Posts Tagged ‘coal’


New Zealand Coal Mine Explosion Traps Dozens – ABCNews.com

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Three Britons among the missing as New Zealand pit blast leaves 29 miners feared trapped half a mile underground

A powerful explosion in a New Zealand coal mine has trapped more than two dozen miners underground.
“There has been an explosion,” New Zealand’s Grey District mayor Tony Kikshoom said. “They don’t even know at what depth of the mine it is. It’s too early to make any calls, but it’s not good news at the moment.”

Some 27 miners are believed to be alive somewhere in the mine, and rescuers are currently assessing the best way to get to them.

“Power went out at the Pike River coal mine,” Barbara Dunn, the communications manager for the Tasman
District of New Zealand told ABC News. “An electrician initially went in to see what had happened and he discovered a loader driver had been blown off his machine from an explosion.”

That loader driver was reportedly hundreds of feet away from the explosion — an apparent sign of the blast’s strength.

Two miners who were working in a different part of the mine have stumbled out of the mine’s entrance and said three more could be behind them, a police report said.

A special rescue team, known as the West Coast Mine Rescue Team, has assembled at the mine “to assess what the requirements might be to go into the mine and effect a rescue,” New Zealand Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee said.

“So at this stage we’re trying to stay out of their way. They are the experts,” he said.

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State sues Feds in Mountaintop Removal Limits – More mountaintop removal?

West Virginia says it is filing a lawsuit against two federal agencies that seeks to reverse the stricter controls on mountain-top coal mining adopted in 2009 by the Obama administration.

Announcing the action on Wednesday against the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, Gov. Joe Manchin III said that the regulations were unlawful, usurped state rights, were based in inadequate science and harmed the state by preventing new mining projects.

He condemned what he called the administration’s “attempts to destroy our coal industry and way of life in West Virginia.”

Mr. Manchin, a conservative Democrat, is a popular governor but is in an unexpectedly close race for the Senate seat left open by the death of Robert C. Byrd. His Republican opponent, John Raese, has accused him of wavering in his dedication to the coal industry, a mainstay of the state’s economy.

Mr. Manchin has fiercely denied the charge, and the announcement on Wednesday, made with the coal association chief at his side, was an opportunity to highlight his support for coal and also distance himself from President Obama, who is unpopular with many voters in the state.

Responding to the move, the E.P.A. said that its policies on mountaintop mining were legally and scientifically sound. It added that in negotiations over the last year and a half, “state officials have not engaged in a meaningful discussion of sustainable mining practices that will create jobs while protecting the waters that Appalachian communities depend on for drinking, swimming and fishing.”

The agency’s environmental concerns were affirmed by an independent advisory panel, it added.

Mountaintop removal, in which hundreds of feet are blasted off hills to gain access to coal seams, has become a major mining method in West Virginia, Kentucky and nearby states, but also a source of bitter conflict. Producers say it saves money, but critics say it is destroying the landscape as the removed dirt and rocks are dumped in valleys and toxic chemicals are released.

Federal permits for such mining operations had been granted comparatively easily in the past. But in 2009, the E.P.A., citing evidence of environmental harm as well as a growing public outcry, began requiring more stringent environmental reviews of new proposals and taking stronger action to protect streams under the Clean Water Act.

In announcing the suit, Mr. Manchin said that of 23 mining permits that were pending in 2009, only two had so far been approved to go forward.

The E.P.A. has also said it may withdraw or drastically alter a permit that the Bush administration had approved for a large proposed mine in West Virginia known as Spruce 1. A final decision on that project will not be announced until late this year.

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Dirty, Dangerous and Outdated Source of Energy Discussed in “The Great Coal Debate”

(ST. LOUIS, MO) – A leader from the country’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization, the Sierra Club, faced off against a representative from the largest private-sector coal company in the world, St. Louis-based Peabody Energy, in a debate about the future of coal in our country.  “The Great Coal Debate,” which was hosted by the Washington University at St. Louis Student Union on Tuesday evening, was a lively discussion about what place, if any, coal has in the rapidly changing clean energy economy of the future.  The debate took place in front of more than 500 students and community members at Graham Chapel on the campus of Washington University, and was watched live online by nearly 4,700 additional interested observers.

See the video of full debate on coal…

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Wikipedia’s Entry on Global Energy Consumption

In 2008, total worldwide energy consumption was 474 exajoules (474×1018 J) with 80 to 90 percent derived from the combustion of fossil fuels.[1] This is equivalent to an average power consumption rate of 15 terawatts (1.504×1013 W). Not all of the world’s economies track their energy consumption with the same rigor, and the exact energy content of a barrel of oil or a ton of coal will vary with quality.

Most of the world’s energy resources are from the sun’s rays hitting earth. Some of that energy has been preserved as fossil energy, some is directly or indirectly usable; for example, via wind, hydro- or wave power. The term solar constant is the amount of incoming solar electromagnetic radiation per unit area, measured on the outer surface of Earth’s atmosphere, in a plane perpendicular to the rays. The solar constant includes all types of solar radiation, not just visible light. It is measured by satellite to be roughly 1366 watts per square meter, though it fluctuates by about 6.9% during a year—from 1412 W m−2 in early January to 1321 W m−2 in early July, due to the Earth’s varying distance from the sun, and by a few parts per thousand[clarification needed] from day to day. For the whole Earth, with a cross section of 127,400,000 km2, the total energy rate is 174 petawatts (1.740×1017 W), plus or minus 3.5%. This value is the total rate of solar energy received by the planet; about half, 89 PW, reaches the Earth’s surface.[citation needed]

The estimates of remaining non-renewable worldwide energy resources vary, with the remaining fossil fuels totaling an estimated 0.4 YJ (1 YJ = 1024J) and the available nuclear fuel such as uranium exceeding 2.5 YJ. Fossil fuels range from 0.6-3 YJ if estimates of reserves of methane clathrates are accurate and become technically extractable. Mostly thanks to the Sun, the world also has a renewable usable energy flux that exceeds 120 PW (8,000 times 2004 total usage), or 3.8 YJ/yr, dwarfing all non-renewable resources.

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Five Questions: Kallenberg sits on the Chris Garcia Hotseat – Statesman.com, Cox Newspapers

We spoke to Gregory Kallenberg, director of the documentary “Haynesville: A Nation’s Hunt for Energy.”

The film “takes place in the Louisiana backwoods, and follows the momentous discovery of the largest natural gas field in the United States — and maybe the world. It examines the historic find — a formation called the “Haynesville Shale” — from the personal level as well as from the higher perspective of the current energy picture and pending energy future.” (Kallenberg is a former reporter for the American-Statesman.)

More about the movie and its trailer HERE.

How did you come across this subject and what made it seem worthy of its own movie?

Gregory Kallenberg: Well before anyone knew the massive scale of the Haynesville discovery, there was this buzz going around northwest Louisiana. You couldn’t go anywhere without people whispering about “secret wells” and leasing checks being written for “millions of dollars.” It was this surreal “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” moment that makes you want to pick up a camera, hit the REC button and see what happens. At that point, the film was going to be a story about people’s experiences with this weird boomtown hysteria. Once we found out that all of this was true AND the impact of this find would have national impact, we knew we had a film that could address the bigger issue of energy, its human cost and what role that energy could play in our energy future.

What’s the film’s narrative and who are the main players?

The movie documents the discovery of the largest natural gas field in the U.S. The find, called the Haynesville Shale, has an estimated $1.75 trillion in gas and contains more energy than Brazil and Mexico combined. The film follows the beginning fervor of the Haynesville Shale and its effect on three people’s lives. Kassi, a single mom, fights for her community’s environmental rights. Pastor Reegis is an African American preacher who believes that God has delivered the Haynesville Shale and its riches to his congregation. And Mike, a self-described “country boy,” wrestles with the idea of giving up his pristine land in exchange for becoming an “overnight millionaire.” At the same time, you see academics, environmentalists and pundits discuss the broader impact of this find.

Your movie arrives amid a flux of activist docs about energy, conservation and food production. What does yours add to the dialogue?

“Haynesville” is unique in that it avoids the current trap of being a histrionic first-person, hyper-biased film. My goal as a filmmaker was to make a balanced piece about energy and its human cost and larger perceived benefit. I want people to see that energy is an amazingly complicated issue with very few easy answers. What’s most important to me is that people walk out of this film and start the conversation that will lay the foundation for our energy future. For the first time in history, I believe all of us have the power to chart the course for a clean energy future, and I hope “Haynesville” helps start that movement.

What do you think should be done with the Haynesville Shale? Are you conspicuously stepping aside from the argument or does the film make your point?

While I hope the film communicates my point, I will provide a bit of a spoiler here. I personally think we should have gotten off of coal yesterday. The extraction of coal is environmentally obscene and the emissions from coal are borderline poisonous. That said, I only believe in the use of vast energy sources like the Haynesville if we can figure out how to extract in as safe a way as possible that’s fair to landowners and environmentally responsible. If the gas industry and the environmental movement can work together on this, then we have a good shot at a clean energy future.

You screened the movie in Copenhagen at the big climate summit. What was the response? Are you galvanizing people and opinion?

Our screening in Copenhagen was an amazing experience for three reasons: 1) I had the unique opportunity to show my film at the world’s premiere environmental conference. 2) I saw an audience made up of environmentalists and energy lobbyists nodding together at the screen and, afterwards, coming together and discussing the film’s message. And 3) I fulfilled my life’s dream of eating Danish danishes and, I’m happy to report, they were way better than I ever imagined.

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I Feel Another Coal Rant Coming On – HaynesvillePlay.com

Coal is getting under my skin again. Two things in particular are bothering me: coal ash and the myth of “clean coal.”

In catching up on articles this past weekend, I read an article in Sierramagazine about the problems associated with the coal ash ponds created by the huge coal-fired electric plant in Colstrip, MT. As coal is burned, it leaves behind a certain amount of residue, but unlike the wood in our fireplace, coal ash is filled with dangerous heavy metals and toxins, including mercury. Some of the ash is turned into building materials, but much of it wastes away in holding ponds along with sludge from srubbers that remove a portion of the pollutants from the smokestacks. Unfortunately these ponds lead to even more pollution as the chemicals in the water both leech into the groundwater and evaporate into the air.

I also saw a piece in the New York Times about the difficulties in cleaning up the massive coal ash spill in Kingston, TN. This massive spill in 2008 made us all aware of the dangers of these holding ponds. Outside of the sheer magnitude of the cleanup (the article notes that the disaster spilled “5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash across 300 acres into the Emory River and an affluent shoreline community near Knoxville(,) enough ash to cover a square mile five feet deep.”), the cleanup crews are having trouble finding appropriate dumping grounds for the sediment. The spilled ash is horrible stuff, filled with heavy metals that can lead to cancer, and not many landfills can handle it, especially not in these massive volumes. The one landfill that does take the sludge, located in tiny Uniontown, AL, has received so much rain lately that it has to deal with 100,000 gallons of tainted water per day as a result. The cleanup contractors are looking across the southeast for sites to process the tainted water, including in my home state of Louisiana. That situation is not yet resolved.

It is hard for me to believe the environmental furor over hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, a practice that has not created a single documented instance of groundwater contamination, when there are hundreds of these toxic retention ponds at coal plants all over the country, many of which are classified by the EPA as “high hazards” or disaster sites (see map below). I can certainly understand the desire to avoid other potential new hazards, but the outrage directed towards fracking, especially in the Northeast, would be much better spent preventing the spread of toxic pollution associated with coal-fired power plants.

Which brings me to the oxymoron of “clean coal.” It makes my head hurt to try to find two words that go less well together. That large scale carbon sequestration and storage (CSS) has not yet been demonstrated is fairly well known, but what happens if it is finally possible? The amount of carbon captured for storage from coal generating plants would be huge. We would quickly run out of places to store it. On top of that, coal plants would have to burn lots more coal just to power the CSS process. Talk about a win-win for the coal industry!

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Visualizing The U.S. Electric Grid – NPR.org

The U.S. electric grid is a complex network of independently owned and operated power plants and transmission lines. Aging infrastructure, combined with a rise in domesticelectricity consumption, has forced experts to critically examine the status and health of the nation’s electrical systems.

View interactive graphic.

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A Natural Choice – Washington Post – Editorial

IN AMERICA’S climate debate, one of the most promising developments of recent months has been the growing recognition in Washington that natural gas may play a key role in curbing carbon emissions. The resurgence of gas comes through the discovery of massive deposits in Appalachian shale formations and elsewhere — a reserve that offers the prospect of stable domestic supplies and relatively low prices. Since burning natural gas produces half the emissions of burning coal, switching the two fuels could put a significant dent in America’s carbon footprint.

The rumor this month was that such arguments had swayed the White House and that President Obama would back policy aimed at discouraging coal and encouraging natural gas at a speech he delivered to the Business Roundtable on Wednesday. The rumors didn’t bear out. That’s too bad. With climate-change legislation still stalled in Congress, nudging gas forward is something that the government can do quickly and relatively cheaply to meet its medium-term emissions goals if current trends persist.

To be sure, America doesn’t want to depend too much on one commodity. Drastically ramping up the amount of natural gas burned to generate electricity would require infrastructure investments in certain regions as well as retrofits of certain plants or the construction of entirely new ones.

But existing gas-fired plants are running at only about 25 percent capacity, in part because many are switched on only when demand spikes. The Congressional Research Service reports that doubling the use of existing plants could replace about a third of coal-fired power, getting America a third of the way to its goal for 2020. For reasons of infrastructure, that might be too optimistic a scenario. But BP — which has a stake in natural gas — estimates that retiring the 80 dirtiest coal plants and replacing them with gas-fired power would get America 10 percent of the way to its 2020 emissions target and increase domestic gas consumption by only 5 percent.

Even if you don’t trust BP’s numbers, a range of attractive policy options is available, starting with tax incentives to decommission old coal plants. Natural gas is so competitive, it might not take much more than that. However, policymakers might also consider coupling that with some carrot to switch to gas. States that demand that utilities derive a certain portion of their electricity from clean sources could also allow natural gas to count in such requirements, discounting for the carbon emissions it does produce. Federal legislators contemplating a similar, national standard might also consider this.

In the long term, natural gas is only a bridge fuel as America weans itself off carbon, since it still produces plenty of emissions. With a rising carbon price, natural gas will become too expensive to burn. But it can provide the country some time to bring to market the cleaner technologies on which America eventually must run.

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Facebook: Fueled by Dirty Coal

With so much of the information we use today stored in “the cloud” it can be easy to forget that out there, somewhere, there’s energy being used to power thousands of servers in massive data centers.

Facebook just announced that it’s going to build its first data center in Oregon. And while Google and Microsoft precede them in the state, they take advantage of cheaper and cleaner hydro power, while it looks like Facebook will be using mostly coal power from Idaho.

Yes, every time you update your Facebook status a baby polar bear dies.

OK, maybe it’s not quite that extreme, but Facebook’s decision to go with coal power is drawing some fire. Why aren’t they using hydro? Not that hydro is without environmental consequences, but when it comes to carbon emissions and public health, nothing’s worse than coal.

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