Monday, May 16, 2011

Bow Lower

The past week or so the Herald has featured some op-ed writings about a particular flavor of coal pollution. On May 7, Terrence Kardong of the Dakota Resource Council (DRC) defended EPA air quality standards. Two days ago the DRC had a column basically saying North Dakota should begin shifting energy generation away from coal and toward renewable sources. Again, the selling point used was air quality.

Yesterday, Perrie Schafer came riding in to the defense of the coal industry in response to the earlier letter. The defense is that the industry is spending and making efforts to meet air standards, that "North Dakota’s air is clean and getting cleaner", and critically that we should simply be more appreciative of coal and the coal industry. Schafer says,
[t]he state needs to stand up for an industry that is responsible for more than 20,000 good-paying jobs and more than $90 million in state tax revenue every year — and keeps the lights on.

I can pick out a items that fit as warning signs of abusive relationships. But please do not tell the coal industry that - they might, I mean, I might fall down the stairs or walk into a door.

This issue has been festering (as many do), and air quality is bubbling up in North Dakota recently. But note to what this particular back-and-forth on air quality does not refer. Air quality and respiratory health is only a sliver of the coal pollution issues pie.

You could stretch and say they are covering acid rain (warning: cap-and-trade at work!). Mercury is not covered. Arsenic and heavy metals are not covered. And of course the billions of tons gorilla in the corner (and everywhere else in the atmosphere) is greenhouse gas emissions. Even never-will-be-achieved "clean" coal burning that eliminated NOx, SO2, mercury, arsenic, heavy metals, and particulates is still grossly polluting by dumping massive amounts of climate-altering and ocean-acidifying CO2 into the atmosphere.

Yet for the likes of Schafer we should be more often kissing the dirty feet of the coal industry in appreciation for how they "keep the lights on" for cheap, even though it is punting the future off a cliff.

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