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Desperate times call for dirty energy

Wellsville, Ohio could be the site of the first large-scale coal-to-liquids plant in the U.S.Photo: Billy Delfs for OnEarth Cross-posted from OnEarth. Driving his black Chevy pickup to the top of the bluff where Baard Energy wants to build the first large-scale plant in the United States that would turn coal into liquid fuels, Rick Williams points a thick index finger at the vacant homes and empty store fronts that make up his Ohio River Valley town and reminisces about what used to be. The son of an ironworker, Williams, 56, spent much of his adult life as a union …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Coal

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Five things Al Gore will reveal at the upcoming Climate Reality event

On Sept. 14, The Climate Reality Project, spearheaded by Al Gore, will bring us "24 hours of reality … An event that that will focus the world's attention on the full truth, scope, scale and impact of the climate crisis." Its goals: "To remove the doubt, reveal the deniers, and catalyze urgency around an issue that affects every one of us." A visit to the site's homepage reveals little more than of those maddening countdown timers that reminds us that we're pissing away on the internet what little time we have left in a livable, pre-collapse climate. We thought we …

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How many lives did the EPA just save with coal pollution regulation?

The EPA's new rules regulate emissions from coal-fired power plants, limiting air pollution from coal plants in 27 Eastern states. According to the agency, this could result in 34,000 fewer premature deaths per year by 2014, plus preventing 15,000 heart attacks and 400,000 cases of asthma every year. (The above map shows how many early deaths could be prevented in each state.) By then, the rules will have cut sulfur dioxide emissions by 73 percent and nitrogen oxide emissions by 54 percent below 2005 levels -- an ambitious goal, but one that will save lives and, not incidentally, also save $280 billion a …

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Critical List: Republicans plan to defund the environment; no one likes the EPA

House Republicans want to defund all kinds of environmental activity -- the EPA, the Department of the Interior, the Forest Service. You know, just anything having to do with the outside. And the USDA thinks that bioengineered bluegrass doesn't fall within its regulatory sphere, which means companies could grow the stuff without any regulation. Exposing mice to air pollution makes them dumber and more depressed. So it's probably good for everyone that the EPA is putting new regulations on coal-fired power plants that should reduced emissions of sulfur dioxide by 73 percent and nitrogen oxides by 54 percent from 2005 …

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How China accidentally geoengineered the climate

Between 2003 and 2007, China burned so much coal that it increased global consumption of the stuff 25 percent. That put so much sulfur into the air that it more or less literally (temporarily) blotted out the sun, masking some of the global warming that otherwise would have occurred during the first decade of the 21st century. Deliberately putting sulfur into the atmosphere has been proposed as a means of “geoengineering” Earth’s climate, in order to cool the planet temporarily while we figure out a way to get off all these carbon-rich fossil fuels. So, in a way, China’s gigantic …

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Critical List: Oil spills into Yellowstone River; Americans are driving less

42,000 gallons of Exxon oil spilled into the Yellowstone River in Montana over the weekend. Regulators had warned the company that the pipe wasn't safe. The river's particularly high, which isn't helping clean-up. Atmospheric pollution from China's coal use temporarily masked global warming: sulfur particulates reflected more light back into space, keeping the planet’s temperature from rising too fast. But over time the carbon dioxide released from the coal will push temperatures upwards. Coney Island's existential crisis: New York City wants to replace the boardwalk's unsustainable rainforest wood boards with concrete. Opponents complain that “Under the Concretewalk” doesn’t have the …

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Feds say Massey cooked the safety books

According to federal investigators, Massey Energy -- the folks who brought you the Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion that killed 29 -- has been deliberately misleading inspectors about safety conditions at its mines. That's the Mine Safety and Health Administration's conclusion, based on 84,000 pages of documents and 266 interviews.  Massey literally kept two sets of books, like a Twin Peaks villain or something. The official, legally-mandated books didn't record safety problems or accidents; those all went in the secret books, which officials never saw. Having duplicate books in itself is pretty normal, but having a "clean" book for …

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The good news about coal

The world is waking up. Photo: TakverDuring the years when governments and the media were focused on preparations for the 2009 Copenhagen climate negotiations, a powerful climate movement was emerging in the United States: the movement opposing the construction of new coal-fired power plants. Environmental groups, both national and local, are opposing coal plants because they are the primary driver of climate change. Emissions from coal plants are also responsible for 13,200 U.S. deaths annually -- a number that dwarfs the U.S. lives lost in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. What began as a few local ripples of resistance quickly evolved …

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Kentucky coal companies remind us why we really, really need the EPA

Photo: iLoveMountainsThe latest episode in the saga known as Big Coal's Watergate began Tuesday when environmental and citizen groups filed a second notice of intent to sue the two largest mountaintop-removal mining companies in Kentucky. Appalachian Voices, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Kentucky Riverkeeper, and Waterkeeper Alliance notified ICG and Frasure Creek Mining of their intent to sue the companies for more than 4,000 violations of the Clean Water Act -- these on top of more than 20,000 violations the groups already sued over back in October. As an editorial in the Lexington Herald-Leader wrote about the previous lawsuit against these …

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Company wants to turn world’s biggest coal field into world’s biggest coal plant

A 250 mile long coal seam discovered deep in the interior desert of Australia's Northern Territory appears to be the most gigantic coal deposit on planet Earth, and Central Petroleum Limited wants to burn it all. They project it will take them at least a century to go through the entire reserve, or right about until they’ve turned Australia’s notoriously harsh desert into an incomprehensibly lifeless hellscape populated by miners in climate controlled space-suits. Their approach is somewhat unconventional: Central Petroleum wants to liquefy the coal underground, turn it into a gas, and then transform that gas back into a …