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CLEAR LIES PART 2: King Coal: The Sell Out of America's Skies

by Cheryl Seal Friday, Nov. 21, 2003 at 6:13 PM

The Clear Skies Initiative is a litany of lies concocted to justify the infamous Bush-Cheney Energy Plan. The cornerstone of this disastrous anti-human health, anti-environmental scheme: COAL.

Introduction The entire Bush speech that introduced Clear Skies is so full of lies, manipulations, disinformation, and blatantly false promises that it would require a book to address each statement. In this series, I have selected 16 statements from the text of the speech and divided them into what I consider the Initiative’s five main issues: conservation (lack of), environmental health (devastation of), freemarket solutions (failure of), science (absence of), coal (dominance of), and nuclear energy (state sponsored terrorism).

Quotes from Bush’s Clear Skies Initiative speech are in bold italic.

“We will promote renewable energy production and clean coal technology.”

There is no such thing as clean coal. Not now, not ever. (See Part 1 for the grim facts concerning coal’s disastrous contribution to air pollution Bush’s pet program, the Clean Coal Technology Program (CCTP) is at best ineffective, at worst (and most likely) a miserable scam on the American taxpayer. Even GAO audits (seven of them, in fact) have found that CCTP programs are the most mismanaged of all energy subsidy programs, with the least results to show for millions in federal cash. "CCTP may not be the most effective use of federal funds," a recent GAO report warned with customary understatement. Another GAO report puts it more strongly: “Emerging clean coal technologies will probably not contribute significantly to the reduction of acid rain causing emissions during the next 15 years." The DOE’s own evaluations have shown that new "clean coal" technologies were 40 percent less effective in removing sulfur dioxide emissions than conventional smokestack "scrubbers."

Yet Bush plans to lavish billion on the CCTP over the next 10 years, while cutting funding from conservation and renewables programs. Meanwhile, the Coal Industry has formed multiple front groups to push its agenda, including the Greening Earth Society (debunkers of global warming) and Americans for Balanced Energy Choices, which gets million a year from the coal barons to disseminate the myth of clean coal to taxpayers.

Even technologies originally designed to be ALTERNATIVES to coal and oil are turning into outlets for coal. CHp plants are designed to use alternative fuels such as biomass, with natural gas being one possible fuel source. However, the actual construction of CHp plants has been translating into primarily natural gas-fired systems and CHps that are 'integrated coal-gasification combined cycle systems. The idea of coal being a major source of CHp power isn't even mentioned in the EPA's gushing sales pitch for CHp. But the biggest increase in coal use between 2000-2002 has been by CHp plants. CHp plants are currently burning a total of nearly 30 million short tons of coal per year. Real “alternative” fuel, huh? By the way – guess who’s a major player in the coal-fired plant business? None other than Bechtel corporation. Bechtel not only builds the plants, it also operates some, including a coal-gasification facility (preparing coal for CHp plants) in Los Angeles and a plant in the UK called the “Rocksavage Power Company” – a collaboration with Shell Oil.

The most important of all greenhouse gases, according to the vast majority of climatologists, is carbon dioxide (CO2). Coal burning accounts for a whopping share of the CO2 put into the atmosphere. But what has Bush done? Refused to even include CO2 as a greenhouse gas and to promote coal as the nation’s main electricity-generating fuel. It should come as no surprise, however. Guess who served as a Bush energy advisor on the administrations’s transition team? Irl Engelhardt, chairman of the world’s largest coal producer, Peabody Coal Co. On May 21, 2001, in the midst of highly suspicious rolling blackouts that many believed were engineered to promote the construction of new coal-fired power plants, the Peabody issued a public stock offering, raising million more than expected. The same day, Peabody threw a party for Bush to the tune of ,000. Shortly thereafter, existing clean air standards for power plant emissions, notably for CO2, were rolled back.

Around the same time, Bush proposed easing the standards for arsenic in drinking water. Why? Because Engelhardt had lobbied for the changes (arsenic is produced in coal mining operations).. Just a year later, Peabody's influence extended to the Supreme Court. In May of 2002, Bush pressed John Ashcroft to favor Peabody in a lawsuit brought by the Navajo Nation against the coal company. Not surprisingly, the sell-out Supremes ruled in favor of the coal barons and against the tribe.

Anyone who dares complain had better watch their backs. Most recently (week of November 6) Jack Spadaro, the superintendent of the National Mine Health and Safety Academy in Beckley, W.Va., dared to criticize the failure of the Bush administration to seriously investigate the 2000 coal sludge spill in eastern by the Martin County Coal Company. This spill devastated a huge area of West Virginia, wiping out streams and ponds, spreading pollution into soil and ground water. This event is considered one of the worst environmental catastrophes in the history of the Appalachian region. So how did Bush respond to Spadaro’s courageous stand for the citizens and environment of West Virginia? Spadaro was fired (November, 2003).

Peabody, by the way, is the company that perfected the practice of ripping off the tops of mountains to extract the coal there as cheaply as possible. The devastating consequences of the West Virginia over the past few years have been attributed in large part to “mountain topping.” As the old song said:

"Daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County, Down by the Green River where Paradise lay? I'm sorry, my son, but you're too late in asking, Mr. Peabody's coal train has hauled it away."

And now, my son, Mr. Bush is helping him.

In any case, if Bush really wanted to clean up the air and create new, permanent GOOD jobs, he would withdraw the billion from the CCTP and put it into coal bed CO2 sequestration development. In this technology, CO2 emissions captured from various industrial sources are pumped into coal mine networks (instead of using the mines to extract new coal). The CO2 diffuses through the coal’s pore structure and bonds to it via adsorption (i.e., carbon to carbon). The technology for injecting the gas is already well-established (the oil industry uses gas injection to enhance oil recovery). Miners could be retrained to work the new systems, thereby gaining long-term, cleaner, safer jobs. Mine networks are estimated to have a capacity for hundreds of gigatons of carbon. But has any money been earmarked for such projects by Bush. Harhar.

The Bush administration is also engaging in regulation manipulation to help the coal barons get away with murder. For example, Bush toady Jeffrey Holmstead assistant EPA administrator for air policy, helped soften air pollution regulations in favor of coal companies, then lied to Congress about it. While Holmstead told the Senate in July 2002 "we do not believe these [proposed rule] changes will have a negative impact on the enforcement cases.” But in November, 2003, guess what happened? The EPA dropped its investigations into 50 power plants for past violations of the Clean Air Act so they could be “rejudged” under the softened air pollution rules that Holmstead said would not affect such cases. Is there anything these people ever tell the TRUTH about? I doubt it.

PART ONE: ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH: Lies, Damn Lies, Death and Degradation

NEXT: PART 3: SOUNDS(like) SCIENCE(but isn’t): How Bush Is Using Junk Science to Defraud America

NOTE: In addition to systematic, pathological lying,the Bush administration also systematically deletes and alters statistics and other records, especially relating to energy and environmental issues.

FACT MANIPULATION EXAMPLE: The Bush-engineered 2003 table from the EIA U.S. Coal Consumption by End-Use Sector 1997-2003 shows the consumption of coal by industrial CHp plants as 25,755 thousand short tons (25.75 million short tons), indicating a 2,200 thousand short ton decrease in industrial CHp coal use from 2000.

However, if you look at an earlier record, un-manipulated record entitled “Coal Consumption by Sector 1947-2001 (the headings for CHps are identical to the 2003 table), you find a different story – one that agrees far better with other industry statistics sources: there was an increase in industrial CHp coal use from 28.0 million short tons in 2000 to 28.1 in 2001 --a 100,000 short ton increase.


"The Road from Big Mountain to Baghdad" Brendan Norrell (originally pub in Navajo times, a fantastic, hardhitting REAL HONEST TO GOD independent community newspaper)

Ongoing articles on Peabody at Navajo Time Http:// (see archives under Peabody Coal company)

Lawyers at E.P.A. Say It Will Drop Pollution Cases, New York Times, November 6, 2003

Mining Whistleblower fired

“Dying Needlessly: sickness and death due to energy-related air pollution” by Curtis Moore

Ex-EPA Officials Question Clean Air Suits¬Found=true

Bechtel’s involvement in coal-fired plant construction

Carbon sequestration report by DOE

Corporate research E-letter No 14 July 2001: “Black Sludge and Blackouts: The Coal Industry Takes Center Stage” by Philip Mattera

Dirty Folly of Clean Coal

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