What happens after coal?First, I can't let that crack - "Even in the Virginia coalfields, there is no longer a consensus to defend coal" - go by. With Virginia Tech and its pimpled minions not being located in the that region, who, Al, in Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, or Wise County is arguing against coal? (Okay, I'll give you one - Rick Boucher, but he's technically from Washington County).
Coal ... has been fading fast -- even without carbon pricing that will make coal pay for the CO2 it emits as a greenhouse gas. Direct employment in coal mining in Virginia in 2007 was down to about 4,800. (This is down 40 percent in the last 10 years.)
Even in the Virginia coalfields, there is no longer a consensus to defend coal. What should be defended, however, is the right of these folks to have jobs and clean communities -- and to have leaders who will spend more energy helping to build a future than they do defending the past.
Done right, coal country too will thrive in the production of biomass energy and as the locus for Virginia's efforts to create green jobs.
Biomass-fueled electricity could become a major industry in Southwest Virginia. Each of the 22 counties that make up the 9th Congressional District has enough woody biomass alone to support a 50-megawatt plant. A recent University of Florida study estimates that each such plant would generate 400 jobs and roughly $40 million to the local economy. [link]
Beyond that, can we expect this "woody biomass" industry to take hold in Southwest Virginia? Will 400 "woody biomass" plant jobs replace 400 coal-powered plant jobs?
Or is this pie in the sky from a man who gets paid to dream up silly pie in the sky?
And are we considering trading one "pollutant" for another?
And is burning wood any better than burning coal to the nuts who think we're destroying the planet by producing a chemical compound - CO2 - that is vital to the life and health of every living plant on earth?
And what the hell is woody biomass?
Get this (from Oregon Toxics Alliance)*:
Renewable energy cannot come at the expense of the health of the public or the enviironment. The following is a rundown of some of the expected emissions and their impacts [from a wood-burning power plant]:For comparison's sake, let's list the "pollutants" that are emitted by a coal-fired power plant:
Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), 185.61 ton/year (tty)
According to the EPA, NOx causes respiratory problems and aggravates heart disease. It can damage lung tissue, and cause premature death. NOx is also a main component of ground-level ozone and contributes to global warming.
CO, Carbon Monoxide, 200.89 tty
According to the EPA, CO can trigger serious respiratory problems and even at low levels is a serious threat to people with heart problems.
Formaldehyde, 1.70 tty
The Department of Health and Human Services has determined it is reasonable to assume formaldehyde causes cancer.
PM10 and PM2.5, 13.24 and 13.15 tty (26.39)
The American Medical Association has found that even short-term exposure to these particles increases the risk for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases including diabetes, arrhythmia, asthma, heart failure, and cardiac arrest.
HCl, 1.04 tty
Hydrogen chloride can cause respiratory illness.
Benzene, 0.185 tty (370 lbs/year)
The United States Environmental Protection Agency classifies benzene as a Class A carcinogen.
already has 10 times the amount of benzene in our air than the EPA believes can increase chances of cancer. Eugene
Chlorine, 1.22 tty
Exposure to low levels of chlorine can result in nose, throat, and eye irritation. At higher levels, breathing chlorine gas may result in changes in breathing rate and coughing, and damage to the lungs.
Naphthalene, 0.15 tty (300 lbs/year)
DHHS considers determined that it is reasonable to assume naphthalene is a carcinogen.
May affect the nervous system. Low to moderate levles can cause tiredness, confusion, weakness, drunken-type actions, memory loss, nausea, loss of appetite, and hearing and color vision loss.
Styrene, 2.94 tty
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that styrene is a possible human carcinogen.
SO2, 38.64 tty
According to the EPA, long term exposure to SO2 causes respiratory illness and aggravates heart disease.
Acetaldehyde 1.28 ttyTotal Hazardous Air Pollutants, 16.92 tty
Can reasonably be considered a carcinogen.
CO2I don't know, Al. Can we at least talk about this?
* Yes, this group qualifies as being the nuts described above.
** For the record, I favor nuclear, coal, hydro and ... woody biomass electricity generation.