What he promises, and what his budget does, differ markedly on fixing waterways

trump speechPresident Donald stood this week on the bank of the Ohio River before 400 steelworkers, coal miners, and construction workers with barges of coal parked behind him. Amid departures from his text to chastise those he called “obstructionists,” President Donald touted his plan to spend $1 trillion to rebuild the nation’s airports, roads, bridges and tunnels and all other elements of American infrastructure.

With barges as his background canvas, he told of lapses and collapses in the nation’s inland waterways. He cited a gate failure at the Markland Locks on the Ohio River that took five months to repair. He pointed to a massive section of a canal wall that collapsed near Chicago, delaying shipping. [See speech video.]

A release from the White House press office coincided with President Donald’s remarks. Regard inland waterways, the release said:

The infrastructure of America’s inland waterways has been allowed to fall apart, causing delays and preventing the United States from achieving its economic potential. According to [the American Society of Civil Engineers], most of the locks and dams needed to travel the internal waterways are past their 50-year lifespan and nearly 50 percent of voyages suffered delays. Our inland waterway system requires $8.7 billion in maintenance and the maintenance backlog is only getting worse.

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President Donald on coal: ‘Yes.’ His chief economic adviser: ‘No.’

EnergyIs there a sane mind in the White House, one who believes the resurgence of coal promised by President Donald is a fiction concocted to garner November votes? Or who at least believes the coal industry is dead on its feet?

Even after his election, the president continued to promise coal renewal. In an address at the Environmental Protection Agency in March, he said:

We will unlock job producing natural gas, oil and shale energy. We will produce American coal to power American industry. [emphasis added]

President Donald has taken steps to unleash coal. He’s rolled back clean-air policies and regulations of previous administrations. He’s taken aim at President Obama’s Clean Power Plan with the goal of killing it. He has ordered the lifting of a moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands. Continue reading

Export U.S. coal to Asia? Not so fast, say three West Coast states — and Canada?

Coal-Train-300x268It appears Canada may no longer be a willing partner for American coal companies wishing to export coal to Asia. No economically feasible alternatives to get coal to Pacific Rim markets exist for those companies, either.

News item from October 2016:

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A coal company with mines in Montana and Wyoming said Thursday that it’s begun exporting fuel to Asia through a Canadian shipping terminal, after its years-long effort to secure port access in the U.S. Pacific Northwest has come up short.

That’s not surprising. The use of coal in America, as S&R explained last year, has stalled — and it’s not going to rebound despite President Donald’s promise to revive the coal industry. So the owners of big coal mines in Montana and Wyoming are looking to export coal to Asian markets to shore up revenues.

But the states of California, Washington, and Oregon have opposed coal export terminal projects in Oakland, Calif.; Bellingham, Gray’s Harbor, and Longview, Wash.; and Port of Morrow, St. Helens, and Coos Bay, Ore. So coal corporations have decided to ship through Canadian ports on its western coast. For now, maybe.

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Despite campaign promises, Donald can’t revive the American coal industry

President Donald wants to revive America’s coal industry. He says regulations, most notably from the Environmental Protection Agency, have forced coal plants to close. So he wants to do away with those damn unfriendly regulations (such as the mercury and air toxics standards, the proposed cross-state pollution standard and the proposed limitations of carbon dioxide emissions). After that, Appalachian coal will again be riven from the earth, reviving the industry.

Nope. Won’t happen. Coal lost. Natural gas, thanks to fracking, won. Continue reading

Walking the walk on global warming – Renewable Journal for 2/25/2015

Leasing solar panels and acquiring an electric vehicle helped clear a mental block that had kept me from writing much about industrial climate disruption for about two years.

For more posts in this series, please click here.

About two years ago I took a break from regular writing about industrial climate disruption (aka global warming or climate change). My day job was very busy and all the writing energy I usually pour into blogging was, instead, going into my work. By the time I got home at the end of the day I didn’t even want to think about writing again. I’d also become very frustrated with how little recognition my efforts seemed to get. The posts I was the most proud of seemed to be ignored almost completely while the stupid l drive-by posts on a topic of the day would get tons of hits and links. And then there was the fact that much of my topics were being duplicated by others with more time and/or money to write, so it seemed like my niche was rapidly disappearing into other climate focused blogs who were doing it better than I could. All these factors combined to make writing about climate an extremely unpleasant experience.

Recently, though, I discovered that there was something else that was clogging up my writing brain – something that I didn’t realize until the blockage had been removed. I discovered that the fact I hadn’t been really doing much personally to address industrial climate disruption had been a metaphorical ball and chain on my writing. When I started leasing my solar panels from Solar City and bought my Nissan Leaf, that particular weight was removed. Continue reading

America gets divorced: what about custody of the energy and the nukes?

Part three in a series.

First look at this map:

Now this one, which indicates the location of US military installations: Continue reading

Nota Bene #119: Think! It Ain't Illegal Yet

“My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met.” Who said it? Continue reading

Industry vs. scientists – who profits from climate disruption?

“Follow the money – it’s all about the research grants.”

This and similar accusations are commonly made against anyone who advocates on behalf science-based climate policies at all levels, all they way from national academies of science down through professional scientific societies, universities, research groups, and even down to individual scientists. S&R decided to follow the money to see who profits the most from climate disruption, the fossil fuel-related industries or the global climate science community. Note: Many of the numbers below are so large that there’s not a common style convention for writing them. For this post, trillions of dollars will be indicated like this: $1464 billion.

Fossil fuel-related industries are more than just the organizations that extract the crude oil, coal, and natural gas from the ground. There’s also the groups that transport the fuels via ship, train, and pipeline. Then there are the refiners who turn the crude oil or natural gas into unleaded, diesel, plastic, and fertilizer feedstock. And there’s the utilities that keep the lights on by burning natural gas and coal. All of these industries make a great deal of money because carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are not priced or regulated, and they all risk losing a great deal of money should that change. Continue reading

Nota Bene #97: toDwI'ma' qoS yItIvqu'!

“To be truly free, and truly to appreciate its freedom, a society must be literate.” Continue reading

Nota Bene #96: Saturn's Hexagon and the Bulava Spiral

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” Continue reading

The Weekly Carboholic: independent statisticians reject recent global cooling claims in blind analysis

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Climate disruption deniers have been claiming for years now that the global temperature has been cooling down, even though the temperature data clearly shows that it isn’t. Scientists and statisticians have pointed out that, mathematically speaking, the recent reduced warming trend is well within the noise, or put another way, it’s weather, not climate.

A new report by the Associated Press reveals what many of us knew already – the denier’s claims don’t hold water, statistically speaking. The report is intriguing because the AP provided their data to four independent statisticians without telling them what it was, and all four found that the slower warming of the past decade was statistically insignificant with respect to the actual data. Continue reading

Senator Claire McCaskill tweets to weaken ACES (updated)

Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri is calling for a further weakening of the American Climate and Energy Security Act (ACES) that passed out of the House last week. Of course, that’s not what she calls it. Sen. McCaskill twittered last week:

I hope we can fix cap and trade so it doesn’t unfairly punish businesses and families in coal dependent states like Missouri. (emphasis mine)

I can’t help but wonder what happened to the Senator who dared mention that oil prices shouldn’t be allowed to fall too far at the Rocky Mountain Roundtable, Session 2, Part 3, during the DNC:

There’s a certain reality here that it is important that we don’t get gas too cheap again, and I certainly agree with what [Randy Udall] said. We will never see the days of… when people are pumping $1, $1.50 gas again. And that may not be an all bad thing because it will motivate the politics on this issue to the forefront so we have a sense of urgency.

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The Weekly Carboholic: Early deaths cost Appalachia more than coal jobs earn

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Appalachia has some of the most impoverished communites in the United States. The entire region is economically depressed as compared to the national average. But coal communities in Appalachia are even worse off than the rest of the region, a fact that runs counter to the idea that coal jobs support local communities. A new study out of the Institute for Health Policy Research at West Virginia University and published in Public Health Reports looked at this discrepency and found that, even using conservative assumptions, the economic costs of coal mining in Appalachian communities far outweighed the benefits from having a coal mine in the community. Continue reading

The Weekly Carboholic: Devil in the ACES details – fossil fuel industry pork

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In any legislation that’s nearly 1000 pages long, it’s inevitable that there will be some interesting details. The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) is no exception. Last week, Solve Climate reported on one of those interesting details, namely that ACES has a $50 million per year “self-assessment” that directly benefits the coal and other fossil fuel industries.

According to the article, the direct benefit comes down to the creation of a federal Carbon Storage Research Corporation that is funded by per-kilowatt charges on electric bills instead of a tax on fossil fuel-burning utilities. Continue reading

Unleashing the Green stampede

windturbines_greenWhile on the campaign trail, Barack Obama made greening America’s infrastructure a huge priority for his administration. As noted in the Los Angeles Times, Obama planned

to spend $150 billion over the next decade to promote energy from the sun, wind and other renewable sources as well as energy conservation. Plans include raising vehicle fuel-economy standards and subsidizing consumer purchases of plug-in hybrids. Obama wants to weatherize 1 million homes annually and upgrade the nation’s creaky electrical grid. His team has talked of providing tax credits and loan guarantees to clean-energy companies.

His goals: create 5 million new jobs repowering America over 10 years; assert U.S. leadership on global climate change; and wean the U.S. from its dependence on imported petroleum.

He’s currently battling Congress for the appropriations required to turn his vision into reality, and the resistance from Capitol Hill raises once again a question that’s been bouncing around the office here for the last six months: why not revise the tax code to make wind, hydroelectric, solar and other renewable technologies “like-kind” with traditional fossil technologies? This would allow energy companies that wanted to transition into green energy to employ Section 1031 Like-Kind Exchanges, thereby speeding the switch-over considerably. Continue reading

The Weekly Carboholic: as the Arctic melts

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“I was in Siberia a few weeks ago, and I am now just back in from the field in Alaska. The permafrost is melting fast all over the Arctic, lakes are forming everywhere and methane is bubbling up out of them.”

“Lakes in Siberia are five times bigger than when I measured them in 2006. It’s unprecedented. This is a global event now, and the inertia for more permafrost melt is increasing.”

This is what University of Alaska ecologist Katey Walter is quoted as saying in a New Scientist article published last week titled Arctic meltdown is a threat to humanity. Continue reading

The Weekly Carboholic: GISS and NOAA expect 2009 to be hotter than 2008

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giss2008

Last year, the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) released a prediction that record global temperatures should be expected in the next 2-3 years. GISS released their annual wrapup of the 2008 global temperature, and with it an updated prediction: 2008 was the coolest year since 2000 because of a strong La Nina in the tropical Pacific, and record temperatures are expected in the next 1-2 years. Continue reading

Kingston, TN sings "Auld Lang Sludge" (Update #2)

Update #2: NASA’s Earth Observatory has false-color LandSat images of before and after the spill. Amazing shots. I’ll add them to the image slideshow rotation above when I have a chance.

Update#1: Appalachian Voices’ Frontporch blog is reporting that the independent water samples taken from the Emory River last week show that “[c]oncentrations of eight toxic chemicals range from twice to 300 times higher than drinking water limits.” The results are preliminary, but they’re so high – and in such conflict with official results – that the scientists and activists felt that releasing the data was very important. Here’s the official press release, a video on it, and a NYTimes article on it too. If you’re in the area and your community gets water from the Clinch River downstream of the Emory, I’d strongly recommend bottled water.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas last week. Many of us here at S&R have been taking some time off from blogging as well, which is why it’s been days since the last update on the Tennessee Valley Authority’s coal (ash) in the stocking story. So it’s past time for another roundup of the latest news and opinion. Continue reading

Coal waste dumps: ticking toxic time bombs

Tom Yulsman of the Center for Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado ran the following post on the toxic nature of coal combustion byproducts at the CEJ’s blog, CEJournal. Tom has been kind enough to permit S&R to crosspost his work here. This is Tom’s second guest post: his first (on a very different topic) can be found here, and the original of this post can be found here.

A truly frightening video from ground zero of the coal ash catastrophe

The New York Times reports today that the coal sludge that surged out of a breached Tennessee Valley Authority impoundment in Roane County was actually three times larger than previously estimated. The updated total is 5.4 million cubic yards, “or enough to flood more than 3,000 acres one foot deep,” Times reporter Shaila Dewan reports.

The discrepancy casts doubt on the credibility of assurances from the Tennessee Valley Authority that the coal combustion waste from its Kingston Fossil Plant poses little risk to residents of the area. (Several days ago, one TVA official told the Associated Press that the waste “consists of inert material not harmful to the environment.”)

In fact, evidence has been gathering for years that the waste dumps pose a very serious risk to human health and the environment. Continue reading

Tennessee coal ash slide, Day 3

UPDATE: Greenpeace sent a photographer to the area, and while the photographer was prevented from getting close, he got some good shots here. Also, both CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News devoted primetime to this “sludgeslide” (below the cut). And finally, frontpage NYTimes tomorrow AM will have this article on the ashslide: Coal Ash Spill Revives Issue of Its Hazards.

The Kingston Steam Plant ashslide is already being called the southeast’s worst environmental disaster by some environmentalists and journalists. It appears that some of the national media outlets are finally picking up the story, although this disaster remains woefully undercovered.

CNN has finally picked up the story (last updated around 6 AM MST) with interviews of two Appalachian environmentalists, Chandra Taylor of the Southern Environmental Law Center and Dave Cooper of the Mountaintop Removal Road Show.

Although video from the scene shows dead fish on the banks of the tributary, he said that “in terms of toxicity, until an analysis comes in, you can’t call it toxic.”

[Chandra Taylor] called that statement “irresponsible.” Continue reading