>Don’t Hate The Player, Hate The Game

>Well okay, hate the player. Massey Energy and Don Blankenship are certainly deserving of our scorn. But while our hearts go out to the families of the West Virginia coal miners who lost their lives, and our anger is turned on Massey Energy, which appears to have bought every politician which has stood in its way, we all need to look in the mirror, too.

Coal produces 54% of our electricity in this country. Every time you flip a light switch or crank up the air conditioning or purchase another appliance, think about where we get the juice to power that equipment. Think about what you are doing to keep the Massey Energies of this country in business.

Look, folks: coal ain’t cheap, regardless of what TVA’s Tom Kilgore and the folks at Big Coal would have you believe. It just looks cheap because when they’re crunching the numbers, they only count part of the cost. They don’t factor in the cost of cleaning up all those leaky coal sludge ponds, and the environmental and health costs associated not just with coal burning but also things like mountaintop removal mining.

(And while we’re talking about this, good for Senator Lamar Alexander, who last year introduced a bill that would basically ban mountaintop removal mining. This is so huge and significant and Lamar deserves a flood of phone calls thanking him for taking this step. And every other senator needs a phone call asking them to support the Cardin-Alexander Appalachian Restoration Act.)

However, it’s not enough. We need to do more, and we need to do it faster. West Virginia, Kentucky and other Appalachian states need to transition their economies away from the coal mines which have forced people to choose between poverty and poison. And some choice that’s been: these states are still among the country’s poorest. People need jobs but they shouldn’t have to choose between poisoning their communities and risking their lives just to put food on the table.

Hate the player all you want, folks. But the problem is the game.

There are things we all can do to cut our coal consumption. At the Beale household we swapped out leaky old windows. When we remodeled our house we purchased energy-miser appliances. I close our blinds in the summer to keep the sun out, which does an amazing job of keeping the house cool. We changed our light bulbs to CFL’s. We signed up for TVA’s Green Power Switch program. And lastly, we put up a solar array on our roof, so NES actually pays me. I am sure we still use some coal, but not as much as we used to.

If you need some ideas on simple things that can save you lots of money in utility bills, as well as the true cost of coal, check out the film “Kilowatt Ours.”

We aren’t perfect at the Beale household. Our house is old and there are energy leaks all over the place, especially around old door frames. We use way more electricity than we should. But it’s a start.

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2 Comments

Filed under clean coal, energy conservation, energy production, Sen. Lamar Alexander

2 responses to “>Don’t Hate The Player, Hate The Game

  1. >I go back and forth about this. Poor people need affordable energy, at least enough to light/cool/warm a small residence. But, you are so right about coal's long term costs. The quest for more and profit from this resource is literally killing people…those that extract it, and those that live in communities near a mine. I think the process to get to the coal should be extremely expensive and extremely safe. Power will cost more, but perhaps it is time for Americans to learn that energy isn't cheap. Our remaining oil reserves and coal reserves should be used as a bridge to cleaner energy sources. Solar, wind, etc are not yet affordable, and there won't be a sense of urgency about that until energy is properly priced.

  2. >Mack — Simple conservation methods can make up for a lot of this. Americans waste so much energy, not just in the residential sector but in the manufacturing sector, even in poor design which builds waste into the system. Pick up a copy of Natural Capitalism from your local library for an excellent in-depth discussion of how waste has been built into our industrial and economic system. These systems were designed when we thought the world was full of infinite resources, when we thought that the economic value of resources was purely in their capacity as a commodity, not in terms of the functions they perform. We have awakened to a new reality that these are living systems that are all connected. Barrier islands protect the coast from hurricanes, they aren't just real estate to be developed; forests aren't just wood waiting to be harvested, they buffer the weather, produce oxygen, and perform other functions. They are "price-less" because we have no other way of doing these things.And I dispute the idea that solar, wind etc are not affordable. They are when you compare true costs across the board. The oil/coal industry has enjoyed defacto government subsidies for decades. Yesterday we learned that ExxonMobil, the world's most profitable corporation in human history, paid ZERO federal income tax in 2009.The playing field is not level. One set of books is used to determine the affordability of fossil fuels, another set of books is used to calculate renewables.