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Digging for Coal Will Gradually End in Digging Our Own Graves

Coal Pile Facility
The 'God Almighty' or 'Mother Nature' had given us an enchanting planet, a planet that had everything in its surface for the humankind to live a happy and peaceful life. Everything that was evil was buried deep beneath the earth so that we are not tempted to see them, touch them or use them.

But we were not happy. We took a 'dig' at the God Almighty or Mother Nature. From that period of time all our present-day problems were born. We dug the earth for Gold. With that, we divided us into rich and poor. We dug the earth for Uranium. With that, we made weapons for our own extinction. We dug the earth for Oil. With that, we began arming the terrorists. Now we go on digging for coal and we are gasping for fresh air.

Coal, even if it is scientifically purified, or a cyanide capsule, if it is sweet coated, both has the same effect, the death. Only difference is that the former brings us slow death and the latter a quick end. We will never feel the pain if we die instantly, but we preferred a slow death by opting for coal to produce our electricity for lighting, heating and cooling while the SUN gives us all these freely and endlessly. When will we stop digging our own graves? It depends on the new awakening and the nature-loving culture of our future generation.

The U.K. based World Coal Institute (WCI) tells the world that the coal will last us for at least 122 years. That means, we should not panic about the depleting oil resources! 21st Century coal plants emit 40% less CO2 than the average 20th Century coal plants. A magnificent quality improvement. The use of coal will rise 60% over the next 20 years. That means the oxygen masks and oxygen cylinders manufacturers will have immediate business opportunities and the coffin makers thereafter.

According to WCI statistics, coal provides 26.5% of global primary energy needs and generates 41.5 of the world's electricity. The world produced 5,845 MT of hard coal and 951 MT of brown coal/lignite in the year 2008. The top ten hard coal producers during 2008 were: PR China (2,761 MT); USA (1,007MT); India(490MT); Australia (325MT); Russia (247MT); Indonesia (246MT); South Africa (236MT); Kazakhstan (104MT); Poland (84MT) and Colombia (79MT).

Global consumption of hard coal in the year 2008 was around 5,814 MT. This was shared by PR China (46%); OECD North America (18%); OECD Europe (7%) and OECD Pacific (6%).

Currently, coal is the major fuel used for generating electricity worldwide. Countries heavily dependent on coal for electricity two years ago include: South Africa (94%); Poland (93%); PR China (81%); Australia (76%); Israel (71%); Kazakshstan (70%); India (68%);Czech Rep. (62%); Morocco (57%);Greece (55%);USA (49%); and Germany (49%).

Ms. Niki Fears, a 35 year old writer based in St. Louis, had rightly said in her article that "Those who are pushing the "clean coal" agenda do not mention the fact that all of the methods that they are using to reduce emissions do not change the fact that mining and transporting coal is still a very dirty, and very dangerous business.

"The coal industry and coal mines pose a variety of dangers to people from both a structural stand point as well as the production and release of pollution causing agents. Coal mines can be incredibly unstable, release hazardous amounts of methane and produce coal dust that gets inhaled by workers causing serious, life threatening health problems such as black lung. It is important to remember the coal comes from deep beneath the earth which means that in order for it to end up in your local power plant, someone has to go down there, loosen the coal from the rock that it has been embedded in for thousands upon thousands of years, and transport it to the surface. This involves creating artificial tunnels that often lead miles beneath the surface of the earth. This poses substantial risk to mine integrity and can lead to the type of cave-ins and other tragedies you often see on the news."

"Additionally, digging these tunnels also exposes open pockets of methane, which is one of the most serious greenhouse gases, is highly explosive, and can be quite deadly. The environment in which miners are forced to work is not only extremely dangerous but endanger the miners' health leading to a number of fatal diseases, the most commonly known of which is black lung (also known as Coal Worker's pneumoconiosis) which is directly caused by exposure to coal dust which build up in the lungs of miners working with coal. Even when precautionary measures are taken, such as wearing a mask, it can not prevent coal dust from entering the lungs. This deadly dust then settles in the lungs and can block air passages. In the past 10 years, black lung disease alone has claimed the lives of over 10,000 coal workers. There is no cure for coal worker's pneumoconiosis."

"A symptomatic version of this disease may be found in nearly everyone living in urban settings where coal is burned. A recent study performed by in partnership by the WVU Institute for Health Policy Research and Washington State University showed that people merely living in coal mining communities with no direct contact with the mines themselves, were at higher risk for kidney disease and chronic lung and heart diseases. In fact they were found to be 70 times as likely to develop kidney disease and 64 times as likely to develop chronic lung diseases such as emphysema. Death rates in coal mining communities are higher than in other parts of the country, even among non-mine workers.

This trend of poor health is not only felt by communities that mine coal, but by those who use coal burning plants as well. The Less Coal group in Utah contributes $4-$6 Billion worth of medical costs imposed on the state due to the air pollution caused by coal and are working to take measures to reduce coal burning in their state and restore a healthier environment with cleaner air by eliminating coal burning power plants and factories. And, burning coal indoors has proven to be quite deadly as many communities around the world, such as China, are experiencing.

Considering the amount of pollution released by the production and use of coal and the deadly effects that it is having on our planet and our health, it is becoming clear that there can be nothing clean about such a dirty and deadly product. Clean coal is just a green packaging for a fossil fuel that is polluting our environment, making us sick, and killing thousands of us every year. Considering that there are safe, clean, and renewable sources of energy available, you have to ask yourself if maintaining the status quo with energy is really worth the price we are paying for it with our health and our lives?"

Let us hear what Wikipedia has to say about mining and burning the coal:

There are a number of adverse environmental effects of coal mining and burning, specially in power stations. These effects include: (1) Release of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, which causes climate change and global warming according to the IPCC. Coal is the largest contributor to the human-made increase of CO2 in the air; (2) Generation of hundred of millions of tons of waste products, including fly ash, bottom ash, flue gas desulfurization sludge, that contain mercury, uranium, thorium, arsenic, and other heavy metals; (3) Acid rain from high sulfur coal; (4) Interference with groundwater and water table levels; (5)Contamination of land and waterways and destruction of homes from fly ash spills such as Kingston Fossil Plant coal fly ash slurry spill; (6) Impact of water use on flows of rivers and consequential impact on other land-uses; (7) Dust nuisance; (8) Subsidence above tunnels, sometimes damaging infrastructure.

Coal-fired power plants without effective fly ash capture are one of the largest sources of human-caused background radiation exposure. Coal-fired power plants shorten nearly 24,000 lives a year in the United States, including 2,800 from lung cancer. Coal-fired power plant releases emissions including mercury, selenium, and arsenic which are harmful to human health and the environment.

In coal the carbon content is between 92% and 98%. Coal when burned at power stations emits CO2 around 227 Lbs. of Carbon dioxide per million British thermal units (Btus) of energy or in simpler terms coal emits around 1.7 times as much carbon per unit of energy when burned. Coal contains about 80 percent more carbon per unit of energy than gas does, and oil contains about 40 percent more. For the typical U.S. household, a metric ton of carbon equals about 10,000 miles of driving at 25 miles per gallon of gasoline or about one year of home heating using a natural gas-fired furnace or about four months of electricity from coal-fired generation.

The World Bank (WB) is spending billions of pounds subsidising new coal-fired power stations in developing countries despite claiming that burning fossil fuels exposes the poor to catastrophic climate change. The bank, which has a goal of reducing poverty and is funded by Britain and other developed countries, calls on all nations to "act differently on climate change". While the WB says that the world must reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, it is also funding several giant coal-burning plants that will each emit millions of tons of carbon dioxide a year for the next 40 to 50 years.

Britain is contributing 400 million € to a World Bank fund that claims to support "clean technology" but is financing coal power plants. The bank's World Development Report says: "Developing countries are disproportionately affected by climate change -- a crisis that is not of their making and for which they are the least prepared. Increasing access to energy and other services using high-carbon technologies will produce more greenhouse gases, hence more climate change."

The report says that between 75 and 80 per cent of the damage caused by climate change through drought, floods and rising sea levels will happen in developing countries. It calls on richer nations, including Britain, to increase the amount that they spend on helping developing countries to adapt to climate change.

According to Marianne Fay, the bank's chief economist for sustainable development, coal was and is the cheapest and most secure way to deliver electricity to the 1.6billion people without it. She said: "There are a lot of poor countries which have coal reserves and for them it's the only option. The bank's policy is to continue funding coal to the extent that there is no alternative and to push for the most efficient coal plants possible. Frankly, it would be immoral at this stage to say, 'We want to have clean hands, therefore we are not going to touch coal'."

Tim Jones, policy officer of the World Development Movement, which campaigns to reduce poverty, said: "The World Bank is acting in the interests of Western countries and companies and not in the long-term interests of the world's poor.

It is an absolute disgrace that money meant for clean technologies will actually be used for building new coal power stations. Every pound of green aid that will be spent on funding coal power through the World Bank is money that should be spent on supporting renewable energy in developing countries.

This endorse the truth that 'you can not practice what you preach'!

According to James Hansen, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York and the first scientist to warn the US Congress of the dangers of climate change, the amount of carbon dioxide in the air has already risen to a dangerous level. The pre-industrial carbon dioxide amount was 280 parts per million (ppm). Humans, by burning coal, oil and gas, have increased this to 385 ppm; it continues to grow by about 2 ppm per year.

Earth, with its four-kilometre-deep oceans, responds only slowly to changes of carbon dioxide. So the climate will continue to change, even if we make maximum effort to slow the growth of carbon dioxide. Arctic sea ice will melt away in the summer season within the next few decades. Mountain glaciers, providing fresh water for rivers that supply hundreds of millions of people, will disappear - practically all of the glaciers could be gone within 50 years - if carbon dioxide continues to increase at current rates. Coral reefs, harbouring a quarter of ocean species, are threatened.

The greatest danger hanging over our children and grandchildren is initiation of changes that will be irreversible on any time scale that humans can imagine. If coastal ice shelves buttressing the west Antarctic ice sheet continue to disintegrate, the sheet could disgorge into the ocean, raising sea levels by several metres in a century. Such rates of sea level change have occurred many times in Earth's history in response to global warming rates no higher than those of the past 30 years. Almost half of the world's great cities are located on coastlines.

The most threatening change, from Mr. Hansen's perspective, is extermination of species. Several times in Earth's history, rapid global warming occurred, apparently spurred by amplifying feedbacks. In each case, more than half of plant and animal species became extinct. New species came into being over tens and hundreds of thousands of years. But these are time scales and generations that we cannot imagine. If we drive our fellow species to extinction, we will leave a far more desolate planet for our descendants than the world we inherited from our elders.

Clearly, if we burn all fossil fuels, we will destroy the planet we know. Carbon dioxide would increase to 500 ppm or more. We would set the planet on a course to the ice-free state, with sea level 75 metres higher. Climatic disasters would occur continually. The tragedy of the situation, if we do not wake up in time, is that the changes that must be made to stabilise the atmosphere and climate make sense for other reasons. They would produce a healthier atmosphere, improved agricultural productivity, clean water and an ocean providing fish that are safe to eat.

Fossil-fuel reservoirs will dictate the actions needed to solve the problem. Oil, of which half the readily accessible reserves have already been burnt, is used in vehicles, so it's impractical to capture the carbon dioxide. This is likely to drive carbon dioxide levels to at least 400 ppm. But if we cut off the largest source of carbon dioxide - coal - it will be practical to bring carbon dioxide back to 350 ppm, lower still if we improve agricultural and forestry practices, increasing carbon storage in trees and soil.

Coal is not only the largest fossil fuel reservoir of carbon dioxide, it is the dirtiest fuel. Coal is polluting the world's oceans and streams with mercury, arsenic and other dangerous chemicals. The dirtiest trick that governments play on their citizens is the pretence that they are working on "clean coal" or that they will build power plants that are "capture-ready" in case technology is ever developed to capture all pollutants.

Before concluding, let me reiterate the facts that the trains carrying coal to thermal power plants are death trains. Coal-fired power plants are factories of death and worst than Adolf Hitler's Nazi gas chambers.

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I don't care very much for Dr Hansen because he looks like a man who expects to take a blow at any time. If he had a little more charisma I might listen to him. At the same time let me say that I buy the AWG argument.

However, as I just told a conference in Italy, the anti-coal people are wasting their time, because only academics beating their gums at conferences insist on accepting a decline in their standard of living in order that the environment will be better in 100+ years. Ordinary people will never accept this sort of thing. And, as I am sure that you know, neither will most academics, regardless of what they say.

But you are right about "clean coal". I just hope that you or someone like you is at Copenhagen this December to give the message to the hypocrites.

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Mr. Menon is a true gentleman.

Yes, some of his writings do read like sermons, but all of his writings are true and backed up by facts.

I do agree with Mr. Banks about the 'ordinary' people. In general it is very hard to think 100 years ahead when you are struggling to pay for your next meal.

I am a proponent of solar energy use, both thermal and photovoltaic. The harder we work on these technologies, the sooner (still measured in 100s of years) we will solve some of our pollution problems.

When people making these various devices finally stop trying to make an inordinate amount of money instead of a small amount (like that made on various commodities such as food) the sooner all this will happen.

Sincerely,

Larry Kelley Shelby, MI 49455 USA

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A thought provoking article backed by true facts. Mr.Ramanathan Menon is thoriough on every subject he writes. Let us hope policy makers and Governments will take serious note of the suggestions by Mr.Ramanathan Menon.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP)

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"But if we cut off the largest source of carbon dioxide - coal - it will be practical to bring carbon dioxide back to 350 ppm, lower still if we improve agricultural and forestry practices, increasing carbon storage in trees and soil."

Atmospheric GHG concentrations, using CO2 as a proxy, began rising in ~1750, essentially at the onset of the industrial revolution, and approximately 100 years after global temperatures began to rise from the trough of the “Little Ice Age”. Global annual emissions of these GHGs, again using CO2 as a proxy, were `1/2000th of current emissions rates at that time. Therefore, logically, stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of these GHGs would require a reduction of emissions rates to or below the emissions rates at which the atmospheric concentrations began to increase. That would require global reductions of approximately 99.95% from current global emissions rates.

The advocates for “350? (Restore atmospheric concentrations of CO2 to 350 ppm.) go beyond that by requiring zero emissions plus extraction of some existing CO2 from the atmosphere.

I estimate the investment required globally to reach zero emissions at ~$150 trillion. Only God currently has any idea regarding the investment required to remove ~38 ppm from the current atmosphere.

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James,

I appreciate your comments on the advancements in pollution reduction in coal. In particular, mercury will get caught by some of the same technology that catches sulphur (or maybe its the other way around). But what coal people fail to acknowledge is that it's all about the CO2 at this point. Saying you are catching the SOx and NOx and Hg carries little weight at this point.

Edward,

I think we crossed the 350 ppm point around 1988. So I don't think we'd need a 99.95% reduction. I can't cite an exact figure, but just as a "for instance", about half of the emitted CO2 from hydrocarbons has been absorbed by the oceans.

I found the above article overly dramatic (obviously) but also somewhat chilling. Not in its content, but in the passion for the desire to eliminate coal. Getting out of this mess with the minimum of pain will require messy compromises that will require tolerance from everyone. This may be hard for strident believers (on either side) to tolerate.

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Jim,

I suggest you rethink the logic of your comment above.

The groups advocating "350" acknowledge that it would require complete elimination of annual carbon emissions plus either a long wait or some undefined carbon extraction technology.

Ed

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Ed,

I understand the issues with getting CO2 levels from the present 385 to 350 ppm. But I'm not sure that industry running at the rate of the 1950s in terms of carbon emissions (for example) wouldn't stabilize at some level less than 350 ppm.

As far as I could read, 350.org doesn't say much of anything specifically about what needs to be done, other than to drastically lower CO2 emissions as soon as possible.

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Where did all that carbon in the coal come from? My theory is Mother nature has been doing an experiment now millions of years old on the effects of removing massive quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere and converting it to Carbon and Oxygen and I think it is time we stop this experimentation. Her storage of carbon directly as coal pales by comparison with her rather blatant and continued storage of C02 in carbonates. She must be stopped before she brings a cataclysm upon us all. Burning coal to free its carbon and from C02 may help but as humans I feel we should do more. We need to combine the exothermic coal reaction with the endothermic calcining of limestone to foil her evil plot and return C02 to the atmosphere from where it came before her experimentation causes another mass extinction like the tragic Ices ages she has already facilitated. According to Mathew Huber Antarctica was ice free until around 35 million years ago when the ice sheets rapidly formed. Antarctica had been Ice free for at least 100 million years previous to this time. According to Huber the likely culprit was loss of C02 in the atmosphere. The earth had been a warm wet planet then the planet cooled killing off almost all amphibians and reptiles along with many mammal species. It is time to do the right thing and reverse this sadistic cooling trend. We need to stop the uncontrolled sequestration of CO2 by these random natural forces and restore order and the previous balance to our world. If we will not undertake the needed action for our selves we should think of our children and all the generations to follow and do it for them. Are we so egotistical as to destine future generations to try to survive in a frozen world due to our current apathy when we could act now and prevent the almost certain coming cataclysm of another global freeze and Ice Age.

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James, you should enjoy this link but the "usual suspects" will hate it thoroughly. They'll also hate this article,

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Aarggh, missing quotes

James, you should enjoy this link but the "usual suspects" will hate it thoroughly. They'll also hate this article, Smoking gun and then some you know, because it was written by world-renowned climate scientists AND was peer reviewed. But of course the scientists were from HARVARD and MIT, so clearly they are a bunch of know-nothings compared to our own illustrious Len Gould who graduated from...? :)

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third time's the charm:

James, you should enjoy this link but the "usual suspects" will hate it thoroughly. They'll also hate this article, Smoking gun and then some you know, because it was written by world-renowned climate scientists AND was peer reviewed. But of course the scientists were from HARVARD and MIT, so clearly they are a bunch of know-nothings compared to our own illustrious Len Gould who graduated from...? :)

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Jerry,

ROTFLOL

eD

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James,

In several cases, he is merely quoting the inestimable Dr. James Hansen. :-)

Ed

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Well, no flame war from me. Last time I checked, I am no policy maker, so I'm not the one needing any convincing.

If I were the President, I'd use this enthusiasm for change to make the country independent of imported oil use (at least to the extent that is possible). Probably by the adoption of PHEV technology using domestically built battery packs. Then I'd promote nuclear IFR technology to address concerns of coal use in power plants. That would at least kick the ball forward a bit while at the same time accomplishing a few things of value independent of the climate change issue.

Lots of people had problems with coal even before the CO2 issue. Like what it does to the mountaintops that are sliced off. Like the mercury emissions. Like the 30 people killed annually in the U.S. in coal mines (or the 13 people killed DAILY in China). Hard to see how nuclear power is more dangerous than coal.

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Jim,

I believe you will get your wish, at least in part.

US EPA appears ready to implement a "command and control" approach to mercury emissions reductions. The currently available technology for mercury removal would be too expensive to implement in older, smaller coal plants. Therefore, implementation of the regulations would likely result in the closing of these plants. One can only hope that there is replacement capacity available to handle the load.

The issue could become even more urgent if EPA decides that the installation of mercury control equipment at a coal plant subjects that plant to NSR under the Clean Air Act. That could subject every coal plant in the US to BACT or LAER requirements.

Mountain top removal coal mining, in addition to making more of WV suitable for habitation by people with both legs the same length, reduces the danger of coal mining compared to underground mining, as does surface mining.

Many of our policymakers appear to believe that the laws of economics and physics are subject to amendment or repeal at their convenience. When it becomes "intuitively obvious to the casual observer" that they failed, they will conclude that they just didn't give the government enough power to be effective and attempt to fix that problem.

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I'm still waiting for that group of geniuses like Jeff et al from the previous debate to respond to any one of the four issues I posed in the previous debate which thoroughly demolished their arguments.

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Jeff: I note you also never responded to the following which I posed to you in the infamous (and hilarious) Bob Ashworth article, comment on 9.23.09.

You also never responded to two of the following questions I posed to Bob and yourself in that thread, eg.

9.16.09 I had been expecting to settle the issue of re-radiation as the first error in the article, but since that's being ignored, I may as well raise some of the other obvious errors in the article.

1) The author, without reference, arbitrarily proposes that only the top 10 inches of earth soil participate in any warming due to external factors. Everyone in our area knows that a water pipe or building foundation must be burried to at least 1.5 meters (5 feet) depth to avoid being frozen in the short seasonal temperature changes common even at 45 deg. lat., proving that variations in atmospheric temperature rapidly affect earth surface down to at least that depth. Travel north to the border of the permafrost zone and that figure goes to well beyond two meters. Therefore, the author should have used at least 72 inches, not 10 inches, in his energy balance calculation.

2) Same problem as above with ocean surface water. Claiming that only the top 10 inches of the ocean participate in affecting earth's average surface temperature over a long time period is almost certainly a very significant error.

3) What basis figure does the author use to compute the specific heat of earth's surface (even to 10 inches)? Is it the specific heat of dry rock / soil? If so, then it understates the actual specific heat by the specific heat of the water content of that surface soil, which is sure to be much higher.

So Jeff: Quit avoiding the question. Do you or do you not, support Bob (Ashworth)'s contention that re-radiation is of no significance in calculating an energy balance for earth?

(Note... eventually Bob did inform us that he calculated the specific heat of earth's surface to be equivalent to that of water, an acceptable generalization for an amateur I suppose. That was an acceptable response to my fourth question, leaving yet the others three eg. ignoring of re-radiation increases due to surface temperature increases in the thermal balance, and 1. and 2. above)

9.23.09 For our amusement Jeff, how about computing and giving us the difference between the specific heat x total mass of the top 2 meters of earth's surface and the thermal mass of the top 2 meters of earth's surface, presuming as Bob does that its properties are identical with pure water. Oh, zero difference, you say? But we all knew that already. For other readers, presuming you will wimp, its so basic its Wiki material, as:

"If the body consists of a homogeneous material with sufficiently known physical properties, the thermal mass is simply the amount of material present times the specific heat capacity of that material."

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Oh come on, Len. Let's not bring Bob "WTC 7 was rigged with thermite" Ashworth back into this discussion. It just isn't fair.....

:)

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Len, when you READ the article by Lindzen and Choi that I posted above and provide sufficient information HERE that I know you've actually done your homework I will be happy to engage in a discussion with you. However since you NEVER read a link that disagrees with your infantile world view there really is no point.

However that said, and since you STILL don't understand re-radiation nor the inverse square law I don't know how to demonstrate for you that the energy can go ANYWHERE and not necessarily DOWN to the earth but ANY direction. The model drawn by the IPCC only allows the energy to go DOWN (ie back to earth) and also assumes it loses NO STRENGTH as it does so. This is clearly false. CO2 molecules would be a point source would they not? Therefore they would "re-radiate" in any direction. Lindzen's paper CLEARLY demonstrates the a LOT of it goes UP, in complete contravention of the IPCC models, therefore further invalidating their predictions. The further INCONVENIENT truth that CO2 levels have continued to rise while the temperature has clearly NOT followed suit is additional dirt on the IPCC grave of dead ideas.

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Jeff, I used to follow your links but I don't any more, agreed. Its a waste of my finite time.

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Jeff: "The model drawn by the IPCC only allows the energy to go DOWN (ie back to earth) and also assumes it loses NO STRENGTH as it does so." -- ??? Whomever told you that, Jeff, was more out of it than you are.

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[QUOTE] The recent Internet chatter about cooling led NOAA's climate data center to re-examine its temperature data. It found no cooling trend.

"The last 10 years are the warmest 10-year period of the modern record," said NOAA climate monitoring chief Deke Arndt. "Even if you analyze the trend during that 10 years, the trend is actually positive, which means warming." [/QUOTE]

AP IMPACT: Statisticians reject global cooling

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Jeff and Ed,

If what you are saying is true, then our entire economy could be (further) tanked due to this rush to address a climate problem that Lindzen and some others do not believe exists.

On the other hand, the issue of oil dependency is well-known and has been a concern over every U.S. President from Nixon onwards. Nuclear power development has been stalled since TMI and Chernobyl.

The pragmatist in me is willing to cut loose big coal if that's what it takes minimize the impacts of these passion-driven changes. As I mentioned earlier, coal has some other problems in addition to CO2 emissions.

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Len Gould 10.28.09 Jeff, I used to follow your links but I don't any more, agreed. Its a waste of my finite time. Says it all, 100%. Frankly I have no recollection of you EVER following ONE of my links, but it is remotely possible. I find it more than a little hypocritical of you to DEMAND that I give you proof but then admit that you never read the proof because your time is so "finite". I guess it is consumed writing a bunch of nonsense posts.

Unlike you, I linked to your little news item, and find it to be the usual misdirection and slant I've come to expect from the Associated Press and the mainstream media in general. After all, THEY are the ones who've been screaming the sky is falling for the past 20 years now, they'd have a lot of egg on their faces if they were found to be COMPLETELY WRONG now wouldn't they? Meantime it is snowing outside my window right now and we've already broken multiple cold records going back as long as records have been kept here. This marks the FIFTH year in a ROW this has been going on. But of course if the "climate scientists" continue to cherry pick their data, continue to REFUSE to accept weather station data that haven't been operating for at least 20 years (which mathematically guarantees they will have less reporting stations as time goes on) and have dropped reports from 15,000 stations already etc etc. AVERAGE global temperature? It has become a joke, which is why the satellite data is the only hope left and with acolytes like Gavin Schmidt and Hansen at NASA blocking access to the satellite data... well we are certain to have a FAIR look at the numbers aren't we? LOL

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Jim,

If the goal is to eliminate coal from our energy portfolio, let's just say it loud and clear and not obfuscate it under the heading of "climate change". I am not convinced of your average death numbers especially in the US, but there are plenty of good reasons to slowly eliminate coal from the menu. Unfortunately as everyone with a brain knows, coal provides over 50% of this country's energy primarily in the form of electricity so that isn't going to change overnight.

My company is looking into underground coal gasification right now, we have the technology to do this in a controlled manner that is superior to the oxygen injection fireflood methods. The output is syngas, which could be burned in power plants at dramatically lower emissions levels. Unfortunately in today's political environment even that might not be enough and pursuing financing for these ventures is problematic at best. What politicians don't realize is how they freeze everyone in industry with uncertainty about pending legislation. They can pass all the laws they like trying to repeal laws of physics, but at the end of the day, the laws of physics win.

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Jim,

If you prefer to use ethanol (E85), or natural gas, or hydrogen to fuel your vehicles, go for it. However, be sure the fuel you choose is available before you give up on gasoline.

If you prefer to buy electricity produced by solar, or wind, or geothermal, or burning buffalo chips, go for it. However, be sure that power source is available before you throw coal under the bus.

There is no question that replacing existing, functioning energy equipment and facilities with more expensive alternatives would have an adverse economic impact. The only question is how severe the economic consequences would be.

Last year, IEA estimated that the investment required to reduce global carbon emissions by 50% by 2050 would be approximately $45 trillion. Reducing global annual emissions to zero would require at least twice and more likely three times that investment. That ain't chicken feed!

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Ed,

It is not my preference regarding oil. Oil has PEAKED. Peak production occurred on July 2008. I never gave up on gasoline. It gave up (or gave out) on us.

And yeah, given the issues with CO2 emissions (technical, political or otherwise) I think it makes sense to dust off the nuclear option. Last I looked, IFRs violated no laws of physics.

Sometimes I don't understand you folks. Are Fred and I the last pragmatists standing? (Probably not. The potential investors running from anything relating to coal are probably pretty pragmatic as well.)

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Ed: "Last year, IEA estimated that the investment required to reduce global carbon emissions by 50% by 2050 would be approximately $45 trillion." -- Question then is, How much will the investment be to maintain present carbon-intensive systems?

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Len,

As far as I know, nobody asked, so nobody answered.

Ed

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Ed. So let's guess. Assume the world needs to build 120 GW per year of coal generation to provide an equivalent service including plant replacements. At $3,000 / kw, that comes out to $15 trillion. (NB. assumptions: US present 450 GW generation 2007, world = US x 4 = 1,800 GW per EIA. Growth to 2050 = +3,000 GW to total 4,800 GW. Total build in period = 4,800 GW included complete replacement of all existing. $12 trillion total.)

Its probable also that the IEA included a significant amount to replace petroleum fueled vehicles with electric powered ones, say 10% of 50 million/yr for 40 yrs at an added $10,000, or $2 trillion total. ?? not so much, eh?

What else might be included in the $45 trillion? A LOT of HVDC transmission? A LOT of renewable generation at $10,000? (Solar thermal with thermal storage at any volume can install as cheaply as simple coal according to NREL). Number looks suspicious to me.

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Also I'd note that with the present rate of increase of auto use worldwide, we're going to have to implement a LOT of electric vehicle use simply to deal with petroleum depletion, so I don't think any of that can be "charged" to CO2 reduction.

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Len,

I have not seen anyone question the IEA number.

I suggest you take up your concerns with them.

I am more concerned that 50% is not enough to stabilize atmospheric concentrations. Beyond 50%, the investments increase, since the easiest, lowest cost investments would obviously be made first.

The "350" folks are calling for zero carbon emissions.

Let the fun begin!

Ed

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The Chinese build superior coal fired plants using supercritical steam for 1/3 our cost so they are looking more at $1000/kw. Considering the IEA wrote a book on them, I'd assume they know the numbers so that ruins the first cost guesstimate.

Ed, since man contributes 3% of the total CO2 in the atmosphere, we're really talking about fractions of fractions. Doing the math, how much would we need to reduce OUR output to convince the planet to reduce ITS output? Oh that's right we're the perfect tipping point, without us Gaia would be PERFECTLY balanced, never mind that for billions of years BEFORE man she never bothered to balance her atmospheric books, NOR her weather nor much of anything else for that matter. Also troubling is that pesky carbon uptake, which appears to always absorb a little more than 1/2 of man's contribution, and has for at least 50 years or more! Since the scientists are pretty confident about how much carbon man is producing, the problem seems to be Gaia's fault. Maybe if the politicians pass a law demanding that Gaia takes up the other 1.6% per year?

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Ramanathan Menon:

Thanks to James Carson calling me 'nuts' for writing against the use of coal to produce our electricity. A nut called 'Don Quixote' remembered by millions of people even today. Even in his name there is a word 'Quixotic'. Single handedly he fought a windmill. Now you need a big lobby to fight against the installations of windmills, saying that they produce much noise, they kill the birds, bla...bla..

Sir Isaac Newton discovered universal gravitation in the year 1666 while watching an apple fall from a tree in his garden. He was in the right place (under an apple tree) at the right time (when the apple was falling) and he had keen observation. What happens if it was quite opposite, suppose he was in Kerala (India) standing under a coconut tree and a coconut had fallen on his head? The world may not have known the theory of his three ‘LAWS OF MOTION’ until now.

What if Archimedes had his bath using a shower instead of a tub filled with water, the world may not have known about ‘the law of equilibrium of fluids.’

So, scientists were not born but were made through circumstances. No scientist can write a theory beforehand and make a new invention in accordance with his theory. Because every invention was through sheer accident.

In science nothing is small. Take for example, four hardware items, the nuts, the bolts, the screws and the washers. Without these ordinary things no scientist in NASA or anywhere can send a rocket to the moon. Similarly, even a small idea or a view shared with others by a common man like me should not be ridiculed.

But the ball has already started rolling....The following news will tell you the changing mindset of people towards reducing or rejecting the use of coal to produce our electricity.

"The Danish state-owned utility Dong Energy has decided to shut down two power station units in Denmark from April 2010 in a bid to cut costs amid declining electricity demand.

The move concerns unit 5 of the Asnaes power station near Kalundborg on the Sjaelland island and unit 4 of the Studstrup power station, north of Aarhus on the Jylland peninsula.

The shutdowns will lead to a total reduction of 980 MW corresponding to 18 per cent of the company's thermal power production and to 14 per cent of its total power capacity at the end of 2009.

The Asnaes station's unit 5 uses COAL as its main fuel and oil as a reserve. The Studstrup station's unit 4 is powered by coal, oil and biomass. Any excess biomass will instead be used in the unit three of the station.

Denmark’s leading utility has gone cold on coal. Earlier this month it postponed coal power station investments until 2020 because it doesn't regard carbon capture storage technology as a commercially realistic technology by that time.

DONG's CEO Nils Bergh-Hansen is said to believe in the technology but politically it is too uncertain to invest. Instead, Dong will build wind farms and convert its existing coal power stations to burn biomass with the aim of generating half of its power by 2020 from CO2-neutral energy sources.

This is a commendable, far-sighted policy although it doesn’t come cheap. At $0.46/kWh, Denmark has the highest (post tax) electricity prices in Europe – a third more expensive than neighbours Germany and more than double that of fellow Scandinavians Sweden. (Courtesy: PEI Digest Week)

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Today, members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in U.S. will wrap up three days of hearings on the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act. That's the Senate version of a bill to cap emissions of global warming pollution.

The House bill required carbon dioxide emissions to be cut by 17 percent by 2020. The latest Senate version requires 20 percent emissions reductions by 2020.

Among the additions to the bill:

-- New provisions to stimulate CCS technology; -- Advanced payments of "bonus allowances" to companies that are "early actors" installing CCS on their plants, providing they reduce emissions by at least 50 percent; -- Requiring coal-fired power plants not to meet emissions performance standards until commercial-scale CCS technology has been deployed.

Some coal-state senators, including Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., have sought to add language to help coal -- especially to delay emission reductions requirements and to provide more economic incentives to aid development and deployment of carbon dioxide capture and storage technology for power plants.

The Union of Mine Workers Association (UMWA) recognizes that climate change legislation represents the greatest threat to its membership and to the continued use of coal. They say, achieving the proper balance among technology incentives, the timing and stringency of emission reductions, and economic safeguards will be essential for obtaining broad bipartisan support for climate legislation.

Meanwhile experts say that CCS (carbon capture and storage) technology has never been used on anywhere the scale needed. The technology is largely untested, could be very expensive, and scientific experts believe it is unlikely to make much of a dent in carbon dioxide emissions until after 2030.

When and how, America, the largest user of coal, will try to make a U-turn from promoting its thermal power stations to other clean, free, silent, endless, renewable energy sources from the SUN, the WIND and the SEA is a big question from developing nations like India who are blamed for adding more and more CO2 to the atmosphere?

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Jeff,

Works for me. Bill should pass easily. I believe the consequences would be fully anticipatable. :-)

The "350" folks may have let the "zero carbon emissions" cat out of the bag a bit prematurely. That might wake a few people up to the intended endpoint of this exercise.

Note also than Ban Ki Moon has begun the call for vegetarianism, declaring that the raising of meat animals is wasteful and contributes to climate change. UN FAO attributes ~20% to animal husbandry. Also, note the call from New Zealand for a switch to "edible pets". (Have you petted your chicken today?)

I have not figured out who will lead the call for population control / population reduction, though John Holdren and Cass Sundstein seem willing enough.

I have no estimate of the number of humans who could persist in a renewed hunter/gatherer society. However, hunting each other during the transition period leaves me a little cold.

Ed

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Under the right circumstances, almost every pet could ultimately be considered edible.

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Hmm. According to information that reached me a week ago when I was swilling some excellent free wine in Italy, somebody is going to have to collect 150 billion a year to pass out to Third World countries to get them to clean up. Now that really ticked me off until I figured out that it could have been twice that amount.

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Fred,

...; but, no money goes to any country which is still increasing its emissions.

I wonder if they left that out by intent! :-)

Ed

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Jim,

Perhaps under "certain" circumstances, but I wouldn't refer to them as "right".

I guess it would be somewhat more acceptable than dog fighting or cock fighting, unless you ate the losers. UGH

Ed

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Ed,

I never eat dogs from dog fighting. All that activity ruins the marbling of the meat.

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Jim,

I understand the adrenalin rush during the fight toughens the meat too.

Ed

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Stick for developing nations like India and carrot for developed nations like America!! According to the World Resources Institute, India’s total GHG (Green House Gas) emissions stood at 1,853 million metric tons equivalent of carbon dioxide or about 4.9 percent of global emissions in 2005.

India, at present emits only 1.2 tonnes per capita of greenhouse gas emissions, as compared to 20 tonnes by the US. Acquiescence in any regime that does not differentiate between the super polluters like the US, on the one hand, and varying levels of developing countries on the other, would, lock the country into an arrangement where its growth options would be restricted.

India believes that continuation of the process of incentivizing the adoption of climate friendly technologies in developing countries in the second commitment period of Kyoto Protocol should be a priority concern.

Whereas, the industrialized countries have been demanding for a while now that emerging economies like India sign on to a deal that obliges them to take emission reduction obligations at their own cost in coming years. Painting India as `obstructionist', the industrialized countries have so far shied away from offering either credible money or commitment for deep emission cuts. Urging India to take `leadership' and become a `deal maker' on climate change is the euphemism often used to convince the government to take `emission control obligations' at its own cost!

The climate negotiations are complicated as they impact global economy like few other multilateral agreements so far. They are built on four basic and parallel channels. Who should mitigate and how much? How climate-friendly technologies should be diffused to the parts of the world that need it and need it quick? How the burden of adapting to inevitable climate change should be shared? And finally, how should the finances needed to do all that it takes to adapt and prevent catastrophic climate change be generated and shared?

India and other emerging countries have so far tried to ensure that the talks on all four fronts are carried out simultaneously. The rich countries prefer to first bind emerging economies on to a road that leads to emission reduction targets in coming years and then talk of transferring technology and funds. It has been in the developing world's advantage to let the industrialized countries, which are primarily to blame for driving the planet to the tipping point, first disclose how much reductions they are willing to undertake in the next decade and put figures of funds and technologies they want to share.

As per the Bali Action Plan that all countries signed on to in December 2007, the developing countries are expected to reduce emissions, if they are paid the full costs of their actions. They want to know how much funds are on the table before they decide what they can do with it.

A latest news story from Reuters “The multiyear ice covering the Arctic Ocean has effectively vanished, a startling development that will make it easier to open up polar shipping routes, an Arctic expert said”. It reminded me of Emperor Nero busy playing with his fiddle when Rome was on fire!

The Arctic is warming up three times more quickly than the rest of the Earth, in part because of the reflectivity, or the albedo feedback effect, of ice. As more and more ice melts, larger expanses of darker sea water are exposed. These absorb more sunlight than the ice and cause the water to heat up more quickly, thereby melting more ice.

The Arctic is an early indicator of what we can expect at the global scale as we move through the next few decades. So we should be paying attention to this very carefully, experts say.

A friendly word of caution. The coal lobby in America should realize that the COAL (Clouds Over American Land) is going to be thickest and blackest and they may need to use a fog lamp while driving their automobiles in daytime.

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"A friendly word of caution. The coal lobby in America should realize that the COAL (Clouds Over American Land) is going to be thickest and blackest and they may need to use a fog lamp while driving their automobiles in daytime."

This might actually be a little more "over the top" than the original piece or the rest of the author's following comments.

The author might be well advised to travel in China, where the air is a pale orange-brown color, with a distinctive sulphur odor. China is currently the globe's #1 coal consumer, with the most rapid rate of increase of coal consumption; and, much of its coal generating capacity either lacks, or does not regularly operate, SOX and NOX control equipment and/or particulate capture equipment.

It is long past time to decide whether the goal is to achieve equal global per-capita carbon emissions levels or to drastically reduce global carbon emissions to avoid a climactic cataclysm.

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Can we please stop quoting wikipedia please. And as far as coal being "death" ask China want it has done for them. It has actually been "life" for them. Giving rise to hundreds and hundreds of billions of Chinese - giving them a chance at life (does that matter??) Mr. Menon should realize the desperate need of India for coal, the hundreds of millions who have no electricity - ditto for Africa. How can we have the "you know whats" to tell them how they should develop. Hypocrisy at its finest folks. While we chat away on our laptops and desktops, expect to live to be 80 years old, have kids that virtually are assured to live a long and prosperous life - a person in Nigeria, a woman in Chad, and a man in DR of Congo - live to be 45, cannot read, and have no suitable drinking water. Mr. Hansen and Al Gore are a direct threat to their (and ours) ability to one day life have a quality of life. 13% of the women in Chad can read. Check CIA factbook.

These people have no electricity!!!!!!!!!!!!! That is the problem, not global warming. They live to they are 50!!!!!!!!! That is the problem, not climate change. They die before they are 5 years old. Baseload = coal. Al Gore and James Hanson want us to go on an energy diet, I got news for them, Africa and India, and most of China, is already on an energy diet: They are starving!!!!!!

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Ramanathan, you talk about 1.2 tons per capita in India, let's see what happens when we multiply that out by India's total population? Oh wait, we aren't supposed to do that. Same goes for China too, never look at the TOTAL, just the per capita numbers. I guess the problem with the USA is that we use 25% of the world's energy (producing 25% of the world's GDP in the process) but only have a bout 6% of the population. So what you're really saying is we ought to increase our population? Perhaps by loosening immigration restrictions perhaps?

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Leave it to the developing nations to play the Per-Capita card. Why isn't it emissions per square mile? In any case, it is in no one's interest to build brand new coal plants in ANY country, if one is concerned about CO2 emissions. They are setting themselves up for capital loss if they are serious about CO2 (instead of just playing the developed countries).

The green revolution, the polio vaccine, the eradication of small pox, malaria treatment, the HIV cocktail, the automobile, trains, steam power, nuclear power; all these things were developed in high per capita emission countries, for which the developing countries have benefited. The developed countries are indicted for their past without acknowledging the benefits that came from them.

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What the heck does "Co2 is essential to life" have to do with any topic under discussion here?

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Come on now, Len. You're previous comments indicate you are much smarter than your last comment. CO2 being essential to life is critical here. Any strategy or law (cap and trade) to limit CO2 emissions is in actuality a strategy or law to limit an essential part of our atmosphere, our environment. More co2 means more plant life, which means more food. That is what the "heck" co2 being essential to life means. Without co2, which cap and trade apparently aims to eliminate, there is no life on earth. In effect, "environmentalists" or rich alarmists as they should be called, are waging war on an essential part of life, carbon dioxide. They are waging war on a chemical compound that without it, we do not exist. surely, you understood that.

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