City Journal Spring 2014

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Spring 2014
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Robert Bryce
Coal Comfort « Back to Story

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London smoke in 1812 was particulate matter, which has been removed efficiently by scrubbers since before the turn of the last century, along with most of the acids and other undesirable chemicals that are found in coal combustion.
"Scars on the Earth" is just plain stupid talk. I think cities are horribly ugly. I find mines quite visually compelling in geometrical and geological ways. This silly urban office worker concept of what's pretty or not has no place in the discussion at all.
Green advocates are all liars. Why even argue this lunacy with them? A volcano erupts somewhere, and it emits all the crap that power plants do without the scrubbers. Everything in the ground burns when a volcano erupts, including coal, oil, and even (OMG) uranium! I am tired of justifying logic and reason to people who have none of either.
It doesn't help advance the cause of reason when every article concerning global scamming or the environment genuflects at the stupid altar of the green god.
Otherwise, a good article.
Please learn to write without knee jerk butt kissing of he Left.

The facts are not conclusive on global warming they can not acturately model it.
Plus the fact of it is, that the Sun solar flares more closely reflect the temperature of the earth than any other measurements.Check the earths mean temperatures against solar flares data and the graph correlate
Let's hope comes November '12 the sworn enemy of coal will be thrown out of office and the proposed EPA rules will become academic.
Andy Karabinos writes "there is not one shred of scientific evidence to support the correlation of the rise of the earth's temperature to carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere."

You couldn't be more wrong -- it's been directly measured.

Satellites in Earth orbit measure less heat escaping out to space, at the particular wavelengths at which CO2 and other GHGs absorbs radiation. Moreover, this outgoing radiation is decreasing, and at the wavelengths predicted by greenhouse gas theory, just as expected since we are adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere:

"Increases in greenhouse forcing inferred from the outgoing longwave radiation spectra of the Earth in 1970 and 1997," J.E. Harries et al, Nature 410, 355-357 (15 March 2001). 

What I find amazing is that you would think thousands of scientists would consider something true with no supporting evidence whatsoever. (There is a host of other evidence as well, especially from geologic data.)

Science illiteracy really is damaging our country and our world.

The newer, cleaner, more efficient coal plants in China are a better place to burn US coal than old, dirty US plants.
So the point is, are we leaders or followers in this world? The worlds' people look to the USA for direction. Coal is there and will be there when we need it. What is wrong with exploring for our energy needs in the new technology of natural energy?
KRISTI STROSCHEIN August 06, 2012 at 7:43 PM
IF our own citizens would JUST visit the coal mines & power plants here,they would realize how CLEAN these coal companies HAVE TO BE ! AND,the restorations that are done are incredible ! The land IS "put back" better than what it was before being mined...I have lived here for 11 years now & SEE what these companies go through to keep the land beautiful & our people safe !
Coal even at the current cost and clean technology level can't compete with natural gas. You can make it about CO2 and maybe the EPA says it's that too, but it's really about cost, and pollution i.e. mercury, sulfur, arsenic, and so on. Even under a republican administration gas will be cheaper than coal, and so would still be loosing market share, so your analysis is very disingenuous.
I live less than 2 miles downwind from a coal-burning plant. It has been constantly updating its scrubbing technology for the 30 years I've been here. Particulate pollution disappeared 20 years ago.
If one doesn't subscribe to the global warming hysteria -- the remaining worst annoyance is getting caught by the unit train which brings coal in twice a week.

"it’s obvious that coal will be powering the global economy for many decades to come."

But it's not obvious that the coal will come from American mines. Not only does the Sierra Club and its allies want to stop the use of coal in the U.S., they want to ban the coal ports needed for export, and yes, they are mounting efforts to ban fracking and the use of natural gas as a power plant fuel.
Good article but why was there no mention about the improvements in coal power production and the new clean-burning coal processes?
The EPA isn't expanding its Clean Air Act definitions, it was sued by multiple states and the courts are requiring it to regulate green house gas emissions. Also, this court ruling and regulation development was started well before Mr. Obama took office.
We will regret the EPA's attack on coal. When the competion of coal is removed from the market natural gas prices will "necessarily skyrocket"!

The effect on on energy prices will be more quickly noticed when steam coal from Appalachia is highly mitigated because western coal needs Appalachian coal to mix with their own in order to keep the BTU's high. Coal with low BTU's require more volume in order to produce the same amount of energy produced with higher BTU's!

The whole CO2 story is a sham, anyway! If there is anything that contributes to global warming it is the sun and urban sprawl!
To Karabinos: you are mistaken. Several national academies of science say otherwise. And there is the simple fact, in itself enough to count as a "shred" of evidence, that carbon dioxide has absorption/emission spectrum lines in the infrared. Any such gas will make the earth warmer than it would be in the absence of that gas.

The moon is much colder than the earth. The reason is the effect of CO2 and water vapor on the re-radiation of heat to the night sky. On the moon, the energy escapes unchecked. On the earth, it has to work its way through layers of CO2 and H2O vapor.

As CO2 levels rise, this effect becomes stronger.
Since coal is plentiful and cheap, it's going to be mined and burned world wide no matter how loudly environmentalists scream until the last scrap of it has been dredged from the earth. We're so smart, where is the technology to "clean it up"? Do these scrubbers really work and if not, why aren't we devising better methods? What is "clean coal"?
I do not understand the point of the article. Does the author believe we should use more coal? Does the author believe we should not obstruct any increase in the use of coal. Or does the author believe we need to show the world how to get along with less of it?
Outstanding! It needs more exposure.

First, the globe is warming. It has for 20,000 years (since the end of the last ice age).

Second, there is not one shred of scientific evidence to support the correlation of the rise of the earth's temperature to carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere. However, there is a correlation for 400 years(1600-2000) between the increase of the earth's temperature with the mitigation of cosmic rays caused by sun spots.
Is 'clean coal technology' a reality
Coal burned in communist and socialist counties does not produce emissions.

Only capitalist coal warms the globe.

Even here, coal from Al Gore's Occidental Coal Co is also emission free.

Energy Secretary Stephen Chu told me this. He should know.

US has technology to convert coal into pipe line transportable gas economically,giving pollution free burning.So why not use this technology,instead of directly burning coal into thermal power houses.Coal will remain as an abundant source of fuel and will remain as cheapest source of energy. So what is required is to convert coal into more efficient gas with latest technological innovation and use the derivative products from coal.
What the commenters don't seem to understand is the USA cannot dictate to the rest of the world. If the world is going to use coal, and we are going to ship our coal overseas, there is no savings in net pollution, only cost in higher prices for electricity for us.
SUPERFREAKANOMICS has an interesting idea of how to control worldwide pollution and global warming at low cost.
The EPA is correct in its belief that burning coal produces CO2 and that elevated CO2 levels cause temperatures to be warmer than they would otherwise be.

There is a case to be made that the wealth and health benefits of electricity can be had without having to accept the forest fires, floods, rising sea levels, and deadly heat waves that unrestricted use of coal seem to bring in their wake.

The cost of wind, solar, and nuclear electricity, if the environmental side effects of coal were counted, would work out to less than the all-things-considered cost of coal-fired electricity.
I appreciate your perspective on energy and coal in particular. That the federal government can't think beyond their noses could seriously imperial this country, and I hope my grand kids are not the victims.
As usual, Robert Bryce brings facts and common sense to the tale.
In 2011, US CO2 emissions from coal (1,867 Mt) were 6% of World CO2 emissions (31,600 Mt). Getting rid of that with noncarbon sources would hardly leave world emissions "unchanged," as the author writes.

The very nature of the problem means small actions contribute little to the solution. Who, in their own life, ignores a problem because its solution is difficult? If you need to lose 50 pounds, do you not go on a diet because losing a pound or two would make little difference? Of course not -- you pluck away at the problem in every way you can.

Besides, a cap or tax on coal in the US would incentivize the development of cheaper noncarbon technologies, which are the real solution to climate change. They can be used worldwide. Throwing up one's hands and using coal anyway removes that incentive.

And coal is only "cheap" if you ignore its many negative external costs. Including them, coal causes more damage than value-added, even before you consider its damage to the climate:

Muller, Nicholas Z., Robert Mendelsohn, and William Nordhaus. 2011. "Environmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States Economy." American Economic Review, 101(5): 1649–75.

To summarize that paper's findings: for every $1 in value that comes from coal-generated electricity, it creates $2.20 in damages.

This push to export coal has one motive: profits for the coal companies. They see the writing on the wall with the decrease in US coal consumption, and are looking to maintain their copious profits, the environment be damned.