Front Porch Blog

Energy Independence or Destroying Appalachia for Coal?

From Lauren McGrath at SOCM in TN:

imageCoal-to-liquids is being framed as the new solution for just about everything from the war in Iraq to global warming. According to Steven Leer, the chief executive for Arch, the second largest mining company in the United States, “You’re not serious about global carbon stabilization unless you’re serious about increasing investment in coal technology”.

Coal-to-Liquids proponents, which range from certain members of congress to the coal and auto industries (note: read that again, b/c its a bit scary) have been touting coal to liquids as the solution to end our dependence on oil in the middle east — “no warming, no war” – right?

According to Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. “Our country’s dependence on foreign sources of energy is a well-known deficiency in our energy policy and has been for decades”.

Some of the arguments against coal-to-liquids have honed in on the costs of production and concerns the use of liquid coal, with currently available energy infrastructure, would almost double greenhouse gases per gallon of transportation fuels.

However, there is a overlying concern with liquid coal that is not being discussed—that is the true cost of coal extraction methods such as mountaintop removal.

Relying on liquid coal as an alternative fuel source would significantly increase the devastating and irreversible effects of coal mining, including mountaintop removal, on Appalachia. Replacing just ten percent of forecasted U.S. oil demands by 2025 with liquid coal-fuel would require a 43 percent increase in coal production.

Mountaintop removal and other forms of large-scale surface coal mining are steadily transforming the Appalachian mountains into barren plateaus of rubble, destroying both the natural and human environments of this region. Hundreds of thousands of acres of the most productive and diverse temperate hardwood forests in the world and many hundreds of miles of pristine mountain streams have been destroyed by coal mining in Appalachia.

According to the Mountaintop Removal Programmatic EIS, strip mining in Appalachia may cumulatively impact more than 1.4 million acres, or 11.5% of the entire Appalachian study area.

Generations-old human communities and culture are being lost forever along with the mountains. Uncontrolled air pollution from mining operations coats local homes and schools with layers of dangerous coal dust. Children attending schools near the region’s giant mining operations are forced to breathe coal dust. The deforestation caused by large-scale surface mining removes natural protections to flooding, and common storms now cause serious flooding in downstream communities.

People are losing their homes and heritage. Many have been forced to leave.

The devastation of the mountains and destruction of mountain communities is perpetrated and tolerated in the name of “alternative” fuels, “cheap” coal, and even “energy independence”.. But the true cost of coal for the people in Appalachia and the rest of the world is very, very high.

Any energy policy that furthers the nation’s dependence on coal is incompatible with a just, sustainable energy future. It is time demand that congress work towards a responsible effort to confront global warming in the United States that addresses enormous environmental and human impacts caused by the United States’ reliance on coal.

Published by Kim Teplitzky April 27th, 2007 in Act Locally, Dirty Energy, Climate Justice, Corporate Responsibility, Extraction, Impacted Communities





Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Comment