Tag Archives: energy policy

Coal Is Still Dead

I’ve read enough articles about cheap natural gas supplanting coal to conclude that these folks right here are morons:

WAYNESBURG, Pa. (Reuters) – When Mike Sylvester entered a career training center earlier this year in southwestern Pennsylvania, he found more than one hundred federally funded courses covering everything from computer programming to nursing.

He settled instead on something familiar: a coal mining course.

”I think there is a coal comeback,” said the 33-year-old son of a miner.

Despite broad consensus about coal’s bleak future, a years-long effort to diversify the economy of this hard-hit region away from mining is stumbling, with Obama-era jobs retraining classes undersubscribed and future programs at risk under President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget.

Trump has promised to revive coal by rolling back environmental regulations and moved to repeal Obama-era curbs on carbon emissions from power plants.

“I have a lot of faith in President Trump,” Sylvester said.

You, sir, are an idiot and I am tired of being asked to feel sorry for you.

Coal is not coming back. Certainly not in any significant way. Definitely not in any long-term, community-building way. It’s that free-hand-of-the-market thing you guys are always yammering on about. Technology has made other energy sources cheaper. It’s not environmentalists and tree huggers doing this (last I checked, those folks were pretty staunchly against fracking), it’s just good ol’ fashioned economics.

So. Read the writing on the wall:

“production levels remain near lows hit in 1978”

… and take advantage of the help being sent your way. Or, don’t:

“…120 people have signed up for jobs retraining outside the mines, far short of the target of 700…”

and

“I can’t even get them to show up for free food I set up in the office,” said Dave Serock, an ex-miner who recruits in Fayette County for Southwest Training Services.

Seriously, what the hell is wrong with people? Is this nostalgia for days gone by? Republicans are going to cut funding for all of these job training programs. Now is the time to take advantage of the help being offered because it will be gone next year. The turd in the White House does not give a shit about “coal country” or workers beyond using their plight to stoke further divisions in the country. Wake the hell up.

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Filed under clean coal, energy policy, energy production

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Someone check the campaign donations to Marsha Blackburn and Lamar Alexander and see if there are any ceiling fan manufacturers on that list:

I can’t pass this up: Tennessee must have quite the ceiling fan lobby. As we mentioned earlier this week, Rep. Marsha Blackburn has introduced measures to defund DOE’s work to improve the efficiency of ceiling fans in recent years. So, it stood out to ME that one of the bills on the ENR agenda today is one from Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander to “remove the authority of the Secretary of Energy to amend or issue new energy efficiency standards for ceiling fans.”

Yes, we absolutely must have inefficient ceiling fans. Because freedom. And reasons.

BTW, wonder if Marsha was able to unload all those inefficient lightbulbs she was handing out for Christmas one year.

(h/t to Jamie in Comments)

[UPDATE]:

Ah, thanks to Joe in comments, I found this in the 2013 memory hole:

Ceiling fans: Big government, or just hot air?

While making homes more energy-efficient is a legitimate, even vital goal of federal policy, government agents aren’t about to pry inefficient fans from the ceilings of American homes. That didn’t stop Representative Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, from pushing a measure to block any new federal energy efficiency standards for ceiling fans — or from defending that measure in overheated terms. “We’ve already seen the federal government stretch their regulatory tentacles into our homes and determine what kind of light bulbs we have to use,” Blackburn said on the House floor. “Now they’re coming after our ceiling fans. It is a sad state of affairs when even our ceiling fans aren’t safe from this administration.”

Actually, it was President Bush and a Republican Congress who called for national efficiency standards in 2005 as a way of preempting state regulations; the Department of Energy began taking steps to implement national rules this year. As well it should have: Home appliances represent a huge opportunity to reduce energy consumption, and many ceiling fans use technology that is decades old.

And for all Blackburn’s zealfor liberty, it’s also noteworthy that one of the nation’s top ceiling fan companies, Hunter Fan, is in her home state. Roll Call reported that the company has already complained about the potential costs of new rules to the Energy Department and asked for a delay “until there are further advances in fan technology.”

None of which has stopped Hunter Fans from saying all the right “green” things on its website, such as:

It’s a promise—your Hunter ceiling fan can have a positive impact on your wallet and the world.

“It’s a promise”? Really? That promise is looking pretty damn empty.

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Filed under Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee

How You Know Your Empire Has Died

[UPDATE]:

Here’s the audio clip:

————————-

This discussion between Ali Velshi and Stephen Leeb on Al Jazeera America yesterday was the smartest five minutes I’ve heard on TV news in a long time. The segment was about the new carbon pollution proposals the EPA just unveiled, the same proposals causing aneurisms in right-wing “Drill Here, Drill Now” land (sorry, bear with me guys: for some reason I can’t get the audio clip to post, so here’s the transcript. And you’re gonna have to take my word for this until I can figure out how to post audio, which I believe involves me making a purchase of some kind, possibly more storage) (Got the link posted, I was right, I needed to buy something. The things I do for you guys):

AV: Joining us to tell us more is Stephen Leeb, founder and research chairman of the Leeb Group. Now Stephen, you and I have talked for years about cleaner energy, you‘re an expert on the energy field and somebody who embraces a cleaner environment. My guess is that you would like this, but I’ve heard rumblings that you don’t think this is a good idea?

SL: Well Ali, it’s not that I don’t think it’s a good idea, I think it’s a day late, a dollar short, and maybe that’s an exaggeration. It’s way too little. What we need in this country is something nationwide, something like the interstate highway system. Something like a smart grid that runs across the country. I mean for me the key here in reading it was that it’s up to the individual states. That just doesn’t cut it. We have a grid in this country that in some.. there are cases in which our grid is more than a century old.

AV: This is our electrical grid.

SL: This is our electrical grid! I mean the only reason people can’t hack it is that one state doesn’t talk to another state! That’s the only advantage I can see to having a grid this old. We could create so many jobs by following China’s example. Build out a smart grid. Then you can have all these energy sources — gas, solar, wind, hydro, geothermal…

AV: Everything feeds in.

SL: Everything feeds in. Right now the Chinese are eating our lunch. I mean there was an item about a week ago in the Financial Times. EDF, a massive French utility, is building an electric plant that will supply 7% of British electricity. Massive! Except they didn’t have the skill sets. Who did they turn to? Not us! The Chinese. Who now has the fastest way of transmitting voltage from one part of the country to the other part of a country? The Chinese! We need to get our act together, Ali, if we’re really going to do something. Yes, I mean, I applaud any efforts to cut down emissions, to use new fuels and we may even get more solar and more wind because ….

AL: And that’s starting to happen. But in Europe it was the cap.. I hear you on how this can be unwieldly with the states but the concept of a cap-and-trade system and an exchange has worked out for Europe.

SL: It can work out yes, but it’s not going to be the solution unless you have a grid that can accommodate it across the country. Eventually you run into trouble. And I’m not even talking about the troubles that you see when you write down the amount of shale oil in this country by 60%, which we did the other day. All of a sudden the Monterey has 4% of what we originally thought.

AV: Right, across the country we are finding in these wells where we thought there was more oil and in some cases natural gas, there’s less.

SL: And it could be much less or maybe there’s more, I mean, you can always hope. But right now we’re becoming more and more dependent on the Marcellus. And you’re starting to see very rapid decline rates there. We need something Ali, I mean we were able to do it 30-40 years ago, interstate highway system, man to the moon…

AV: We don’t have the will to do anything on a national level, particularly something that would cost billions and billions of dollars.

SL: But create billions and billions of jobs! I mean, we somehow equate investment with spending, and it doesn’t have to be that way. Investment in an electrical grid, is not spending, it’s not wasteful. It’s creating something that will benefit all of us, our children, etc.

AV: Give me a sense, because we’ve had some Republicans come out and say this will increase energy costs for the average family in this country where the middle class is struggling. What is the net result on electrical prices out of this?

SL: You know, my guess is the net result is electrical prices go up because the guts of our electrical system right now is still hydrocarbons, and they’re not getting more plentiful. They’re getting scarcer, despite the shale revolution. They are. We’re not going to ever become energy independent, at most maybe we’ll be able to produce 11 million barrels of oil. We may have a little gas to export but basically we’re still going to be relying on outside sources. So regardless, it’s going to up. We need cleaner, renewable, new sources of energy in order to counteract that and this legislation or these proposals — they’re not legislation, not by a long shot — they just don’t go anywhere near far enough to getting us to that goal. I mean I hate to say this but we should take a page out of what the Chinese are doing. I mean look…

AV: There’s no question, they are well ahead of us when it comes to electricity.

SL: And look at their economy? They’re spending all of this money but last I heard their economy is still growing at 7 and a half percent a year. One of the reasons is all the money they’re spending on infrastructure. Let’s do the same thing!

AV: From your lips to their ears, Stephen! Good to see you …

This is what makes me nuts. The idea that we’ve lost touch with what is an “investment” and what is “spending,” when the hell did we decide we can no longer “invest” in America? Now it’s all just “pork” or whatever. The Democrats can’t even get ahead of the damn meme.

You know that America is no longer a global superpower when we can no longer do The Big Things. The saddest thing is, we can’t do these Big Things not because we don’t have the money or the know-how or the military might, but simply because we don’t have the will. This is how empires die, people.

The last “big” thing we did was invade Iraq and Afghanistan. And we did it, not because we forged consensus and compromised and came together as a nation to do it, but because one faction bulldozed their way over anyone who so much as asked the question, why? They used every tool in the toolbox — fear, flag-waving, you name it — to get their way.

The fact that the Left is completely unable to muster the same amount of national will on something clearly more in the country’s interest than invading an oil-rich country in the Middle East is, to me, the single biggest threat to America’s future.

Damn depressing, folks.

12 Comments

Filed under Ali Velshi, carbon offsets, China, climate change, environment, EPA

Should We Nationalize The Grid?

This happened in Nashville yesterday:

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A flotilla of kayakers paddled through downtown Nashville on the Cumberland River on Saturday, holding a banner reading: “Let’s move TVA beyond coal.”

It was a message from the Sierra Club, highlighting what it sees as a need for stronger federal standards to limit toxic water pollution from coal-fired power plants. Ultimately, the group is calling for the shuttering of Tennessee Valley Authority coal plants.

TVA’s coal plants have brought us tragedies like the Kingston coal ash spill, which as I observed at the time was merely an extreme example of a widespread problem. Tennessee is uniquely suited to solar and TVA could easily expand its popular Generation Partners program. Through this program, people like us who have solar panels on our residential rooftops sell our extra production to TVA at a slight premium. It’s small compared to other states — 12-cents a kWh, plus the retail rate (which fluctuates but right now is 9 cents a kWh) — but it helps to offset the enormous cost of installing these systems.

Instead of expanding its renewables, TVA has engaged in a bit of foot-dragging. This is not surprising to anyone with a brain; unless there’s some kind of cap-and-trade or carbon tax program put into play, utilities — even quasi-public ones like TVA — really don’t have an incentive to play nice with people like us, other than for the obvious PR value.

Sure, groups like the Sierra Club can remind everyone of the enormous costs of coal, and how alternatives like nuclear are not really economically viable, either. Last I checked, the Kingston mess cost TVA (and us ratepayers) $1 billion.

But while rooftop solar makes a lot of sense economically, it’s also the power industry’s biggest threat. There’s simply no reason why a power company would want to hand over power production to the people. We’re technically putting them out of business, one rooftop at a time. Instead of us buying power from them, we’re selling it to them. That kinda turns the power provider/customer relationship on its head.

And increasingly, the utilities are not happy about it.

Alarmed by what they say has become an existential threat to their business, utility companies are moving to roll back government incentives aimed at promoting solar energy and other renewable sources of power. At stake, the companies say, is nothing less than the future of the American electricity industry.

According to the Energy Information Administration, rooftop solar electricity — the economics of which often depend on government incentives and mandates — accounts for less than a quarter of 1 percent of the nation’s power generation.

And yet, to hear executives tell it, such power sources could ultimately threaten traditional utilities’ ability to maintain the nation’s grid.

This is the age-old conundrum that goes back to the ’70s when President Carter put solar panels on the White House roof. If individual households can generate their own power, then what do we need big utilities for? It’s the “hard path”/”soft path” debate we’ve always had. Big solar farms or individual rooftops? Right now it’s a mixture of both but off on the sidelines, behemoth utilities are trying to push out the little guys: yes, we can have a few mom and pop rooftop operations, for the photo op, but not too many. Too many and suddenly nobody needs Duke Energy anymore.

And of course the issue has become even more pressing as our transportation gets electrified, and as technological advances make storage less of an issue. If TVA wants to dick around with us solar folks, screw ’em. We’ll go off the grid.

Ah, the grid. So, the utilities say, we maintain this grid, and you use it when you leave your solar-powered home, so suck it up. They may have a point, but the solution is simple: nationalize the grid.

Seriously, why the hell not? The power grid is a mess, a hodgepodge cobbled together with spit and a prayer. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the power grid in recent weeks and I’m definitely not an expert but it sure seems like we desperately need to make a big change, soon. And it seems like the country’s electrical grid, like things like highways and the armed forces, is something you want to be uniform and reliable and stable, without the fluctuations that come when you let “market forces” do the picking.

So far the only thing I’ve seen about nationalizing the power grid are on far-right tinfoil hat conspiracy websites. They seem to find the idea verrry scaaaary. But no one has told me why nationalizing the power grid is a bad idea, aside from a reflexive allergic reaction to the word “nationalize.” (For people who profess to love the nation so much, I don’t get that … but whatever!)

The energy sector is changing faster than anyone anticipated. I can foresee a day in, say, 15 years when individual homes and businesses are powered by rooftop solar, we all drive around on electric cars, and vehicle-to-building technology is as ordinary as apple pie. I know it’s hard for some folks to imagine that the authoritarian Big Daddy utility may be going the way of the dinosaur, but if their best argument against technological advancement is, “it will put us out of business,” well, my answer is: so what. Adapt or die.

It’s kinda like our health insurance industry. What purpose do they serve any more? They aren’t pooling risk to lower cost, which was their reason for existence in the first place. All they do is skim profit off the top to buy an insurance company CEO a gigantic house. Sorry, but that’s kind of a sign that your business model is now rrelevant. If that’s the best case you can make, well, sorry, Charlie.

We aren’t there yet for power companies, not even close … but it appears the mere threat of such a thing has utilities shitting their pants. To which I say: adapt or die. Why should we keep you around just for nostaligia’s sake? Good lord, if the Tea Party and Americans For Prosperity had been around 100 years ago, they’d have been fearmongering about automobiles and telling us how great the horse and wagon is.

I dunno. We need to start getting shit done in this country. Has everyone forgotten about the time the Northeastern power grid failed? That 10th anniversary is right around the corner. That might be a good time for us to start talking about this stuff.

6 Comments

Filed under energy future, energy production, solar energy, TVA

Gas Prices Rise; EVERYBODY PANIC!

Here we go again.

According to the news media, gas prices are at record highs — for February! — and this somehow is cause for panic because even though gas prices have been higherin August 2008! — it means that they’re gonna be higher in May 2012 … just because!

I mean, good grief. If the news media is pressing the panic button, it must be because they’re tired of talking about vaginas and birth control pills. The funniest thing is watching Newt Gingrich remind everyone what the price of gas was when he was Speaker of the House, which was back in the last century. He then tells us what the price of gas was on Obama’s inauguration day, completely skipping over the roller coaster Bush years, including the record highs of 2008. Yeah, I know Republicans wish the Bush years never happened, join the club! But sorry dude, you can’t.

Nothing angers me more than the malfeasance that is our news media’s coverage of the gas price issue. Most of the time they’ll just shove a microphone in the face of some poor schlub trying to make it into work in the morning and record people complaining about something we’ve always complained about, since forever. Good grief, I remember people complaining about $1 a gallon gasoline, and I’m not that old.

It’s as if the news media has decided to not even bother and explain the issue. It’s just too hard, the poor dears know we idiot Americans can’t possibly comprehend gas prices rising due to things like Iran, China, Greece and increased demand from a stronger economy. So much easier to spread panic, I guess. Why don’t folks like Charlie Rose and Brian Williams actually inform the public? Instead, I watched Charlie Rose this morning let Newt blather on about stuff that has no effect on gas prices whatsoever without doing his fucking job and actually conducting an interview. You know, back in my day an interview involved two people, one asking questions and one answering them. This morning, Rose just basically turned on Newt’s mic, then went to the bathroom with his newspaper and cup of coffee.

As I wrote back in December, America is actually exporting more refined oil product than it’s importing these days. For the first time since 1949. How this makes President Obama anti-domestic energy, I have no idea.

These are the facts but you sure don’t hear the TV newsbots mentioning that. Gas prices are high right now because of global geopolitical conditions that U.S. consumers have very little control over and a strengthening economy which has increased demand. There is nothing magical about this being the month of February, nor is there any guarantee that these conditions will exist in May or June. There is no voodoo surrounding the time of year when gas prices have risen. I remember one Memorial Day weekend when they actually went down.

Here’s a nice little chart showing gas prices in the U.S.:

Every time the roller coaster edges up, the news media pushes the panic button. Frankly, I’m sick of it. It’s lazy, irresponsible, and does not inform the public. Instead, it fosters ignorance and partisanship, because it allows Republican talking points to take hold.

Instead of inciting panic, the news media should be spreading accurate information about why gas prices behave the way they do. That way an informed public could come together and actually agree on some kind of national energy policy enabling the country to weather these inevitable ups and downs over which we have little control.

Here’s an idea from Time’s Bryan Walsh:

In fact, it’s not the price of gas the President should focus on — it’s the effect high gas prices can have on the economy. A more energy-efficient economy — from gas mileage on up — is naturally more resilient to high energy prices. That’s one area the President can help shape — and it’s an area President Obama has found quiet success. The White House has pushed through measures that will mandate significant increases in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy rules, which means in the future, American drivers will be better protected against the next big hike in gas prices. And that’s not something one hears often from the Republican presidential field.

We’ll never agree on that more energy-efficient economy, though, because all the new media does is spread the false information that increased drilling somehow leads to lower gas prices at home. It isn’t now, it hasn’t in the past, nor will it in the future.

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Filed under energy production, gas prices, Media

Privatize Gains, Socialize Losses

Today the EPA has officially (as in, scientifically) linked the chemicals used in hydraulic fracking with contaminated drinking water and explosive bathwater in Wyoming.

Residents began complaining of fouled water near Pavillion in the mid-1990s, and the problems appeared to get worse around 2004. Several residents complained that their well water turned brown shortly after gas wells were fracked nearby, and, for a time, gas companies operating in the area supplied replacement drinking water to residents.

Beginning in 2008, the EPA took water samples from resident’s drinking water wells, finding hydrocarbons and traces of contaminants that seemed like they could be related to fracking. In 2010, another round of sampling confirmed the contamination, and the EPA, along with federal health officials, cautioned residents not to drink their water and to ventilate their homes when they bathed because the methane in the water could cause an explosion.

To confirm their findings, EPA investigators drilled two water monitoring wells to 1,000 feet. The agency released data from these test wells in November that confirmed high levels of carcinogenic chemicals such as benzene, and a chemical compound called 2 Butoxyethanol, which is known to be used in fracking.

Still, the EPA had not drawn conclusions based on the tests and took pains to separate its groundwater investigation in Wyoming from the national controversy around hydraulic fracturing. Agriculture, drilling, and old pollution from waste pits left by the oil and gas industry were all considered possible causes of the contamination.

In the report released today, the EPA said that pollution from 33 abandoned oil and gas waste pits – which are the subject of a separate cleanup program – are indeed responsible for some degree of shallow groundwater pollution in the area. Those pits may be the source of contamination affecting at least 42 private water wells in Pavillion. But the pits could not be blamed for contamination detected in the water monitoring wells 1,000 feet underground.

That contamination, the agency concluded, had to have been caused by fracking.

Of course, a spokesman for Pavillion wells owner EnCana claims “the science remains inconclusive…” Of course they do! Stop me if you’ve heard this one before! No one can definitively say that smoking causes lung cancer! That a diet drenched in high fructose corn syrup would lead to obesity! That human activity is responsible for climate change! Jury’s still out on all of this stuff! Sure, we can put men on the Moon and eradicate whole classes of diseases but when it comes to stuff that’s inconvenient for some folks, the science isn’t there yet!

So let’s just wait another 10 or 15 years (keep in mind, people started complaining about this stuff back in the ’90s), ignoring all of those earthquakes while discrediting the EPA study. Along the way be sure to buy off a few scientists, bully a few politicians, and when the cancers start appearing and the livestock starts dying, EnCana will be long gone, either out of business or purchased by some Vulture Capitalists who broke it into so many pieces, good luck finding a deep pocket to pay for cleanup and damages. Privatize the gains, socialize the losses: it’s the American way!

Oh, and be sure to remind everyone, ad nauseum, how cheap natural gas is! Thanks for playing, America!

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Filed under energy production, environment, EPA

Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay MORE?

Remember Newt Gingrich’s “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” campaign? Based on the false assumption that if we drill for oil in America, that oil will stay in America? And drive gas prices Americans pay down? Because, you know … supply and demand and all that simplistic Econ 101 crap from the 1920s that people believe still holds true in a global economy?

Yeah, well, it ain’t happening:

Oil boomlet sweeps U.S. as exports and production rise

Looking at your heating bills or gas prices, you may find it surprising that the United States is enjoying a mini oil boom. It’s producing more crude oil and, for the first time in decades, has become a net exporter of petroleum products such as jet fuel, heating oil and gasoline.

The U.S. exported more oil-based fuels than it imported in the first nine months of this year, making it likely that 2011 will be the first time since 1949 that the nation is a net exporter of such goods, primarily diesel.

That’s not all. The U.S. has reversed another decades-long trend. It began producing more crude oil in 2008 than the year before and accelerated that upswing 3% in the first nine months of this year compared with the same period in 2010. That production has helped reduce U.S. imports of crude oil by about 10% since 2006.

Funny because I thought Socialist Obama was a puppet of Greenpeace and the Sierra Club! Oh, and the tree huggers and Dirty Fucking Hippies have blocked all the new refineries! And bargle bargle blargh! And Al Gore is fat!

Hmm. So we’re producing more crude oil domestically, reducing our imports, headed toward energy independence … yet we’re still paying over $3.50 a gallon for gasoline! What happened to the “pay less” part of Newt’s slogan?

What gives? Two things:

American consumers benefit little from the U.S. oil boomlet, because their fuel prices depend heavily on a global oil market that remains tight and has probably already peaked in production, says Jeremy Rifkin, author of The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy and the World.

Ah yes that global market thing. Oil is not like oranges or laundry detergent. And then there’s the fact that this “boomlet” comes from new sources of oil (like tar sands and shale and ultra-deep offshore wells) that had been prohibitively expensive to tap before. The price of oil has to reach a certain high price before tapping these sources makes economic sense.

You see, high gas prices are built into the system. So no matter how much we drill and refine here in the U.S., we won’t be seeing cheap gasoline. And as for the rest of it — the poisoned well water and earthquakes from fracking, the crazy, wild weather from increased atmospheric carbon dioxide — we all pay those costs so the oil companies can enjoy higher profits. Privatize the gains, socialize the losses: it’s the way we do things these days.

Of course, those of us who drive electric cars don’t pay too much attention to gas prices.

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Filed under climate change, energy production, gas prices

Marsha Blackburn Gives The Worst Christmas Presents Ever

Seriously, Marsha Blackburn is an idiot. But this takes the cake:

“I will fight until the end so that people can keep their light bulbs and we’ll see what happens in the coming days. In the meantime, I am stocking up and filling my family’s Christmas stockings with light bulbs. Hope my friends in Tennessee are too.

I’m sure Marsha’s family is just thrilled. Light bulbs in my Christmas stocking! Can’t wait!

Moron. Yeah you enjoy those higher electricity bills, honey. And I’ve heard of First World Problems but this is one giant WATB:

Ed Forbes, a meat cutter who lives in Hendersonville, has both kinds of bulbs in his home. He was going to change them all out but then stopped.

“They may be energy efficient, sure, but what I dislike about them when they first come on is they’re very low light,” he said.

Oh whaaah. I have to wait three seconds for that really bright BRIGHT light! Life sucks! Socialism! And …. Obama! Pffft. You realize you come off like a giant, privileged ass, right Mr. Forbes?

Yeah, whine about how you’re inconvenienced by three seconds of dim light to the folks in Kingston, Tennessee who lost their homes to over a billion gallons of coal ash slurry three Christmases ago. Get over your damn selves, people. Some things are more important than your inability to adapt to a different kind of light bulb. You know what happens to creatures who don’t adapt? They die. Oh forget it, Ed Forbes probably doesn’t believe in science, anyway.

I addressed the false “light bulb ban” nonsense last summer, BTW.

Sometimes we Americans come off like a bunch of pampered, spoiled brats. This is one of those times. Hey Marsha Blackburn: try “fighting to the end” for jobs, why don’t you? Jobless claims are up in Tennessee and you’re worried about lightbulbs?

10 Comments

Filed under energy conservation, Rep. Marsha Blackburn

Ex-Massey CEO Is Baaaaack

Remember Don Blankenship, the Simon LeGree of coal mining? The man Rolling Stone called “the dark lord of coal country”? The guy who called the Upper Big Branch mine disaster that killed 29 mine workers “an act of God” and blamed mine safety regulations for the disaster?

That disaster led to a record $200 million settlement, the sale of the company, and calls for ex-CEO Blankenship to be sent to jail for gross negligence.

Is Don Blankenship in jail? Of course not! He’s in Kentucky … or maybe Tennessee:

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Don Blankenship, the former Massey Energy executive whom many hold accountable for the explosion that killed 29 West Virginia coal miners, virtually vanished from public view a year ago this week. But he’s kept a toe in the mining business and may be angling to raise his profile.

Public records show that Blankenship has incorporated a new venture in Kentucky. Paperwork for McCoy Coal Group Inc. of Belfry, Ky., has been on file since January, though, and it has yet to seek a single mining permit, says Kentucky Energy and Environment spokesman Dick Brown.

Blankenship was pressured into retiring last December amid the fallout from the Upper Big Branch mine explosion, the worst U.S. mining disaster in four decades.

He is listed as McCoy’s president and may be living in Tennessee. A person who answered a call for Blankenship on Thursday said he could not come to the phone.

Well isn’t that special. Blankenship got a $12 million golden parachute and a two-year non-compete agreement when he exited Massey; McCoy Coal Group isn’t operating yet, but keep your eyes open, because when those two years are up we might be seeing more miners sent to do the Dark Lord’s bidding. The investors behind McCoy Coal might want to be careful, though: with Blankenship at the helm, Massey subsidiaries had to spend millions on criminal fines and penalties because of its flagrant disregard for worker safety. Blankenship is a serial offender, it appears.

Then again, there’s still a chance that Blankenship will be sporting an orange jumpsuit in the coming months:

Both Goodwin and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made it clear they intend to pursue possible criminal charges against individual executives, officers or employees of either Massey or Performance Coal. Holder emphasized the agency will continue “to investigate individuals associated with this tragedy.”

The MSHA report on its investigation of the tragedy focused on the wealth of evidence that Massey covered up safety conditions at Upper Big Branch mine by keeping hazards out of official records, warning workers underground of impending safety inspections and even intimidating miners to keep them from reporting safety violations.

Millions of dollars spent in criminal fines, civil penalties, lawsuits, and restitution to victims. Scratch that, make that hundreds of millions of dollars. Not to mention environmental damage, health damages, climate change, and things like TVA’s own coal slurry spill in Kingston, TN. Yeah, just keep telling yourself that coal is the cheapest form of energy we have (sure, it is cheap! When you socialize the losses!) and that there’s such a thing as “Clean Coal.” Then click your heels and transport yourself to the magical land of Free Market Fantasies, where the problem is regulation, not greedy assholes like Don Blankenship. That Kool-Aid sure must taste good.

(h/t to commenter Randy for the heads-up!)

4 Comments

Filed under clean coal, corporations, energy production

Food Or Fuel?

Last week My Conservative Friend™ was railing on about how they use sugar cane for fuel in South America and by God why isn’t America running its cars on American corn? I had to explain to him that actually we are, we do, and we have: and some of us don’t think it’s a good thing to turn our food into fuel. Not when people are going hungry, not when food prices are going up, not when Wall Street speculation on corn prices causes price spikes, and most of all not when corn fuels are so energy-intensive to produce that they don’t really solve our energy problems or the climate change problem.

He was completely unaware of the whole ethanol thing, how we now mix ethanol with gasoline. I couldn’t remember how much, but I did remember that it was a couple years ago that Congress mandated higher ethanol content in gasoline, and I remembered some people raising a big stink about it because ethanol can tear up some engines, especially things like lawnmowers. And I remember gas pumps have a big sticker on them indicating the percent of ethanol content in all gasoline. So how someone like My Conservative Friend™ can fill up his big gas-guzzling SUV with gas every week but not be aware that it’s mixed with ethanol is a little mind-boggling to me.

Over at Grist I saw this article which says 40% of all U.S. corn produced goes into our gas tanks. That’s a lot of corn, and I have to say, even I didn’t realize it was that high.

One of the things that frustrates me about our world today is that people are being increasingly asked to engage in the public discourse, yet they are not given the information they need to do so with any level of accuracy. It’s like the Powers That Be want people to be uninformed, but they also want people to be engaged. I guess it’s easier to manipulate an uninformed populace, and giving people politics instead of news and opinion instead of information is the modern-day “bread and circuses” which makes us feel like we are involved in our democracy without actually having control over anything.

I mean, seriously. How can we have a discussion about national energy policy when people don’t even know that American gasoline is mixed with corn ethanol? How can our opinions be valid when we aren’t even informed about what our government is currently doing?

Anyway, Grist calls corn ethanol “the boondoggle that won’t die,” and it’s hard to disagree:

What’s frustrating isn’t that the government is investing in alternative liquid fuels. It’s that, national security be damned, we’re barking up the wrong energy tree: All the data point to ethanol being a climate dead end. And it’s a dead end that’s eating our food. Yet the government finds ways to keep the money flowing towards ethanol. It’s truly the boondoggle that just won’t die.

There is an education gap that makes debating public policy issues so difficult. All the Republicans have to do is come up with some amygdala-triggering slogan: “Nuke The Ragheads!”, “Drill Here, Drill Now!” and “America Fuck Yeah!” None of these things educate people about the world as it is, policies that are currently in place, or the issues that these policies raise. But they do provide an emotional release.

The Left operates on the assumption that people already know what policies are in place, what issues they present, and let’s talk about what we need to do. And we get nowhere.

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Filed under energy future, energy production, Energy Solutions, environment, gas prices