Don't Get Duped Like Obama: Here're the Top 5 Myths About Coal
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That's not all. Not included in that dollar amount are damage estimates for acid mine drainage, mercury pollution or ground water contamination, because reliable global estimates for the cost of these occurrences do not currently exist.
Clearly it's time we began switching to clean energy or foot the bill for the true cost of dirty power.
4. It's Good for the Economy
It used to be that industry could win big by using the "jobs" card, and it could pit environmentalists and human health advocates against rural workers and unions. But those days seem to have passed, especially when it comes to the coal industry, where jobs in the sector are dwindling, thanks to the industry itself.
Mountaintop removal is a mining technique designed, from the very start, to take the labor force out of the mining operation. What used to take hundreds of miners employed for decades, now takes a half-dozen heavy-equipment operators and blasting technicians a couple of years. According to the bureau of labor statistics, in the early 1950s there were between 125,000 and 145,000 miners employed in West Virginia; in 2004 there were just over 16,000. During that time, coal production has increased.
These days, it seems better for communities to go with renewables. The U.S. just became the world's leading producer of wind energy and may be a leader in solar soon. The Earth Policy Institute found that, "An investment in wind power produces almost three times as many jobs as the same investment in coal power. And an investment in solar power produces almost four times as many jobs and energy efficiency, almost 30 times as many jobs as coal power."
Activists in the Coal River area of West Virginia have taken those numbers to heart and found that wind is a better investment than coal, even in their necks of the woods. Unfortunately, time is running out there.
Just this week, activists were arrested trying to persuade coal company Massey Energy not to blast Coal River Mountain, but instead to consider a more profitable wind-power development. Their research has shown that, "The wind farm would provide over a million dollars more in tax revenue per year than the mountaintop removal site, and would provide jobs and clean energy forever."
The truth is, in order to make the switch to renewable energy, we may need the big powerhouses like Massey to get in the game. Right now, in West Virginia they've got that shot.
Even NASA's James Hansen, one of the leading global-warming scientists, is helping them sound the alarm:
It has been shown that more energy can be obtained from a proposed wind farm, if Coal River Mountain continues to stand. More jobs would be created. More tax revenue would flow, locally and to the state, and the revenue flow would continue indefinitely. Clean water and the environment would be preserved. But if planned mountaintop removal proceeds, the mountain loses its potential to be a useful wind source.
Of course jobs in the region don't just have to come from energy. Appalachian Voice reports:
The biggest coal-producing state in Appalachia, West Virginia, tourism already contributes more to the economy, and creates far more jobs, than the coal industry and has for more than a decade. It doesn't take an economist to tell you that mountaintop removal is permanently destroying the best economic assets that mountain counties have: the beautiful and ancient Appalachian Mountains themselves.
When you consider the huge toll that coal has on human health and the environment (see points 1, 2, and 3), it's a no-brainer. Coal has proved for over a hundred years, that it may make corporations rich, but it makes communities poor.