EPA Burns Big Coal, Defends Mountain Top

This view of a former mountaintop in Pike County, Kentucky, which is now lying in nearby valleys, shows what's left when the coal is gone. (Photo by iLoveMountains.org/Flickr)

In a singular act of courage and principle — the likes of which we will probably not see again while the Know-Nothings rule in Washington — the US Environmental Protection Agency last week acted decisively and dramatically to crimp the coal-mining method known as mountaintop removal. The EPA yanked the permit of an Arch Coal Company sudsidiary to devastate a mountain ridge in central southwest West Virginia.

The action was remarkable for several reasons: Continue reading

Iran, etc: When the Gas Bills Come Due

Iran Protest

What Ahmadinejad dreams, now that he cannot afford to buy the acquiesence of his people with 38-cent gasoline, as he could when the Green Revolution wilted a year ago,

Governments that buy the affection of their people, like people who submit to extortion, find that the deal is not sustainable because the demand for money just keeps going up while the supply dwindles. This is the lesson being learned right now by every state government in America, and that will be driven home shortly to the federal government: you cannot buy people off — in this case by refusing to tax them — forever. For one thing, the cost prevents you from doing the things that government is supposed to do. And for another, the cost just keeps on going up until it breaks you. For a crystal clear illustration of where this road leads, consider the plight of Iran. (For the audio version click here: 0106 Iran etc: When the Gas Bills Come Due) Continue reading

Peak Oil: Is Today the Day?

Gas lines in Louisiana in 2005. Are they coming soon, to stay? (Photo by Jaseman/Flickr)

What if it were today? What if today were the day that the realization dawned somewhere and spread virus-like across the web and the world: peak oil is here, it’s real, and it’s not going away? How many things would we wish, on the evening of that first day, that we had done before it came? Continue reading

China: World Leader in Self Destruction

air pollution over Suzhou, China

The Chinese may not be able to keep the lights on over a wide section of the country, but they sure can snuff out the sun. This air is over Suzhou, in Jiangsu Province, in 2008. (Photo by orangeandmilk/Flickr)

There is something in our nature that draws comfort from the knowledge that there are people like us who are much worse off. It’s not a pretty attribute, but it’s there, especially when the people are a lot like us, and are worse off for the same reasons that make us fear our own future. So let us take a moment’s respite from our knowledge of the impending consequences of squandering our natural resources, as we contemplate the same fate, bearing down on our supposed enemies. Even faster. (Admit it. You feel better already. Happy Holidays.) Continue reading

New York Bans Fracking for Natural Gas

That's a natural gas fracking well. You'd be well advised not to drink the water. (Photo by Daniel Foster/Flickr)

The contrast could not have been clearer. A lame-duck state governor who has little chance of holding public office again puts the safety of his people above the profits of the oil and gas industry; while the increasingly lame Obama administration waffles.

On Saturday, Governor David Paterson of New York — who did not run for a second term in the 2010 election — ordered a stop to all drilling for natural gas that involves hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Continue reading

Nano, Nano: World-Beater Car Turns into a Dust-Eater.

The Tata Nano: When does affordable become too cheap? (Photo by Anugrah Adams/Wikimedia)

When India’s Tata Motors announced its plans to sell a car, the Nano, for under $3,000 to the rising millions of the Third World, there were in general two negative reactions. One was to giggle at the funny names, but that stopped when Tata bought the flagship auto companies of the British Empire, Jaguar and Land Rover. The other was to assume that the Nano would hasten the destruction of the industrial world by bringing to the masses of Asia the benefits of American society they crave so much: smog, gridlock, petroleum addiction and car payments. Turns out that was wrong, too, but not in a good way. Continue reading

Solar “Farms” Keep us in the Dark

solar farm

In this type of solar "farm," mirrors focus the sun on the tower to boil water. Lots of sun in the desert, but water? Photo by Bardot/Wikimedia

The relentless industrialization of renewable energy continues, now with the support of government at all levels. The case for solar “farms” and wind “farms” (note how the word “farm” summons bucolic images that have nothing to do with these immense factories), dripping with greenwash, obscures the fact that industrial renewables are no alternative for a petrochemical-addicted society, simply another industrial dead end. As an example, consider the solar “farm.” Continue reading

Black Eye for “Clean” Coal

Power plant

Coal burning power plants, like this New York City veteran, are fast becoming industrial dinosaurs because they do more harm than good. (Photo by futureatlas.com)

Last week, the East Kentucky Power Cooperative abandoned plans to build two coal-burning power plants in Clark County. This major setback for Big Coal in the heart of Big-Coal country, comes just a year after Ohio’s American Municipal Power gave up its attempt to build a coal fired electric plant on the Ohio River near Cleveland. And according to a Sierra Club tally, it brings the number of coal-fired generating plants planned, announced and then abandoned in recent years to over 100. Continue reading

60 Minutes on Natural Gas: A Couple Minutes Short

Not the 60 Minutes stopwatch

Not the 60 Minutes stopwatch. (Photo by William Warby/Flickr)

Now comes the venerable television news show 60 Minutes, leading the way to a consideration of the pros and cons of hydraulic fracturing for so-called “natural” gas. They led the way if, that is, you don’t count the hard-hitting documentary Gasland that aired months ago on HBO, or the solid investigative reporting done by Pro Publica over recent years. Continue reading

EPA to Halliburton: Raise Your Right Hand

a natural gas well using hydraulic fracturing

It's not just a drilling rig, it's a fracking rig, and it can make your water flammable.

Halliburton, the world’s second largest oilfield services company, is not in the habit of having to answer to the United States government. Thus, typically, it ignored a request from the Environmental Protection Agency, back in September, to share information about the chemicals the company routinely injects into this country’s underground water sources in order to retriever more natural gas out — a process called hydraulic fracturing. Continue reading