Every year 24,000 people die prematurely because of pollution from coal-fired power plants.
Every year 38,000 heart attacks occur because of pollution from coal-fired power plants.
Every year 12,000 hospital admissions and 550,000 people suffering asthma attacks result from power plant pollution.
Every year, coal-fired power plants release 48 tons of mercury nationwide.
Power plants release over 40% of total U.S. C02 emissions, a primary contributor to global warming...
...in spite of the fact that coal sickens and kills all living things, industry CEO's (along with the politicians they have invested in) continue to push for more coal fired power plants.
...and now utilities want to burn (as biomass) our trees that capture and store harmful carbon dioxide and produce the oxygen we need to live.
When people today ask what I do for a living, I answer “I am a human rights and environmental advocate, but formerly my career involved encouraging people to spend money they didn't have, to buy stuff that they didn't need.”
I say, “formerly” because along the way I acquired a conscience and I increasingly found it difficult to work for corporations that place profits above people. If you haven't figured my career out yet, I was an advertising, media production, and public relations professional.
Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing the flow of information from a corporation or organization to the public. Often time lobby and other special interest groups will employ Public Relations firms to influence government policy, corporate policy, or public opinion. In public relations, “spin” is sometimes a pejorative term signifying a heavily biased portrayal in one's own favor of an event or situation. While traditional public relations may also rely on “creative” presentation of the facts, "spin" often implies disingenuous, deceptive and/or highly manipulative tactics. The techniques of "spin" include selectively presenting facts and quotes that support one's position (cherry picking), the so-called "non-denial denial," phrasing in a way that assumes unproven truths, euphemisms for drawing attention away from items considered distasteful, and ambiguity in public statement (promising the world, but offering no details or substance).
I believe this to be the situation with the new web site MichiganJobsAndEnergy.org
While on my quest for identifying information I found the "MichiganJobsAndEnergy.org" web site and domain name concealed behind a proxy server. The person, company, or organization hosting this web site apparently does not want to be discovered or known. Who is paying the bill for this campaign to influence public policy? I carefully poured over every page of the web site. Each well written paragraph skillfully states nothing. Yet each page equates jobs and energy production, promising a better future if we only enter our name and other identifying information into their form and click send—our Senator will be contacted.
The person/people behind this smoke and mirrors campaign appear to want us to support their effort to spend our money. Money we don't have, to purchase something we most likely don't need.
This web site appears to be the “spin” of a professional Public Relations firm. My first clue as to who the Public Relations firm may be is the "PR contact" listed in the press releases; the notorious Lansing PR flack, Kelly Rossman-McKinney. I'd bet that big coal is signing the checks to finance the web site campaign to sway an unsuspecting public. Big coal is in a rush to build power plants in Michigan before environmental laws are written to protect Michigan from emissions that contribute to global climate change and to protect public health.
We do see on the supporters page that DTE is among the signatories. Let's take a moment and examine what DTE hopes to gain from the perspective of Hans Detweiler, the manager of state legislation and policy for the American Wind Energy Association. Mr. Detweiler states that the legislation initiative as it currently stands is fundamentally flawed. Detweiler indicates that the Michigan benchmarks through 2014 are so small that they have already been met in Michigan.
If we follow the money however, we learn that under the Michigan Alternative Energy Surcharge Bill, Michigan's two largest utilities, DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, can begin collecting money, through a renewable energy surcharge, from their customers. Residential customers will pay three dollars a month, while commercial customers wil be charged $16.58 a month, and industrial customers will be charged $187.50 a month. These utilities are now allowed to collect as much as $1.6 billion through 2014 without being required to provide any new renewable energy.
Michigan needs clean renewable energy. Michigan needs to harness safe clean energy from the sun and the wind. Sure the startup costs for solar and wind generation are marginally higher than the current cost of coal, but with solar and wind Michigan citizens will know how much they will have to pay to keep the lights on.
On the other hand the cost of producing coal, much like the cost of producing fuel for your vehicle, will increase by an unknown amount over the lifetime of the power generating plant (sixty years or so). People who have made their career out of managing data tell us that the price for coal will outstrip the cost of solar and wind power very soon now. Are the citizens of Michigan willing to take the risk that big coal will keep their rates low? Data indicates that coal prices are skyrocketing. How high the cost of coal may go is anybody's guess, but it will become expensive, just as fuel for your vehicle has.
“Big Coal,” claim that the U.S. has 200 or 250 years of coal left is “based on old studies that haven't been updated since the '70s. Those studies themselves were based on studies from the '20s and '30s.” Goodell points out that “we've been mining coal in this country for 150 years — all the simple, high-quality, easy-to-get stuff is gone. What's left is buried beneath towns and national parks, or places that are difficult, expensive and dangerous to mine.”
My other concern is, that coal is dirty. Really dirty! The Spin Doctors who are promoting coal fired power plants hope to seduce us with the idea of Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS). But Climate scientists and industry agree that CCS will not be ready for commercial scale deployment until 2030 whereas to avoid the worst impacts of global warming, scientists say greenhouse gas emissions have to start falling by 2015.
CCS technology also uses between 10-40% of the energy produced by a power station to split the coal into gases and compress and transport the CO2. For example, an energy penalty of 20% would require the construction of an extra power station for every four built in order to produce the same amount of electricity. This also means more coal has to be mined and transported. And not only that, power plants that use CCS technology will require 90% more freshwater than a traditional plant. Overall, wide-scale adoption of CCS is expected to ERASE the efficiency gains of the last 50 years and increase resource consumption by one third.
Oh, and they forgot to tell you that even if we one day discover the ability to capture and store the carbon dioxide necessary to implement wide-scale CCS technology, leakage remains a risk. If continuous leakage were to occur at rates as low as 1% per year, it could complete negate climate mitigation efforts.
But wait, there's more ... A US Department of Energy study found that installing CCS technology will double the costs of a traditional power plant. This would result in electricity price increases of as much as 91%. Compared to a ninety-one percent increase in our utility rates with coal, solar and wind power generation begin to look positively economical.
The story of coal gets worse. The American Lung Association, 24,000 people a year die prematurely because of pollution from coal-fired power plants. And every year 38,000 heart attacks, 12,000 hospital admissions and an additional 550,000 asthma attacks result from power plant pollution.
Despite coal industry claims that coal mining creates lots of jobs, the truth is that coal mining employment has been declining for decades, due to increased use of machinery instead of manpower. In West Virginia alone, coal mining employment has plummeted from 126,000 miners in 1948 (who produced 168 million tons of coal), to just 15,000 miners employed in 2005 (who, with the help of machinery, produced 128 million tons of coal).
Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of human-generated mercury pollution in the U.S. Mercury emissions from electrical generation continues to rise. Mercury in mothers' blood and breast milk can interfere with the development of babies' brains and neurological systems and can lead to learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, problems with coordination, lowered IQ and even mental retardation.
The U.S. produces about 25 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. Burning coal contributes 40 percent of U.S. CO2 emissions. Coal is the most carbon intensive fossil fuel. According to the United Nations Environment Program, coal emits around 1.7 times as much carbon per unit of energy when burned as does natural gas and 1.25 times as much as oil.
Michigan is currently striving to write legislation to protect our greatest resource, the Great Lake, our life blood. Coal mining requires an estimated 70 to 260 million gallons of water every day. Forty-nine U.S. States, including Michigan, have issued fish consumption advisories due to high mercury concentrations in freshwater bodies throughout the country. Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of human-generated mercury pollution in the U.S!
In the end, the people who produce coal hope to create new long term markets for their product. Why? It's all about the money. If Michigan builds coal powered power plants, a whole generation of billionaires will live the life of luxury, while the rest of us endure death, disease, and global warming; while we try to keep the lights on.
I suppose if the michiganjobsandenergy.org web site were to share the facts about coal fueled power plants, coal based energy in Michigan just wouldn't have the same appeal.
For more facts about the environmental consequences of coal and nuclear power in Michigan visit: