Thursday, December 18, 2008

Green Gorilla

Mountaintop removal mining from a Southwings flight.
Photo © Jim Motavalli

Canadian journalist Peter Fairley started my day the right way by sending over a link to his latest blog post. Coal mining and electrical generation aren't exclusively tenant issues, but they are reasons why we make the changes to our homes and lifestyles that we do.

The video he blogged is an amusing piece of propaganda. While I'm not big on having a mystical shaman character as the source of wisdom, the video is an entertaining introduction to the effect coal mining is having in many parts of the United States.

For context, the video follows close on the heels of a much more entertaining video made public by the Natural Resources Defense Council. This video is excerpts from a speech delivered by Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy, the fourth-largest coal producer in the U.S. He certainly comes across as a zealot in these clips, and I somehow doubt that his argument becomes any firmer when one hears the speech in its entirety. However, he's welcome to send it to me so that I can learn and revise my opinion. After all, wise people do change their position as information becomes available. But some of his statements dont' give me much hope that there's more substance to his pro-coal rant... such as his argument that the U.S. shouldn't be a leader on environmental issues because nobody has followed. He points to China as an example. He fails to point to all the other countries that have followed the lead of the United States (or lead the United States), including Canada and much of Europe.

I live in Ontario, Canada. I'm a long way from the mountaintop removal problems. Near my home, most of the massive mines are ripping away the Niagara Escarpment for limestone. I don't see coal mines very often. Jim Motavalli wrote an interesting piece in E Magazine a couple years back on mountaintop removal in West Virginia. Jim gave me permission to use the photo which is at the top of this page. Right now, E's archives are available to subscribers only, but both Jim and the magazine's editor, Brita Belli, very graciously gave permission for the text to be posted. It's hosted on my site, and you can access it here. If you enjoy it, then please consider subscribing to E.

Despite plenty of rivers and big nuclear stations, and an increasing number of wind turbines, Ontario is still heavily dependent on coal. According to the provincial energy ministry, about 18 percent of our elecricity came from coal in 2007. As I write this, 29,527 MW are being produced in Ontario. Based on the posted mix, that would mean more than 5000 MW from coal.

I think I'll go and make sure the lights are turned off upstairs.

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