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Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Coal Energy

One of the startling things I have noticed on American TV, which I have been able to view this past year, are advertisements for coal. They make it sound like coal is the energy source of the future: cheap, clean, environmentally safe. Common sense tells one this is all lies. Coal is dirty, expensive if you factor in the cost of the damage it does to the environment and its extraction and air pollution is doing permanent damage to our invironment.

I tried to look into the place of coal as an energy source. It is widely used in the United States, producing more than 50 % of their electricity. I know it is not clean for in Ontario we get a lot of air pollution from south of the border from the coal fired electric plants along the Ohio Valley.

What I was not very aware of is the coal mining in Appalachia. I had know of the mining of coal by hard working coal miners going into the the mines. Well, this is coal mining from the movies.

Coal mining in the present day is strip mining. Mountain tops all over Appalachia are being blown up so that coal can be strip mined. Mountains are destroyed in a way that they can never be restored.

Here are some interesting statisitcs.

Watch the video below on Mountain Top Removal Strip Coal Mining.

It is a sad destruction of a wonderful landscape and ecology which can never be restored.

The Bush Administration has encouraged coal mining in this destructive fashion.

The last time I heard an advertisement in Canada for coal was on some old radio tapes I have for the radio show, The Shadow. The ads are as interesting as vintage radio as the programs are.

I grew up with coal. Our house was heated with coal. I think we were the last people in the neighbourhood to have a coal furnace, a great monster that took up most of the basement. We had a coal bin that held a couple of tons of coal. I have vivid memories of the coal man delivering it in 100 pound bags he dumped down the chute. Coal definitely was not clean. The coal man was the only door to door tradesman my mother didn't invite in for tea. He was filthy dirty with coal dust. I remember my mother sifting the ashes to recover any unburned coal before the ashes were dumped. (Thriftiness learned in the Depression) She must have seen the coal furnace as another child that needed to be tended to in such a way that it didn't kill us with coal fumes. She certainly worked hard to keep the house clean in the face of coal and ash dust.

Our nieghbour was an executive with the Canada Coal Company. He was the source of coal oil every time our neighbourhood had a block party. It was used to start the pile of brush in the middle of the street. My father, locally know as "fire-bug Robinson" (He never was happier than when he had a little fire of sticks and leaves buring in a ditch. Once he set the forest on fire around our house, hence the nickname) was the only one who dared to set a match to this explosive coal oil to get the celebration underway.

As I teenage. I worked one summer in the family electrical business at the building site of the Lakeview Generating Station on the shore of Lake Ontario. It was a coal fired electric generating station. We were sub-contractors to sub contractors to sub contractors on this large project. We ran the electrical grounding to the caissons than were the base to the pier that held the piles of coal shipped in from Northern Michigan. We also disconnected and reconnected 100 welding machines as the building went up.

The government of Ontario has commited itself to discontinuing the coal fired generating stations in Ontario. In spite of years of effort and modification to make them "clean", they continued to be a source of pollution. Coal could not be made environmentally safe. I believe there are 7 unit. The original commitment was for them to be gone by 2009. Now it seems they are fudging and it may be 2014 before they are gone. None too soon.

The Lakeview Generating Station was the first to go. Below are pictures of the destruction of the "four sisters", the smoke stacks. Not long after, the building was demolished.

To view this on you tube YouTube - Four Sisters go to Sleep

And the demonition of the Generating Station YouTube - Demolition of Lakeview Generating Station

I hope Nanticoke Generating Station down on Lake Erie is the next to go. It is the largest coal fired generating station in North America and the biggest polluter in Canada.

Ontario has a plan to make up for the loss of these coal fired plants. It is a combination of decreased electrical useage and the introduction of clean alternative sources of energy. One can only hope it is a big success.

Our American cousins have a problem with such a large dependency of coal. One can only hope they can perfect "clean" coal. Their pollution is not only their problem but one for us in Eastern Canada and of course for the World in the face of global warming.


At 9:14 a.m., Blogger amelia said...

I too grew up with coal as our only heat source but I was born and raised in England. I was still heating with it when I came to Canada in 1974 but I think it's use is banned now. If not totally certainly in the cities.

There were a lot of lung disease deaths from it use

At 3:05 p.m., Blogger Navigator said...

If you want clean air there is no realistic alternative to nuclear. These clean, green, alternative sources: windmills, solar panels, etc., are just pie in the sky. They can supplement the core requirement for energy in small ways, but they cannot replace it.

At 8:43 p.m., Blogger Rachel said...

We grew up heating with coal too. It sure makes warm heat but it is nasty stuff. They do need to come up with some alternatives that don't add to the pollution.

KY has had some of that strip mining going on as well.

At 11:00 p.m., Blogger KGMom said...

Interesting that you should mention the ads for coal. On our trip to western PA this past weekend we passed several signs promoting coal--the clean energy. I thought to myself--harrumph--since when.
At the time we were driving around Johnstown, PA--part of the coal country in PA.

At 1:18 a.m., Blogger Alyssa said...

I can't agree with Navigator. Has he decided where the spent nuclear fuel will go from these wonderful reactors? I don't think so. Three Mile Island and Chernobyl also can't be overlooked. Nuclear power plants are only asking for trouble. And I don't feel that alternative sources are pie in the sky. Many of these are quite successful.

At 8:01 a.m., Blogger Old Wom Tigley said...

I'm shocked to see this and read it... our mines have mostly gone along with the minors who worked then... I will be back over the weekend to follow this up and take a look at the links.
Great but Scary post.

At 3:03 p.m., Anonymous daffy said...

It was a thriving industry in the UK, then slowly they were all gone. Taking livlihoods with it which was very hard. We are only seeing now, in the years later the cost. Deteriorating health and premature deaths. My own father worked in the mines for over forty years and the time has taking its toll on his health.
Interesting post.

At 11:30 a.m., Blogger Janet said...

I live in southeastern Kentucky in the heart of coal mining country. Most of the owners do not live near the mountains they are destroying. They are interested only in profit. Enforcement agencies do very little of their jobs. If fines are levied, the companies just pony up because they are such a small part of their profits the money isn't missed. We live on 32 acres of wooded mountaintop and can see directly across the river to another mountaintop that has already been clearcut in preparation for being blasted away. Clean coal is a misnomer, and in fact will be worse than the current manner of burning coal. Thank you for posting about this, and letting people outside our region know that this is not acceptable. Here is a link you might be interested in as well.
(I am a member of this organization.)
Here's my blog:

At 2:37 p.m., Blogger Rich said...

Bush is encouraging coal mining because he refuses to allow oil to be taken from Alaska. But it's ok to cut down all the trees. Such a knuckle headed *&*&!^@)(!()

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