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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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Entries tagged "coal"

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SOTU: Parsing Obama's 'Clean Energy' Promises

January 26, 2011 ·

Tellingly, President Barack Obama didn't utter the two words "climate change" once in his State of the Union speech. He did, however, mention "clean energy" several times.

Read these sentences carefully:

"So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean-energy sources. Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all — and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen."

What's happening behind the scenes is that Democrats and Republicans believe that a so-called "clean energy standard" is the way forward on climate change. It takes the word "standard," which environmentalists had successfully paired up with the two words "renewable energy" — as in "renewable energy standard," and perverts its meaning. What once meant a renewable energy target that the nation should shoot for — reliance on wind, solar, and other truly clean, renewable energy — is now becoming conflated with the same old dirty energy of the past: coal, nuclear power, and natural gas.

Code for 'Clean Coal'

But what Obama suggests is that this is a divide to be bridged, that we can move forward with all the old, dirty forms of energy, and maybe add in some wind and solar. The truth is that "clean energy" in this instance is code for "clean coal" (an oxymoron if there ever was one), nuclear power, and natural gas. And "clean coal" and nuclear power are so expensive that they'll starve truly clean energy options in the cradle, and will saddle future generations with debt, radioactive waste, and climate chaos.

The other goal Obama mentioned that has climate implications is high-speed rail. As oil becomes more expensive, this form of transportation will be desperately needed. So hearing this commitment — "within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you to go places in half the time it takes to travel by car" — is welcome news. Will Congress follow through with funding for such a bold initiative? Don't hold your breath.

So, too, his mention of "one million electric cars" coming online is good news, but only if we have a grid that's largely powered by clean and renewable energy. Otherwise, it simply means a greater growth in greenhouse gas emissions.

It's worth noting that Obama made no mention of the state of scientific integrity and openness within his administration, despite making clear in his inaugural address two years ago that science had become politicized to the point of interference with sound scientific policy. Today, scientific openness remains almost as constrained as it was under the previous administration, when climate scientists were muzzled by their media handlers. Obama must take this issue on from his bully pulpit, and not leave it to the Office of Management and Budget to determine what science passes the "cost-benefit" evaluation of economists and what remains off limits for public discussion.

Scrapping Subsidies

Obama did propose ending subsidies for oil companies, adding, "I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own." He also offered a catchy slogan: "Instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s."

However, as long as the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling stands, allowing unlimited campaign contributions from corporations, including large oil companies, it's unlikely that Congress will embrace this proposal.

Obama made no mention of the worst oil spill in U.S. history which occurred less than a year ago. It's also worth noting that the recommendations that emerged from the oil spill commission's findings on the BP oil disaster will require a Congress not beholden to the oil industry to act on those recommendations. Without action, a catastrophe like the BP disaster is likely to recur, according to the commission.

Yet by staying silent on this spill, on the commission's findings, as well as on the disastrous public health and environmental fallout that persists today as a result of the EPA's decision to allow dispersants to be used in the Gulf of Mexico, Obama has let down thousands of fisher-folk and others in the region who are paying for this disaster with their livelihoods and their health.

Split This Rock Poem of the Week: Heather Davis

September 8, 2010 ·

A weekly featured poem of provocation and witness. You can find more poetry and arts news from Blog This Rock.

“If any of you have been asked by your group president, supervisors, engineers, or anyone else to do anything other than run coal, you need to ignore them and run coal.”

--Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy, owner of the Upper Big Branch Mine

The lights in your home channel 29 men, their
soot stained clothes, last breaths, crystalline sweat
let loose on black rock.

The lamps in your den cast 29 men
from West Virginia to your retinas, making night
like day, closing the circle.

Did the bulbs in their kitchens pop and spark, the floors
revolt when the methane blew, stopping the hearts
of family members for what seemed like hours?

When he left that morning he said, “Love you too, buddy.
Now I’m gonna
Cut me some coal.”

Along with the brilliance in your bedroom you get 29 men
so cheaply it’s like nothing, an easy find
at the second hand store, a keeper.

I heard about Don Blankenship, King of Coal, Massey CEO.
How he made it his crusade to crush the union
so the men could start working 12-hour shifts.

I heard about Don Blankenship, Pied Piper, 1,000 violations
studding his golden belt, how it wasn’t enough, how he
wooed those boys to the precipice like hard used toys.

Your porch light out front floods the yard and sings
29 men, electric lives exuberant, giving everything. Don’t
turn away. This is what we pay for.

They’re not down in the mine anymore.

-Heather Davis

 

Heather Davis earned a B.A. in English from Hollins University and an M.A. in creative writing from Syracuse University. She is the author of The Lost Tribe of Us, which won the 2007 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award. Her poems have appeared in Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Cream City Review, Gargoyle, Poet Lore, and Puerto del Sol, among others. She is the founder of the Winding River Writers and a member of DC Poets Against the War. With her husband, the poet Jose Padua, she writes the blog Shenandoah Breakdown about post-city life in conservative small-town America at http://shenandoahbreakdown.wordpress.com.

Davis appeared on the panel The Care and Feeding of the Rural/Small Town Poet-Activist at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation and Witness 2010.

Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks!

Mining Whistleblower Speaks out Against Massey

July 23, 2010 ·

Massey mineTo mine-safety whistleblower and former director of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration Jack Spadaro, the spills and mining accidents we have witnessed in recent months are entirely predictable

The BP Deepwater Horizon oil well blowout disaster in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, a spill that has yet to be fully contained and cleaned up, with 11 workers killed, has grabbed the majority of the headlines. But the  April 5 explosion of the Massey Energy coal mine in Upper Big Branch, West Virginia, the deadliest mining disaster in 40 years with 29 miners killed, is of particular concern to Spadaro.

That’s because Spadaro played a key role in an earlier investigation of Massey Energy. He believes, had his investigation and recommendations not been thwarted, those 29 miners might not have died. On the latest episode of my radio show, Earthbeat, Spadaro speaks out for the first time on the latest Massey coal disaster, government deregulation of the mining industry, and U.S. government officials who fired him for criticizing Massey’s failure to implement safeguards in an earlier incident: the discharge of toxic coal slurry -- a spill at least 25 times larger than the Exxon Valdez oil spill -- in 2000. 

In that spill, more than 100 miles of streams were polluted, approximately 1.6 million fish were killed, and more than 27,000 people had their public and private water supplies contaminated. Spadero alleges that the same man who pushed him out under former President George W. Bush in 2000 for investigating Massey wrongdoing in the Martin County Coal Slurry Discharge spill in Martin County, Kentucky is now playing a key role in the investigation of the Massey coal mine explosion in 2010.

Jack Spadaro is no stranger to controversy. With over two decades as one of the federal government’s top mine-safety engineers, he has survived a 1980s Special Counsel who tutored Reagan’s Department of Interior Secretary James Watt in how to fire him. The case became infamous, because then Special Counsel (OSC) Alex Kozinski overruled his staff’s  recommendation to stay the termination, and then repeatedly tutored Watt’s attorneys in how to  rewrite the proposed termination to pass legal muster. When the truth about the abuse of power by the OSC under Kozinski came out several years later during confirmation hearings for Mr. Kozinski’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals nomination, the scandal drew 43 Senate opposition votes and subsequently prevented Kozinski’s planned upgrade to the Supreme Court.

On Earthbeat, Spadero shares his concerns about the inadequate number of well-trained health and safety inspectors for the country's mines, and suggests that better mine safety inspections could have prevented the Massey mining accident and others but for political interference from administration officials in league with coal state senators.

Senate Introduces Climate Bill

May 12, 2010 ·

A Coast Guard crew skims oil on the Gulf. CC license: Wikimedia commonsJohn Kerry and Joe Lieberman managed to introduce the climate bill today, despite both the growing off shore oil disaster in the Gulf (now with dying dolphins) and the recent coal mine tragedy. John Kerry believes the bill has a good chance of passing by the end of the year, despite Republicans throwing oil and gas industry fundraisers for some of their candidates. Lieberman said it "represents a market-driven partnership between the public and private sectors, to reduce carbon pollution and lessen the nation's dependence on foreign oil."

How does this bill compare with the House bill and the clean energy bill? There's a great chart, via ClimateProgress, that compares the three.  

But this legislation, in whatever form the sausage-makers spit out, is far from perfect. Our own Daphne Wysham, who heads our environmental project (SEEN), is concerned that the bill does far too little. And in light of the BP oil disaster, it's clear that there needs to be much more regulation and oversight of corporations like oil companies that are involved with toxic substances. And Jeff Biggers wonders about the merits of "ensuring coal's future," as outlined in the bill.  

We need to hold up the BP and Massey incidents as evidence that we need to move beyond petroleum and get serious about alternative energy and curbing emissions. Especially since, according to The Onion, the stupid environment isn't even willing to meet us halfway.

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