Coal and oil are dirty. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. Handle oil or coal and you will have to take a shower. We have burned millions of barrels of oil and millions of tons of coal. It is a no-brainer that for many years we have been dirtying up the planet. Are we melting the Artic? Are we altering weather patterns that are causing horrific storms that pound the United States and the rest of the world?
Carbon dioxide emissions are being pumped into the atmosphere as a result of three main culprits. These three main culprits are the generation of electricity, transportation and industry. I do not know of anyone who wants to give up any of the three. Since we enjoy what each one of them gives to us then we must work to make them better and cleaner. If we were all freezing to death and someone offered us a ton of coal to warm up our house we would not turn it down.
We must become energy independent but we have work to do. Independence is not solely someone else's job. Most Americans are tired of being dependent on other parts of the world for our energy. We need to get out of the Middle East. Utilizing our own energy is the path to independence. Becoming energy independent means using oil, coal, natural gas, wind and solar energy. We cannot become energy independent today by cutting coal out of the mix. However, more power plants are switching to natural gas. Mines are closing throughout the coal mining regions of our country because natural gas is cheaper and plentiful. Power plants are using more and more natural gas, creating a diminishing demand for coal.
Mountaintop removal for coal mining is not popular. Blasting away the Appalachian Mountains fills up valleys with coal sludge. This sludge seeps into water supplies, killing fish and wildlife and poisoning the water supply. In 2000, Martin county Kentucky experienced a coal sludge break created by Massey Coal reeking disaster for Eastern Kentucky. The coal slurry spill disaster created an environmental sludge that filled two tributaries and eventually poured into the Tug and Ohio rivers. The sludge was 30 times environmentally worse than the Exxon Valdez oil spill. It is considered one of the worst environmental disasters ever in the southeastern part of the United States.1
Energy independence is not an excuse to abuse our planet and ignore events like the Martin county sludge spill and Kingston Fossil Plant coal fly ash slurry spill that happened in 2008 in Tennessee. These events remind us that the burden is not only on the power plants to burn clean energy but also on those who mine the fossil fuels.
It only makes sense to burn and mine coal cleaner. This is a huge burden on the power plants and coal operators of America. The reports are that we are making progress but there is a lot more work to do.
I have always been a fan of coal, because coal mining fed our family. If coal usage further declines, the economy in West Virginia and East Kentucky will continue to be devastated. However, crying economy and jobs will not solve this problem. The way to turn the coal industry around is to find solutions to cleaner mining and cleaner power plants.
The demand for cleaner energy is here to stay. People are not going to talk less about clean energy. The EPA and environmental groups across the country are here to stay. Governmental leaders are listening to these groups and not just the owners of fossil fuel companies.