Saturday, April 10, 2010

How many miners should die to save you 50 cents a day?

                                                                           source: Boston Globe
Why is it that really bad shit always has to happen before we get around to doing anything about the crooks and murderers in our midst. Is it greed? Fear? Laziness? I'm sick of people who say they can't afford 40 cents, or 50 cents, or 60 cents a day to make coal for electricity generation (90% of Appalachian coal is used to generate electricity) a thing of the past, to stop destroying the planet, to create good, safe, union jobs for these guys. Jobs building clean electricity supplies: improved efficiency, bio-gas, photovoltaics, super-flywheels, windmills -- local generation, local storage. Don't tell me we can't do it. We can. And clean renewables are a least cost solution. We're just too greedy, lazy, and afraid. And ignorant. Let's stop being those things for a while, and save our miner's lives, our own lives, our successors lives, and our planet. Stop believing the bullshit floated out there by liars who do nothing all day but protect their financial interests. Case in point, from "In Mine Safety, a Meek Watchdog":
Bruce H. Watzman, senior vice president of the National Mining Association, the industry’s main lobbying group, said the industry was deeply committed to worker safety, estimating that it had spent more than $800 million since 2006 to enhance safety measures nationwide. He cautioned against quick adoption of new regulations, which might add cost, without addressing what actually caused the explosion at Upper Big Branch.
“It is understandable there is additional scrutiny and that some will call for immediate action,” Mr. Watzman said. “But we need good, complete answers as to what happened. And those are not necessarily quick answers.”
I'd like this son of a bitch, along with Blankenship (Massey's CEO), to spend a few weeks in these mines. You can be damn sure there would be quick answers then.

And the miners and inspectors have had the answers for years, for ever:
“It’s always been my opinion that M.S.H.A. doesn’t use the powers it has,” said an inspector with more than 20 years of experience who did not want his name used because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.
Miners say that despite ubiquitous “safety first” slogans, they face relentless pressure to run more coal, as production is called.
“These big mine companies push the envelope to the breaking point,” said Mark Gray, a 51-year-old miner from Harlan.
Making routine methane checks, hanging ventilation curtains and shoveling dangerous accumulations of coal dust — all required under federal rules — take time away from production.
In most mines, foremen are judged almost exclusively by the productivity of their crew, said Mr. Brannon, the 30-year-old miner from Kentucky. “I’ve worked for bosses that wanted it done right, and most of the time they didn’t boss for too long,” he added.
So read the whole article, and call your representatives, and your president, and tell them to fix our mines, and then fix our energy situation and create jobs people want and can hope to survive. Tell them it's worth 50 cents a day to you to prevent another 34 lives from being thrown away, to prevent what remains of middle class prosperity from being thrown away, to prevent Appalachia from being thrown away, to prevent the whole planet from being thrown away.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Mountaintop Removal: Strip Mining?


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See all those nasty gray splotches, like blight? That's mountaintop removal. Those hills and valleys and streams are gone forever. Toxic forever.

Why call it mining?

When folks hear the word mining, they think of mine shafts. They think underground. They think pickaxes and hardhats and miner's lamps, and guys with smudged faces who trudge out of mine shaft elevators at the end of a backbreaking, lung-soiling shift.

They don't, I suspect, think of huge twenty story tall machines with names like "The Captain" scraping away entire mountain ranges, filling sparkling clear streams and creeks with sticky goo. They don't think of suffocated trout washed up on stream banks; poisoned, bloated raccoons; and starving deer searching in vain for vegetation to graze. And they don't think of multi-generational families that go back three hundred years on a stretch of land -- a wooded mountainside, or a verdant holler pasture -- driven out, destitute, landless and depressed. Hope for the future is destroyed -- for families, wildlife, and national posterity. But that's what strip mining is today. And that's what people who run the strip mining business choose to do every day: get up in the morning, and destroy the world.

So, let's not call it strip mining. Let's be straight about it. Let's call it...


Watch The Jeff Bigger's video if you don't believe me:


Roxana Saberi: Resistance Is Not Futile

    Hasan Sarbakhshian/AP  
After being imprisoned in Iran under false pretenses, Roxana Saberi confessed to crimes she did not commit, then had second thoughts -- she decided it was better to be in prison with a clear conscience than to be free with a muddied conscience -- and she recanted her confession. Which infuriated and humiliated her captors. Good for her. She stood up for what's right, and persevered. I think that makes her a model for courage.

Here's NPR, Fresh Air's Terri Gross interview with her:
Roxana Saberi: Caught 'Between Two Worlds'

Whatever you think you know about her, if you haven't heard this interview yet, you'll be impressed and stand up for what's right.

Why U.S. Energy Policy Is Never Smart Policy

From "Proliferation, Oil, and Climate: Solving for Pattern," by Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute:
"One false assumption about energy can distort and even defeat policies vital to paramount national interests. The December 2009 Copenhagen climate conference proved again how pricing carbon and winning international collaboration are hard if policymakers, pundits, and most citizens assume climate protection will be costly. That assumption focuses debate on cost, burden, and sacrifice: what will climate protection cost, is it worth it, and who will pay? Yet the assumption is backwards: business experience shows that climate protection is not costly but profitable, because saving fuel costs less than buying fuel. Changing the conversation to profits, jobs, and competitive advantage sweetens the politics so much that any remaining resistance will melt faster than the glaciers. Moreover, whether you care most about security, prosperity, or environment, and whatever you think about climate science, you should do exactly the same things about energy, so focusing on outcomes, not motives, can forge a broad consensus. The climate discussion is stranded far from this clarity, simplicity, and accuracy—because of that one wrong assumption."
Read the whole article, it's an eye opener if you think saving the climate, creating jobs, and quitting coal and nukes need to cost money rather than yield broad economic prosperity.