Friday, October 21, 2011

Coal Ash to Get a Pass?

No matter how much evidence persists about the dangers of producing and burning coal, the coal lobby in Washington maintains it's strong grip on power.  Because coal is produced in a number of states, both red and blue (if not blue, at least purple), it has bipartisan support, much like cigarettes enjoy from tobacco states.

As we approach the third anniversary of the massive Kingston, TN coal ash spill, news comes that House of Representatives is progressing with legislation to block the EPA from releasing rules to treat coal ash as hazardous waste under federal guidelines.  The House measure, backed by utilities, would treat it as non-hazardous waste like other municipal landfill products.

Coal ash is some pretty nasty stuff.  It is the byproduct of burning coal at utilities and contains toxic chemicals such as chromium, arsenic and lead.  Utilities mostly stockpile the stuff in retaining ponds. Some coal ash is used in building materials like cinder blocks, but most of it sits around.

Coal is ever present in our lives.  It generates about half of the electricity we use in this country, but it is dirty and dangerous to mine (mountain top removal, polluted watersheds, dangerous mining conditions), hazardous to burn (mercury, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, etc.) and leaves behind dangerous waste.

Every time I hear about how great electric cars are, I chafe.  Clean energy, my a**.  Using electric cars allows us to import a little less oil, but it causes us to burn more coal.  That's not clean!  Every Chevy Volt should be sold with a lump of coal to hang from the rear view mirror to remind the driver what he or she is really burning.

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