Thursday, February 24, 2011

"You load sixteen tons of number 9 coal, and the coal boss says..."

The rush is on to transport Coal to China! Quite possibly from Bellingham. See here and here and here for recent local discussion of this issue.

There's no doubt transporting (or even producing) coal would create $$$$ for the city of Bellingham, Whatcom County, and for some people; the business of energy is (extraordinarily) lucrative. But at what cost and at what cost to our city and quality of life? China has made progress with cleaner burning coal plants in the last few years, but their northern tier of coal producing cities still reek with smoke. Coal pollution from China still travels across the jet stream to these shores and mountains. And (hundreds of) thousands still die immediately and prematurely from both coal mining and the pollution in China. Of course, pollution and coal mining kill people and ruin the environments here too, although (arguably I suppose) much less so than China. It is not  hard to research this issue and think about what is at stake. If you plug "Coal in China" or "Coal in the United States" into Google you will produce a wealth of documents and images. We have one coal plant in Washington (which spews 300 - 500 pounds of mercury per year depending upon which source you read) and significant coal mining activity (2.6 million tons/year). Apparently, Bellingham opened WA first coal mine in 1853. We still may have plenty of it buried in the ground in Whatcom and Skagit Counties. These articles from SourceWatch , WORC, and Huff-Post provide excellent background:

Our community supports plenty of 'big energy' here in Whatcom County. And how much wealth does that bring us? It certainly provides at some of the jobs here and probably substantial amounts of banking assets. Coal is one of the most significant sources of energy in the United States and China. It will be tough in a recession to buck the still extant power of the "old economy". But coal really is a dirty, and brutal, and cheap form of energy. What is the price in terms of our health, the environment, world happiness that our continued extraction of coal demands from us? We are not the only city on the West Coast to have to make a choice between healthly lifestyles/envrionmentally responsible decision making and profit. Santa Barbra is probably the most proto-typical example (12 ). However, from Boulder to Santa Cruz, many small 'lifestyle' cities make concerted efforts to make ecologoically responsible decision making part of their economic policies. There are some links below that may prove interesting to the reader. A final last point: the business of energy is extraordinarily lucrative; cash from energy flows like rivers down mountains. How much of that cash will flow to the citizens of Bellingham and Whatcom County is the most critical  of questions:

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