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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 12/17/08

Clean Coal and the Clause

Author 8547
Message Betsy L. Angert
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copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert.

You better watch out! 
Better not cry! 
Better not pout! 
I'm telling you why, 
Santa Claus is comin' to town.

He's making a list 
and checking it twice. 
He's going to find out who's naughty and nice. 
Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town.

We better watch out.  We better not cry.  While Santa checks his list twice, so too might you and I.  The ebony chunks Old Saint Nick might place in our stocking, contrary to what coal corporation sponsored commercials might claim, are not clean.  Nor is this source of energy cheap.  When used as a resource for power, this sedimentary rock is dirtydeadly, and digs deep into the pocketbooks, and personal lives, of those the industry touches.  In America, that may be you and me. 

  • Millions of acres across 36 states have been dynamited, torn, and churned into bits by strip mining in the last 150 years.
  • More than 60 percent of all coal mined in the United States today, in fact, comes from strip mines.
  • In the "United States of Coal," Appalachia has become the poster child for strip mining's worst depravations, which come in the form of mountaintop removal.
  • An estimated 750,000 to 1 million acres of hardwood forests, a thousand miles of waterways and more than 470 mountains and their surrounding communities -- an area the size of Delaware -- have been erased from the southeastern mountain range in the last two decades.
  • Thousands of tons of explosives -- the equivalent of several Hiroshima atomic bombs -- are set off in Appalachian communities every year.
  • More than 104,000 miners in America have died in coal mines since 1900.
  • Twice as many have died from black lung disease.
  • Dangerous pollutants, including mercury, filter into our air and water [through mining practices.]
  • The injuries and deaths caused by overburdened coal trucks are innumerable.
  • A recent report reveals that in the last six years the Mine Safety and Health Administration decided not to assess fines for more than 4,000 violations.

Source . . . Washington Post.  Jeff Biggers is the author of "The United States of Appalachia: How Southern Mountaineers Brought Independence, Culture and Enlightenment to America." 
Mister Claus; however, will not ignore the signs or signals.  He knows when we are sleeping.  He knows when we are awake.  Jolly Old Saint Nick also knows we have been bad or good; thus, he shrugs as he says, 'for heavens sake.'  

The man in the red suit, from his North Pole residence, feels the effect of Americans who have been naughty, not nice, to the planet.  He wonders why, after all these centuries, citizens of the United States do not grasp the notion he has thought to teach for all these years.  Coal is not a gift.  The petroleum product is placed in the stockings of children who have been cruel, adults too.  Old Saint Nick sighs for he sees that his message has been long lost.  

Yes, tis true; just as people sing; Santa Claus is comin' to town.  However, while his sleigh is weighted down with packages, his heart is heavy with woe.  Will the reindeer soon be extinct?  Might the air be too contaminated for his herd and him to breathe?  Could it be children will no longer be snug in their beds. Might the visions that dance in little ones heads be horrific reminders of what has aired on the news.  The ice shelves collapsed and seawaters rose.

As the 2008, Presidential election came to a close Mrs Claus told her husband, Santa, to hope.  She said, on January 21, 2009, President Elect Obama's first full day in office, certainly, there would be a change.  However, Saint Nick saw reason to think otherwise.  He has listened to Barack Obama for quite some time.  Mister Claus has looked at the soon-to-be Chief Executive's record, and he realizes there has been little for him to believe in.

Kriss Kringle is optimistic as he contemplates the recent energy appointments.  Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, who heads the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and proclaims to be on a "mission" to ensure the United States is "the world leader in alternative and renewable energy research, particularly the development of carbon-neutral sources of energy," was selected to be the next Energy Secretary.  

Carol M. Browner, an Administrator from the Environmental Protection Agency under Bill Clinton, who worked vehemently for stringent air pollution standards, will direct a new White House position.  She might be considered the Czar of Energy, Environmental, and Climate Policies.

Lisa P. Jackson, former head of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and a fervent advocate for green energy, has been asked to head the Obama Environmental Protection Agency.  Nancy Sutley, a Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles for Energy and Environment, with a long record on environmental and natural resources policy, will Chair the White House Council on Environmental Quality.   Santa says, that is all good.  Yet, he still feels great concern.  Can Barack Obama change his ways.  Aware of the fact that Americans are comfortable with coal, will the President Elect continue to pacify the people who selected him to serve?

Mister Claus is less buoyant when he considers Congress, which has, for so long strengthened the hold the industry has on energy policies.  Coal lobbyists, Kriss Kringle muses, are a powerful bunch.  All of those who support the status quo, which includes the use of fossil fuels are as children coddled and content, even when given a gift of coal.

Hence, Santa is apprehensive.  Will policies change?  Climate certainly has.  For decades, Mister Claus has pretended to be happy when in the presence of little ones.  In public, he bellowed a blissful "Ho, ho, ho."  However, when at home, alone with the Missus, the man in the red flannels and furs spoke of his truer trepidation.  Santa, quotes, Stanford University biologist Terry Root; "We're out of time.  Things are going extinct."

The once jolly man reads the gloomy reports in the press.  He peruses the United States Enviornmental Protection Agency literature in his desire to verify the conclusions.  Unlike the skies and seas, it seems clear.   Climate change, he contends, is real. 

"U.S. emissions have increased by 20 percent since 1992.  China has more than doubled its carbon dioxide pollution in that time.  World carbon dioxide emissions have grown faster than scientists' worst-case scenarios.  Methane, the next most potent greenhouse gas, suddenly is on the rise again and scientists fear that vast amounts of the trapped gas will escape from thawing Arctic permafrost.

The amount of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere has already pushed past what some scientists say is the safe level."

Santa wonders of what the future might bring.  Missus Claus again avows, there is reason to hope.  However, Saint Nick reflects on what he thinks an apt comparison.  A proud parent will ignore obvious impish behaviors.  A mother or father will consider imprudent actions acceptable.  Papa or Mama will tell themselves a child has potential.  A devoted Mommy or Daddy will declare their progeny are decidedly different.  He, or she, will be unlike any other offspring who might misbehave.  

Caregivers will do as Barack Obama has done in the past, posit policies that while profound do not alter behaviors.  Indeed, strategies that lack the substance that sustains a transition encourage greater mischief.  Mister Claus cannot forget what remains on Barack Obama's webpage even after he announced a change in energy consultants; Develop and Deploy Clean Coal Technology

President Elect Obama has said we can grow clean coal expertise.  Americans, reluctant to authentically change agree.  Santa pleads, "Please!"

Days ago, is a moment of deep despair Kriss Kringle turned to the television.  He endeavored to lose himself as Americans have, in thoughts of whimsy.  Yet, as he tuned in, he is horrified to see what reminds him of the power of persuasion.  Misinfomercials market; coal is clean.  Little lumps of black carbon sing. 

Frosty the Coal Man, is a jolly happy soul. 
He's abundant here in America and he helps our economy roll. 
Frosty the Coal Man, is getting cleaner every day. 
He's affordable and adorable and helps workers keep their pay. 
There must have been some magic in clean coal technology, 
For when they looked for pollutants there was nearly none to see.

Santa grimaced and cringed.  While he welcomed the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity decision to suspend the spirited campaign intended to convince Americans that coal is clean and good, Saint Nick surmised, the people and perchance the nation's newer Chief Executive will continue to ignore obvious, and intentionally invisible behavior.  

Santa ponders; the past has long been prologue, regardless of what is experts, said to former Presidents and the one soon-to-be.  Chief Executives were told just as Barack Obama is today.  There is 'little time left to curb' the crisis.  '[T]he world has just a few years to make deep cuts in emissions.' If few or no changes are made, worldwide people and creatures will perish.  

Other Officers of the people postured as the President Elect did, after a conference with former Vice President Al Gore, winner of a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming.   The President Elect stated, "The time for delay is over; the time for denial is over."  

However, Kriss Kringle contends, this suggested commitment to transformation could be challenged and Santa Claus offers his arguments.  He checked his list.  He reviewed it twice.  After a through assessment, Mister Claus is hesitant to believe that Barack Obama will be the clean, the green, change the globe needs.  

Santa knows what records reveal.  As a Senator, and as a Presidential candidate, Obama supported clean coal.  The American people had been persuaded to depend on the fossil fuel.  Congress was convinced coal was clean, cheap, and worth the investment.  Indeed, Saint Nick knows, Congress loves coal.  That, the man in the red suit says, as he mounts his sleigh, and heads for hills whose tops have been removed for coal excavation, is naughty not nice.

Overwhelmed with woe and wonder, as Old Saint Nick flew through the sky he pondered the many lumps of coal he had planned to deliver.  He wondered.  Might there be a better way to communicate his concern for behavior that is bad.  Could he part the seas, pummel the terrain with snow, sleet, and hail?  Might he move mountains, melt the frozen masses at the poles?  Would wind gusts be the best way to warn the American people, Congress, coal corporation campaigners, and the President Elect?  No, he concluded; Mother Nature tried each of these.

So Santa surmised, all he could do was to shout; "Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, a Joyous Kwanzaa, a Cheery Ramadan to all, and to all, if you prolong a confidence in coal for power, this may be our last night."

Resources for coal; clean and dirty . . . 


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I am an Educator, a student of life; I am an Author. On each path I learn from you and with you. Indeed. we all teach and study. Together we advance awareness and acumen. We learn, grow, and glow greater. Please peruse my prose at and (more...)
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