oceans develop more and deadlier hurricanes. Rising seas threaten low islands in the South Pacific and more sea rising is inevitable. That's right now.
So back to our coal-powered plants. A few years ago laws were passed and coal plants found ways to reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and soot by 80 percent to 90 percent, but no laws were passed about carbon dioxide continuing to heat up the earth. Why do we allow coal-fired plants to be built? Why don't we substitute solar, wind power, biodiesel whenever possible? Why doesn't our government pass laws limiting carbon dioxide? Why do we continue this lunacy?
Why? Because it's low-cost electricity, that's why. Who cares about the future?
White, Emerado, N.D., is chairman of the Renewable Energy Task Force of the Dakota Resource Council. E-mail RWhite1756@aol.com