Archive for Coal

Mutt Blows Dog Whistle—That IS News

First of all, in case you think I’m kidding about racist “dog whistle” words, this Daily Caller post from the 2012 election, should erase any doubt.

My favorite, of course, is “skinny”, because how could it not be?

In the Aug. 1 Wall Street Journal, Amy Chozick asked, “[C]ould Sen. Obama’s skinniness be a liability?” Most Americans, Chozick points out, aren’t skinny. Fully 66 percent of all citizens who’ve reached voting age are overweight, and 32 percent are obese. To be thin is to be different physically. Not that there’s anything wrong, mind you, with being a skinny person. But would you want your sister to marry one? Would you want a whole family of skinny people to move in next-door? “I won’t vote for any beanpole guy,” an “unnamed Clinton supporter” wrote on a Yahoo politics message board. My point is that any discussion of Obama’s “skinniness” and its impact on the typical American voter can’t avoid being interpreted as a coded discussion of race.

He’s serious, swear to God.

But then…

When President Barack Obama reviewed his aides’s ideas for tackling climate change last year, he gave one simple directive: “Don’t skinny it down.”

That’s taking self-loathing to a new level! And speaking of loathing:

The National Association of Manufacturers in Washington is spearheading a drive by 140 organizations against the expected draft ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency. Coal producers, steel manufacturers, and refiners and are also gearing up to fight the regulations.

“This administration is setting up the next energy crisis in this country,” said Laura Sheehan, a spokeswoman for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity in Washington. “They’re not looking at the long-term consequences.”

Obama also faces push-back from some within his own party, who warn that tighter regulations could hamper Democratic candidates in areas where coal is a major source of jobs. Democrats in Kentucky and West Virginia already are distancing themselves from the president’s energy policies, highlighting their opposition to a “war on coal” on the campaign trail.

“War on coal”? Wherever would they get that idea?

“If somebody wants to build a coal-fired power plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them,” Obama said, responding to a question about his cap-and-trade plan. He later added, “Under my plan … electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”

We didn’t really elect this guy, did we? This is just a crazy dream, right? One slice of anchovy pizza too many?

But he’s got his supporters:

Liberated from re-election politics, he’s freer to speak about the challenges of a warming planet and is using his bully pulpit to create urgency on an issue that most Americans rank as a low priority, the aides said.

In a White House meeting with eight Western governors last February, Obama used satellite images to make the case that climate change was responsible for the wildfires and droughts facing their states, arguing that the country must take bigger steps to tackle the issue.

“He has a deep understanding of the science,” said Democratic Governor Jay Inslee of Washington.

Of course he does.


Got Peat?

Boy, they ain’t kidding about global warming, huh? That’s some pretty bad [bleep].

Good thing enlightened people are taking the threat of greenhouse gases seriously:

Japan is turning into a rare bright spot in the world coal market, stepping up coal-fired power generation to replace nuclear plants that went offline after the 2011 Fukushima accident.

Plans by Japanese companies to spend billions of dollars on new coal-fired plants offer a striking contrast with the U.S., which has effectively blocked new coal plants using existing technology over concerns about global warming.

If the plans all come to fruition, Japan’s coal-fired power capacity would increase to around 47 gigawatts over the next decade or so, up 21% from the time right before the Fukushima accident.

It’s understandable that Japan might shy away from nuclear power (wrong but understandable), but do they really think coal is a safer bet?

The bodies of six miners trapped after a rock burst at a coal mine in central China’s Henan province were found by rescuers Friday.

What do the Japanese care? They still get their coal.

As somebody says, I’ll take global warming seriously when people act like it’s serious.

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A Man of His Word

President Obama (then Candidate Obama) in 2008.

So, if somebody wants to build a coal plant, they can — it’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.

President Obama today:

Yes, technologically unlocked oil and gas has created an energy revolution and industrial bright spot in the otherwise dim Obama era. By 2020, according to Yergin, shale gas alone is expected to support 4 million jobs (versus 1.7 million today). And the United States is expected to surpass Saudi Arabia as the world’s leading oil exporter, according to the International Energy Agency. Natural gas, meanwhile, is on course to overtake coal as the second largest source of energy worldwide by 2025. …

That’s why the surging supply of natural gas, the least carbon-intensive of traditional energy sources, is welcomed by all except a deep-ecology fringe. Natural gas produces half as much carbon as coal and a third the quantity of nitrogen oxides. The more prevalent the use of natural gas, the cleaner the air across America.

Expanded oil and gas production benefits state and local government as well. North Dakota, which welcomed the industry’s new technologies, saw its taxable sales and purchases jump nearly one-third in 2012 compared to the year before. Oil and gas tax receipts for the current biennium came in at $3.8 billion, leaving the Roughrider State with a budget surplus of $1.6 billion.

Under this brave man’s leadership, America stands poised to depose Saudi Arabia as world’s leading producer of greenhouse fuels. And we produce more natural gas than Congress does on three-bean chili day at the Capitol commissary. Good jobs for American workers have followed—all at the expense of coal, as he promised.

Today, for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of this president.

PS: Can you believe the ingrates in North Dakota voted for Romney over Obama by 58%-38%? Racist bastards.


Hold the Bird’s Nest Soup

You know who really takes it on the beak in this bird flu outbreak?


China’s bird flu crisis showed no sign of easing Tuesday, as another person was reported to have died from the virus, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Four new cases of H7N9 avian influenza were reported Monday — two in eastern China’s Jiangsu Province, one in neighboring Anhui Province and another case in Shanghai, where the patient died.

This brings the total number of people infected in the country to 24, with seven deaths, according to China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission.

The virus had been found in pigeons, but had not previously been discovered in humans until a series of cases were reported in China last week.

Poultry markets closed over bird flu China on high alert over bird flu
In Shanghai, where five people from 11 reported cases have now died, more than 100,000 live birds have been killed in the past week at live-poultry markets across the city in an effort to contain the problem, the Shanghai Municipal Ministry of Agriculture said. A number of cities across China have also announced trading suspensions.

Not to be insensitive, but seven deaths is just your average, everyday (or close enough) coal mine disaster in China:

The State Council will launch full investigations into two gas blasts at a coal mine in Jilin province that involve concealing the number of dead from the first blast, China’s work safety watchdog announced.

The Babao Coal Mine in Baishan saw two explosions in four days in the last two weeks, and reports by authorities said 29 people were killed in the first blast and seven in the second.

However, the provincial government said on Sunday that another seven deaths from the first gas explosion on March 29 were deliberately not reported by the coal mine.

As noted in the post above, Israel remembers its dead. China not so much.

Not to be insensitive.



Long-time readers will remember our regular features on the hazards faced by Chinese coal miners. Being a Chinese food taster would have been safer.

They’ve cleaned up their act, sort of, as we shall see, but not without a few setbacks:

At least eleven workers were killed Thursday when a small fire spread toxic carbon monoxide throughout a coal mine in northern China, local authorities said on Friday. Two other miners remained missing and are feared to have been killed as well.

The incident happened at around 8 p.m. local time on Thursday when an air compressor and wood caught fire at a coal mine in Huailai County near Zhangjiakou, a city in northern Hebei Province. The fire spread carbon monoxide throughout the mine where thirteen people were working.

“The search-and-rescue team has so far recovered the bodies of eleven miners who died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning,” said a spokesman for the country’s State Administration of Work Safety. “Two people are still missing. The rescue work is continuing to find those workers.”

Kinda funny, in a sick sort of way, that it was an air compressor fire that suffocated them.

But things have been improving!

Safety conditions at mines in China have significantly improved in recent years but they remain among the world’s most dangerous with 1,384 deaths in 2012, a significant decrease from the 1,973 fatalities in 2011. The Chinese government reported 2,433 fatalities in 2010 and 2,631 in 2009.

Hey, in 2004 more than 6,000 died! By comparison, the US averages about 30 mining deaths a year. (China is about where we were a century ago.)

But to be fair, China mines a lot more coal than we do:

While fatalities fell, coal production rose 4 percent to 3.66 billion tons, the China National Coal Association said.

China’s coal industry remains the world’s largest…

Classic case of ambivalence, right global warm-mongers? Fewer people are dying, but more coal is being burned! What’s a greenhouse gasbag to do?


Why Bother?

Go ahead and power up your (mercury-laced) compact fluorescent bulbs as you recycle your organic, locally grown, free range, fair trade egg cartons if it makes you feel better.

Just don’t think you’re doing any good:

China’s coal use grew 9 percent in 2011, rising to 3.8 billion tons. At this point, the country is burning nearly as much coal as the rest of the world combined.

Coal, of course, is the world’s premier fossil fuel, a low-cost source of electricity that kicks a lot of carbon-dioxide up into the atmosphere. And China’s growing appetite is a big reason why global greenhouse-gas emissions have soared in recent years, even as the United States and Europe have managed to curtail their coal use and cut their carbon pollution.

India is also growing rapidly and demanding ever more coal. By 2017, the IEA expects India to become the world’s second-largest coal consumer, surpassing the United States.

As you sit shivering at 60 degrees in your split level ranch house, think upon the typical Chinese peasant, warming his hands over a nice warm coal fire, about to help himself to another serving of General Gau’s chicken. (I don’t know why India needs coal; it never gets below 80 degrees there, does it?)

I’m thinking of taking up the Chinese lifestyle. Not only will I burn coal to heat my house (I might have to use briquettes), I’m going to poison my food, pour chemicals in my water, kill my daughter, and eat my dog. Maybe then I can understand them better.


A Thought to Cool a Fevered Brow

There are two pieces of good news here:

In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.

Many of the world’s leading climate scientists didn’t see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere.

Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, said the shift away from coal is reason for “cautious optimism” about potential ways to deal with climate change. He said it demonstrates that “ultimately people follow their wallets” on global warming.

“There’s a very clear lesson here. What it shows is that if you make a cleaner energy source cheaper, you will displace dirtier sources,” said Roger Pielke Jr., a climate expert at the University of Colorado.

In a little-noticed technical report, the U.S. Energy Information Agency, a part of the Energy Department, said this month that energy related U.S. CO2 emissions for the first four months of this year fell to about 1992 levels. Energy emissions make up about 98 percent of the total. The Associated Press contacted environmental experts, scientists and utility companies and learned that virtually everyone believes the shift could have major long-term implications for U.S. energy policy.

While conservation efforts, the lagging economy and greater use of renewable energy are factors in the CO2 decline, the drop-off is due mainly to low-priced natural gas, the agency said.

Which America has aplenty!

But the article fails to mention the other inescapable conclusion: CO2 has nothing to do with temperature. I mean, how could it? It’s been a pretty hot summer around the country, yet CO2 is at its lowest level for 20 years! Where’s the correlation?

Oh wait:

The International Energy Agency said the U.S. has cut carbon dioxide emissions more than any other country over the last six years. Total U.S. carbon emissions from energy consumption peaked at about 6 billion metric tons in 2007. Projections for this year are around 5.2 billion, and the 1990 figure was about 5 billion.

China’s emissions were estimated to be about 9 billion tons in 2011, accounting for about 29 percent of the global total. The U.S. accounted for approximately 16 percent.

I would say “talk to China” if you want to lower CO2 levels further, but you might as well talk to the Great Wall. They ain’t listening.

What is more:

Jason Hayes, a spokesman for the American Coal Council, based in Washington, predicted cheap gas won’t last.

“Coal is going to be here for a long time. Our export markets are growing. Demand is going up around the world. Even if we decide not to use it, everybody else wants it,” he said. Hayes also said the industry expects new coal-fired power plants will be built as pollution-control technology advances: “The industry will meet the challenge” of the EPA regulations.

I like his attitude. We will figure out how to burn coal more cleanly. In the meantime, America has lots of coal and lots of natural gas. We can make ourselves feel better if we sell the former (to others who don’t feel so bad about fouling their environments) and burn the latter ourselves. It’s win-win.


One Promise He Kept

Remember Obama’s promise to the coal industry?

So, if somebody wants to build a coal plant, they can — it’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.

Well, he’s a regular George Hussein Washington on that score:

Obama’s War on Coal has already taken a remarkable toll on coal-fired power plants in America.

Last week the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported a shocking drop in power sector coal consumption in the first quarter of 2012. Coal-fired power plants are now generating just 36 percent of U.S. electricity, versus 44.6 percent just one year ago.

It’s the result of an unprecedented regulatory assault on coal that will leave us all much poorer.

The market-clearing price for new 2015 capacity – almost all natural gas – was $136 per megawatt. That’s eight times higher than the price for 2012, which was just $16 per megawatt. In the mid-Atlantic area covering New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and DC the new price is $167 per megawatt. For the northern Ohio territory served by FirstEnergy, the price is a shocking $357 per megawatt.

Why the massive price increases? Andy Ott from PJM stated the obvious: “Capacity prices were higher than last year’s because of retirements of existing coal-fired generation resulting largely from environmental regulations which go into effect in 2015.” Northern Ohio is suffering from more forced coal-plant retirements than the rest of the region, hence the even higher price.

These are not computer models or projections or estimates. These are the actual prices that electric distributors have agreed to pay for new capacity. The costs will be passed on to consumers at the retail level.

Hey, maybe you’re in favor. Maybe you don’t want to use coal-powered electricity. But next time you power up your Chevy Volt (a coal-powered car if we’re being honest), just watch your electricity meter whirring like an Iranian centrifuge and ask yourself if you can afford a full charge.

House Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) aptly explained: “The PJM auction forecasts a dim future where Americans will be paying more to keep the lights on. We are seeing more and more coal plants fall victim to EPA’s destructive regulatory agenda, and as a result, we are seeing more job losses and higher electricity prices.”

The only thing that can stop this massive price hike now is an all-out effort to end Obama’s War on Coal and repeal this destructive regulatory agenda.

Job losses and price hikes: heckuva energy policy, Barry!

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Take a Deep Breath

Unless you’re in China:

Poisonous fumes were preventing efforts to rescue 17 Chinese miners trapped underground for three days, according an official and state media.

On Thursday, a gas blast at the coal mine in the northeastern province of Liaoning killed five miners outright, injured another and trapped 17 others.

“At the scene, there is still no way for rescue,” a Liaoning provincial mine safety official, who declined to be named, told AFP.

“The carbon monoxide level is very high,” he said.

Authorities had detained the owner and three managers of the Dahuang Number Two Coal Mine where the accident occurred, Xinhua said. State media said previously that the mine was operating illegally.

China’s mines are known for being among the world’s most deadly due to lax regulation, corruption and inefficiency, and accidents are common as safety is often neglected by bosses seeking quick profits.

Just last month, 15 miners were killed and another three injured when a tramcar derailed in a coal mine in central China.

I’m very sorry for them and their families. But you have to wonder if their days weren’t numbered:

Tobacco-related deaths have nearly tripled in the past decade and big tobacco firms are undermining public efforts that could save millions, a report led by the health campaign group the World Lung Foundation (WLF) said on Wednesday.

In the report, marking the tenth anniversary of its first Tobacco Atlas, the WLF and the American Cancer Society said if current trends continue, a billion people will die from tobacco use and exposure this century – one person every six seconds.

In China, tobacco is already the number one killer – causing 1.2 million deaths a year – and that number is expected to rise to 3.5 million a year by 2030, the report said.

No offense, but isn’t 3.5 million a rounding error in the Chinese population? Don’t they have like a hundred cities of that size no one’s heard of? In any case, whether it’s due to tobacco, carbon monoxide, or just plain soot, breathable air may be China’s rarest commodity.

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Bad to Worse

I suppose there is one thing worse than being a foreign correspondent in China:

The Foreign Correspondents Club in China has issued a warning to members after three employees of European media companies were attacked last week.

The reporters were covering land rights protests in the village of Panhe, in the eastern Zhejiang province.

In one incident, a French reporter had his car rammed and a group of men beat up his Chinese assistant.

In a separate incident, a Dutch correspondent was attacked by men who appeared to be plain-clothes police.

The Chinese authorities say foreign journalists are free to report in the country apart from Tibetan areas, where restrictions apply.

But the BBC’s Martin Patience in Beijing says the attacks show an increased willingness to use violence against foreign journalists.

[T]he greatest threat to reporters is groups of thugs who often appear to be plain-clothes police, our correspondent says.

The authorities almost always insist that the attackers are just “angry villagers”.

What is worse is being Chinese, or at least some of them poor bastards:

Fifteen miners died and another three were injured when a tramcar derailed in a coal mine in central China, authorities said Thursday, in the latest accident to hit the dangerous industry.

Accidents are common in China’s vast coal mining sector where work safety is often neglected by bosses seeking a quick profit.

Latest figures show that 2,433 people died in coal mining accidents in the country in 2010, according to official statistics — a rate of more than six workers per day.

Excuse me, sir? Can you put out that cigarette? NO, DON’T DROP IT!


Straight, Gay, and Bituminous

Enough already with the emails—I hear you!

You want your China coal mine accident year in review, and you shall have it.

First, background:


And 2011?

The Chinese government aims to reduce deaths per million metric tons of coal produced by more than 28 percent in the five years through 2015, according to a circular published earlier this month. The number of people killed in coal mines declined 28 percent to 1,419 in the first nine months of this year compared with a year earlier, Xinhua reported on Oct. 21, citing Zhao Tiechui, head of the State Administration of Coal-Mine Safety.

We’ve been documenting a late-year spurt in accidents, but nothing approaching 1,000 deaths. So, while we don’t have a final tally yet, we are certain that 2011 was a marked improvement over 2010. Way to go, China!

Of course, there are always doubters:

Coal mining has always been dangerous. Scores die each year in mining accidents in the US. But this figure pales besides the estimated 20,000 people a year (according to the film) who perish in accidents in China’s primitive mines. The government’s official numbers are lower, but independent observers like Robin Munro, a human-rights activist at the Hong Kong-based China Labor Bulletin, say that the true toll is routinely under-reported by mine owners and provincial officials who often have a personal financial stake in these lucrative operations and the prosperity they bring to the rural communities where the mines are located.

These mortality statistics do not include deaths from black lung and other pulmonary diseases, which also claim untold tens of thousands of victims per year.

And 2012 is off to an inauspicious start:

Nine workers have been killed and two others are injured after a collapse at a coal mine in southwestern China, local authorities said on Thursday. The accident happened at around 5:20 p.m. local time on Tuesday at a mine in Fuyuan county, which is part of Qujing city in Yunnan province. It happened when a group of workers were clearing residue coal, causing a coal heap to collapse. According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, local officials said that nine miners died while they were being transported to a local hospital. Two other miners were also rushed to a hospital but were said to be in a stable condition. Tuesday`s accident is the second deadliest accident to hit Qujing in the last few months. On November 10, at least 35 miners were killed when methane gas leaked into a shaft at the Sizhuang Coal Mine in Qujing. The gas quickly spread to other parts of the mine, which was operating illegally.

Yeah, but lightning doesn’t strike three times in the same place, right?

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The Red (Chinese) and the Black (Lung)

Aggie’s after me for being too much of a sourpuss this Christmas—a Scrooge, if you like, a Grinch—so I’ll try to report this news with a modicum of holiday cheer.

I found my mind wandering to the alarming number of Chinese coal mining accidents (as I’m sure you do too), and I got curious how things were going lately:

Five killed in NW China coal mine cave-in

The death toll has risen to five with one other in critical condition in a coal mine roof collapse in the northwestern province of Gansu that occurred around midnight Sunday, said the local security monitoring department.

4 dead, 12 injured in SW China coal mine explosion

Four people died and 12 others were injured after a coal mine explosion in southwest China’s Sichuan Province Tuesday night, according to local public security department Wednesday.

The accident occurred at 7:30 p.m. in Xunsi township of Junlian County in Yibin city, causing a three-storey house to collapse, sources with the department said.

Gas blast kills 9 in China coal mine

Nine people were killed by an underground gas explosion in a central China coal mine, rescue workers said.

It was unclear if there were more than nine people in the mine in Hunan province at the time of the Sunday morning explosion, but rescuers were told to stop their efforts, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.

One wonders why the miners bother?

Reporting from Shenzhen, China— Residents revolted Tuesday against development plans in yet another town in Guangdong province, redoubling the challenge to the Communist Party in China’s most affluent and open-minded region.

The newest uprising involved as many as 30,000 people protesting plans for a coal-fired power plant in the southern seaside town of Haimen. Residents stormed local government offices and blocked a busy highway that runs from the manufacturing hub of Shenzhen to the city of Shantou.

The catalyst for the demonstration was a plan by local government to build a second coal-fired power plant despite environmental problems caused by a plant that began operations in 2008. Residents said the plant destroyed the area’s fishing industry and contributed to a rise in cancer rates.

“Our homeland was once so beautiful and now it’s so polluted,” said an anonymous letter posted online. “To my 100,000 fellow Haimenese, we need to stand up. Today we are not rioting, but we need to be angry.”

Lin, the protester, said, “The pollution is so bad, we have no way to live here.”

In keeping with my promise to express sentiments appropriate for the season…uh…I mean…well…Merry Christmas, China!

How’d I do?

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