One recent example of continuing wicked disregard for future survival of life on the planet as we know it was billions in tax credits for coal operators included in the near-trillion-dollar federal bailout of the financial sector. As this blog has chastened, coal won the 2008 election. Such friends in rich places behavior continues despite repeated warnings that use of coal will result in irreversible, catastrophic heating of the planet. Even as the warnings become more severe, denial at a federal level persists.
Photo: Vivian Stock / Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
Environmentalists had hoped that the Obama administration would reign in mountaintop removal coal mining. Now comes word that the Army Corps of Engineers has approved 42 of 48 pending projects. And, don’t look to Congress for help. As previously noted, “Over 470 mountains in Appalachia have been destroyed in this process, the coal scooped up and hauled away to be burned at coal-fired power plants across our country and abroad.” This includes the Potomac River Plant, which generates the electricity for the White House and the Capitol.
In terms of appointment, President Obama has followed through upon his pledge to boost the role of science in policymaking. And, yet one of the leading scientific minds in the Cabinet, Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently said that “he will provide $2.4 billion from the economic recovery package to speed up development of technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and factories that burn coal.”
NYC treehugger Matthew McDermott also perceives that Secretary Chu would seem to giving in to the polluters. McDermott refers to a BBC inteview in which “Stephen Chu talks about how US carbon emission reduction goals are being hindered by political opposition, and that compromises must be made.” Such a statement could apply to either those that want to persist with BAUAAAE (Business As Usual And Above All Else) and those that want to stop coal.
Damon Moglen from Greenpeace USA:
It is out of the question that the US should agree new power stations burning coal – the dirtiest fuel. Our targets on emissions are too low anyway – and there is no way we will meet even those low targets if we allow more coal to be burned.
If, indeed, Secretary Chu believes what he espouses, i.e., “we are heading for a climate tipping point and that action must be taken quickly”, then why is one of the compromises Chu suggests approval of new coal fired power plants even if they don’t incorporate CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) technology? In direct conflict with mitigation of the worst conseqences of our long term pollution of the atmosphere, ocean and populace with carbon emissions is advocacy of more coal for the short term. What we do in the next two to three years will determine whether there is any hope of stabilizing below 450 ppm.
Secretary Chu is afraid the US won’t get started if he or others say we need to do much, much better. Yet the growing consensus is that we do need to do much, much better. Instead, political economy dictates that we condemn future generations to unimaginable horrors. As the Earth Policy Institute recently observed, those antagonistic argue that a consideration of economics is essential and yet “economic theory and economic indicators fail to explain how the economy is disrupting and destroying the earth’s natural systems.”
Alex Steffen has cautioned that we need to embrace the magnitude of the environmental issues that at least are becoming more acknowledged,and that we need to think about these issues differently than we have. I trust that a winner of the Nobel prize in science has the capacity for such thinking. Does Chu have the fortitude to insist that federal energy policy be guided by, rather than continue to deny, scientific findings?