Monday, February 21, 2011

Coal is dirty, dangerous, deadly and unsustainable !

Coal is dirty, dangerous, deadly and unsustainable !
By Michael William Mullen

Mike Mullen, Choctawhatchee RIVERKEEPER
The recent Alabama Voices column by our new Public Service Commission member Twinkle Cavanaugh seeks to stir up folks about the costs of energy bills that are stalled in Congress and potential U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations to address emissions responsible for climate change.
If she were doing her job, she would be researching all aspects, including hidden costs associated with production of electricity from coal. However, she appears to be much too busy writing op-ed pieces that seek to maintain the status quo to do serious research that might benefit the citizens of Alabama.
If one takes a comprehensive look at all of the costs of producing electricity from coal, not just the price of electricity, he or she will very quickly understand that coal is destructive, dangerous and deadly. The facts, when examined with an open mind, bring one to realize that electricity produced from coal is simply a fool's bargain.
To understand the true cost of electricity from coal, one has to add up all the external costs. These costs include the health costs -- black lung disease suffered by miners, increased asthma rates and associated costs and deaths suffered by the public who breathe the coal plant emissions, impacts upon water quality and associated costs for providing clean water, the costs associated with wear and tear on roads, costs associated with acid rain, sludge spill costs, the accumulation of the nerve poison mercury released from coal burning in fish and fish consumers, including human beings, the miners killed in accidents and many other costs not listed here, including horrific environmental impacts.
West Jefferson Power Plant, Alabama
New information just released by the EPA shows that a form of chromium, hexavalent chromium, a form known to cause cancer, is present in coal ash and in surface and groundwater around coal ash disposal sites.
A number of years ago a Canadian study showed that the true cost of electricity produced by coal was about 25 cents per kilowatt hour, or at that time about the same as electricity from solar photovoltaic panels.
Solar energy is abundantly available in the Southeast. Even in Germany, with its colder climate, solar for both electricity and hot water is having a major positive impact on their economy. If Commissioner Cavanaugh were truly interested in serving Alabamians and the economy of Alabama, she would be working to set goals for solar and other ecologically sustainable sources of renewable energy. Instead she seems content to put out the orthodoxy of the status quo as she serves Alabama Power Co. and Alabama Gas Co.

We recently installed a solar water heater that will pay for itself in around eight years and thereafter provide hot water at no out-of-pocket cost for another 17 or 18 years. If we lived in Florida, we would have received a check for $1,000 as an incentive for installing renewable energy because the utilities have a renewable energy goal that they must meet. There are no similar incentives for clean energy in Alabama.
If Cavanaugh and the Alabama PSC were as concerned about the well-being of Alabamians as they are profits of the power company, they would create goals for clean, renewable energy and conservation. If they wanted to reach those goals, they would create incentives for clean, renewable energy and conservation.
By doing so, they would protect public health, take out an insurance policy against climate change and ultimately help to grow Alabama's economy.

Michael William Mullen, executive director,
Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper
Banks Alabama.

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