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Thu, 2009-08-06 13:24Jeanne Roberts
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Coal Company Tells Workers Not to Vacation in Tennessee

In the latest sally in the war between pro-coal-at-any-cost and anti-mountaintop mining (MTR) advocates, Arch Coal subsidiary Coal-Mac, Inc., of Holden, West Virginia, has “recommended” that its 300 employees not vacation in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains. It’s also asking other coal firms to enforce the (dare we call it) ban.

The move is reportedly in response to testimony given at a recent U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing on MTR, a form of coal mining that rips the tops off mountaintops to get at the underlying coal, destroying entire ecologies, poisoning water supplies and leaving the landscape devastated.

At that hearing, Tennessee Dept. of Environment & Conservation’s Deputy Commissioner, Paul Sloan, said he supported legislation, co-sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), to ban MTR.

Wed, 2009-08-05 11:39Jeanne Roberts
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Lucas Says Mountaintop Removal Is An Appalachian Community Service

I’m digging deep, and maybe even stepping on a few toes, but a Guardian report via ThinkProgress (or is it vice versa?) cites coal industry spokesman Joe Lucas as saying that mountaintop removal in Appalachia performs a civic function by creating flat earth.

Whoever scooped it hasn’t gotten nearly enough coverage, so let’s revisit with envy and ask how she, or he, got Lucas to step on his own tongue, as it were.

Sun, 2009-06-07 14:46Jeanne Roberts
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Allen Doing Coal’s Dirty Work

In 2006, at a campaign rally in Virginia, when former Republican Senator George Felix Allen was running against James Webb, Allen got called out by none other than the Washington Post for repeatedly calling a Webb campaign volunteer a “macaca” (you can see the quoted text here).

The word reportedly derives from Bantu, and means “monkey”. In the Belgian Congo, the word is used to refer to the native population. Allen’s persistent repetition of the word earned him the reigning championship in the xenophobe category, and the term itself was awarded the status of “most politically incorrect” word of 2006 by Global Language Monitor, a nonprofit entity that studies and tracks word usage and dialect.

Mon, 2009-05-04 08:46Jeanne Roberts
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Ingraham vs. Gore; Half the Truth Is the Same as a Lie

During the May 1 edition of The O’Reilly Factor, talk-radio guest host Laura Ingraham used a well-known Republican tactic to smear Al Gore, former Vice President, climate activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner. Ingraham took only those parts of Gore’s Waxman-Markey testimony that supported her contention and ignored the rest.

Ingraham may consider this balanced reporting, but here in the real world we call this a convenient and highly unscrupulous oversight.

Gore’s testimony, from the April 24 House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing (on the 2009 American Clean Energy and Security Act), clearly stated that “every penny” he earned from his climate-change advocacy (i.e., books, movies, and investments in renewable energy) has gone into his nonprofit organization, Alliance for Climate Protection, which aims to persuade Americans to adopt comprehensive solutions to the approaching climate crisis.

Wed, 2009-04-29 13:26Jeanne Roberts
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Glacial Melting Redraws Italian-Swiss Border, Hints at Future Water Wars

Once the shape of nations was guided by war, as losers ceded land to winners.

That is no longer true, and today Italy and Switzerland are negotiating a new border in the Alps to accommodate the world’s newest victor; global warming.

The territory in question is the Monte Rosa massif, a portion of the Italian-Swiss Alps whose watershed, determined by nine glaciers, sets the invisible line between Switzerland and Italy, as it has since 1861.

The biggest, manmade change to this imaginary line came in 1970, when a stream diversion was allowed to permit construction of the Lugano-Como motorway, with the two countries exchanging territory to facilitate development.

Now, thanks to climate change and the shrinking of these glaciers, the watershed has shifted – up to 100 meters in places – and the two nations are preparing yet another accord.

Fri, 2009-04-24 12:10Jeanne Roberts
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Wellinghoff, Adams, Obama; Is Hope Dangerous?

Just in time for ABC’s quote from environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. calling President Barack Obama an indentured servant of the coal industry (and Kennedy’s later retraction), comes the pronouncement from none other than the chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Jon Wellinghoff (who joined the FERC under Bush), that the U.S. may never need another coal plant. Or nuclear plant, Wellinghoff added, noting that the concept of baseload capacity (i.e., coal-fired power plants running 24.7) may become a thing of the past.

Wellinghoff seems to suggest that renewable energy can be used in a complimentary fashion; wind kicking in on cloudy days, solar taking up the load on calm days, biomass filling the interstices and technologically advanced energy storage systems balancing the load. Currently, the U.S. has more than 10 percent of its power mix in renewables – and that includes a whopping 6.6 percent in hydroelectric (January 2009). But throw in advanced energy efficiencies, demand-side management (DSM; think crowd control for delivery), and some truly revolutionary advances like molted salt technology, and one begins to see the possibilities.

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