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Coal, Glorious Coal!

January 26, 2009

I began 2009 praising carbon dioxide as the gas, along with oxygen, upon which all life on Earth depends. Now I praise coal and for reasons the mainstream press and other media will studiously avoid telling you. Coal, as you may recall, is on the Obama hit list because its use, according to the environmental loonies, will doom the Earth to a global warming that is not happening.

The United States is home to huge deposits of coal. It is second only to China in terms of total coal consumption. In 2007, the U.S. used about 1.1 billion tons of coal. According to an authority on energy, Robert Bryce, "That's the energy equivalent of about 4.2 billion barrels of oil per year or about 11.5 million barrels of oil per day." By way of comparison, "America's daily coal ration contains more energy than Saudi Arabia's daily oil production." That's a lot of energy.

Why, then, is the Obama administration and virtually all of the major environmental organizations opposed to coal? We know they oppose any use of oil, but coal, so abundant, so rich in energy would seem to be a great alternative. They oppose it because it emits carbon dioxide when burned (so do forest fires, etc.) and that contributes, they assert, to global warming.

Only there isn't any global warming any more because the Earth is in a cooling cycle, so there must be another reason. The closest one I can come to is that they either want to return us all to the Stone Age or they are heavily invested in wind and solar industries.

In 2008, climate change alarmists proclaimed April 1st "Fossil Fools Day" using it to protest energy projects like Duke Energy's massive Cliffside coal-fired power plant just fifty miles west of Charlotte, North Carolina. How they expect consumers to get electricity, fifty percent of which is produced by coal nationwide, is anyone's guess unless they want to carpet all of North Carolina with solar and wind farms.

Led by a group calling themselves Rising Tide, a spokesperson said, "To survive climate change, we need to end the extraction of fossil fuels, reduce rich people's energy consumption, localize economies and revolutionize public transportation." By "rich" they mean you.

Obama's would not be the first administration to try to restrict access to America's supply of coal, oil, or natural gas from use. Congress has done this for oil by banning drilling in ANWR or off the continental shelf. The Clinton administration closed off the vast coal deposits in Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante area and, unfortunately the Bush administration would not revoke this travesty.

President Obama's choice for Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, is a nightmare for anyone who doesn't want to pay $8.00 a gallon for gas as the Europeans do. He favors that, but he is on record as saying, "Coal is my worst nightmare" attributing its use to greenhouse gas emissions. During his confirmation hearing, though, Chu was rapidly backpedaling saying mushy stuff like, "I think it is imperative to use coal as cleanly as possible." He even added that offshore oil and gas production might not be a bad idea. Can we trust this fellow? I think not.

Right now, however, in Europe, Germany is building 27 coal-fired plants by 2020 and Italy plans to increase its reliance on coal from 14% today to 33% in just five years. Throughout Europe, 40 new coal-fired plants are set to be built in the next five years. China can't build them fast enough and India plans to boost coal production by 50% by 2012 and quadruple it by 2030.

Making sure Americans can't use their own national resources seems to be a major mission for the federal government. The U.S. Geographical Survey (USGS) has found a "high potential" for oil and gas in Colorado's Canyon of the Ancients, Washington's Hanford Reach, and Montana's Upper Missouri River Breaks.

There are, however, some twenty-seven States in which coal is mined with some 90% of the coal reserves concentrated in ten States. Montana is a big coal state, as is Wyoming. The USGS estimated the U.S. is home to 1.7 trillion tons of identified coal resources. They estimate the total amount when new discovers are included could exceed 4 trillion tons. In other terms, the U.S. has more than a 250-year supply under current use.

But coal is bad, right? Just ask President Obama, any of his so-called environmental and science advisers, and any major environmental organization. This kind of thinking leaves America vulnerable, particularly in light of the fact that a growing population requires the production of more energy, particularly electricity.

What you're not being told is that, ever since the enactment of the Clean Air Act in 1970, as amended in 1990, the most stringent air pollution law in the world has been in effect. American industry has spent an estimated $350 billion since 1970 to clean the air and each year the cost for pollution control runs about $33 billion.

According to the Electric Power Research Institute, pollution control equipment accounts for up to 40% of the cost of a new power plant and 35% of operational costs. These costs represent about $10 billion of the nation's electric bills each year and consumers will pay more if the Clean Air Act is amended to be even more stringent. A single "scrubber" in a coal-fired plant can cost more than $100 million to construct and many millions to operate. There are at least 200 of these in operation or soon will be. Someone has to pay for all this clean air and that someone is you.

All around the world coal continues to be the energy source of choice. Americans who have plenty of it should, by any rational standard, be thrilled to use it. When our domestic coal is exported, it generates $4.1 billion and presently represents 2.5% of all U.S. exports.

For these reasons, the electricity it produces, the jobs it represents, the value as an export, and the way it does all this without polluting the air, there is ample cause to celebrate coal, glorious, coal.

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Copyright ©2009 Alan Caruba

Alan Caruba is an American public relations counselor and freelance writer who is a frequent critic of environmentalism, Islam and research on global warming. In the late 1970s Caruba founded the PR firm The Caruba Organization, and in 1990, the National Anxiety Center, which identifies itself as "a clearinghouse for information about 'scare campaigns' designed to influence public policy and opinion" on such subjects as global warming, ozone depletion and DDT.