I made several comments at this futurepundit post that again lay out more of the case against coal energy
There is some aspects of global warming and fossil fuel energy that are controversial. The uncontroversial and certain damage should be enough for us to motivate us to stop using coal. Stop using coal means trying anything else cleaner, which includes nuclear energy.
What I think should not be controversial
1. Coal and fossil fuel pollution kills hundreds of thousands if not a million people per year
from premature lung disease etc... 27000 in the USA according to the American lung assoc.
Sick and dieing people have a cost burden on medical systems.
2. When you mountain top removal mine, you often remove old growth forest and then replace decades later
with younger trees.
3. Coal mining moves material and is more dangerous. Moving the billions of tons. More miners die.
Statistically more accidents moving millions of freight cars and trucks of coal.
4. Mercury from coal is building up in fish.
5. Arsenic from coal also causes health problems
6. 20,000 tons of uranium and thorium are put into the air every year from coal energy use
Somewhat controversial for political but not factual reasons
7. Wars are fought over oil
Letting the "free market" replace coal is not good enough.
The coal companies are not paying for a lot of the costs that they create.
Why are we deciding to let this continue?
Is it just because we have been using coal for over a hundred years?
Suppose we equate what coal industry is doing to a foreign power. Say WW2 Germany had started in 1860. If they slowed down or moved their killing would that have been good enough?
OK, WW2 Germany if you only kill 27,000 americans in 2006 instead of 100,000-200,000 in 1950 and instead kill 400,000-1,000,000 in China you can keep doing it. (Not doing the calculation for other countries but thousands also die in Canada, UK, Germany and elsewhere) People no longer really think we can stop or mitigate what you are doing and we no longer really think about the deaths because you are using a slower acting gassing and poisoning. Plus gee you are supplying more inexpensive power. Our economies really needs that cheap power. Your costs are low cause you only pay for extraction and building the plants plus your margin. We will get everyone to pay for the gassing and poisoning. So we really are paying you to kill us, but let us continue that because if we made you pay then we would be destroying the free market you are operating under. Plus we let you destroy 7% of our forests in Appalachia and other places in the US and the world. But we do make you pay to replant them in a few decades. You do so many things it is sometimes difficult for people to believe it. Poisoning and killing animals, fish, trees etc... But maybe we should try to stop you because we have not convinced everyone that you are also making or contributing to making the earth warmer. Until we know whether life as we know it on the earth is doomed, we better not mess with the free market
Someone else in that discussion asked
My questions are as follows:
1. What part does the sun and sunspots play in global warming?
2. What part does the ocean play in global warming?
3. What part does Volcanoes play in global warming?
4. How do you stop China from producing more emissions into the air?
Question 4 first - China
Note: China will probably catch up to the USA in 2009 in terms of carbon and pollution created. This does not mean that the USA should not clean up is own pollution. US companies like Walmart have significant influence on Chinese supplier companies, so that is one means of influencing China. I make the case that China does not need to have us stop them from emissions into the air. They know the cost they are paying.
30,000 very ill from arsenic poisoning in China described in this pdf
China is arresting major industrial polluters. Environmental pollution cost China 511.8 billion yuan (64 billion dollars) in economic losses in 2004, amounting to 3.1 percent of total economic output that year, according to a previous report by Xinhua.
World Bank, Asia Development Bank study - connecting Asia
178000 premature deaths in major cities every year from coal (Rural areas would increase this to 400,000) Other estimates as high as 1,000,000 deaths.
China will spend $30B each year on environmental protection and cleanup each year.
include estimates of 6.4 million work years lost annually in China to air pollution
In over 20 major cities, the population in China coughs up black. They know they have a problem.
A PBS show upcoming: China From the Inside: Documentary. Directed by Jonathan Lewis, co-produced by KQED and Granada Television. Parts 1 and 2 at 9 p.m. Wednesday; Parts 3 and 4 at 9 p.m. Jan. 17, KQED.
While there are fleeting glances at the larger cities here and there, most of the filming took place in the provinces, in parts of the country few have ever heard of: the virtual dust bowl in the middle of China, where the Gobi Desert is encroaching rapidly now because the trees along the Yellow River have all been cut down; the little village of Hisai, where townspeople dared to expel a gang of corrupt local officials; various locales along the Huai River, a waterway so thick with pollution it is called "the river of death" and communities along its shores are labeled "cancer villages."
It will make economic and political sense for China to clean up its energy. The Chinese leaders know that this can lead to an uprising, which is what they fear.
Coal is part of the mix because Chinese leaders also must deliver growth to prevent too many people from being unemployed (again a bunch of unhappy unemployed uprising). Problem for Chinese leaders that in past uprising old leaders got killed.
China is at least completing two nuclear reactors every year (as noted by Ned).
China is spending a lot on nuclear and alternative power.
Mass transit and better cars will be introduced for economic efficiency and cost effectiveness.
Big subway expansions in Chinese cities because of gridlock.
Questions 1, 2, 3
Why put 6 billion tons of carbon per year into the air? Again you are saying until this part of the equation can be proved to be a cause of warming then you do not want to stop?
How about the particulates? Is it not contributing to worse health and deaths from lung cancer, asthma, lung disease ?
Why is the equivalent in deaths of over 15 Hiroshima's over the last 60 years to the US's own population not enough to motivate more energy infrastructure change? Oh look China is killing its own people at a rate of 5-10 Hiroshima's per year. Well if they are not going to stop then we should not either.
What about the mercury, arsenic, thorium and uranium ?
The 27,000 people who die each year usually are spending time in the hospital before they go, plus they are taking more medicine during their lifetime.
The annual direct health care cost of asthma is approximately $11.5 billion; indirect costs (e.g. lost productivity) add another $4.6 billion, for a total of $16.1 billion dollars. Prescription drugs represented the largest single indirect cost, at $5 billion. The value of lost productivity due to death represented the largest single indirect cost at $1.7 billion. Air pollution is a significant part of that one aspect of lung disease.
Freight transportation pdf describes that it will cost California $200 billion over the next 15 years from pollution from transportation. Note: Coal is a big part of that. The US is moving about 2 billion tons of coal each year.
40% of the pollution that hits the US comes from other countries but the US still produces the most pollution so the US is returning the favor to those other countries.
An estimate of costs from air pollution
Three quarters of the way down the above linked page
It estimates US air pollution costs at $145 to 530 billion. Extract the $18 to $140 billion estimate for greenhouse gases. Still $127 billion to $390 billion.
Sulfur Dioxide ** 52 to 122 billion
visability/airline delays 12 billion
health/work productivity 30 to 100 billion
lakes/recreation 10 billion
Nitrogen Oxide ** 25 to 55 billion
health/work loss 10 to 40
ozone layer damage/
nitrous oxide(N2O) 5
Materials Damage 10 to 35 billion
Probably reduced life of vehicles etc... from acid rain
Do you buy used cars from New York? Detroit? Toronto?
Did the coal or oil companies reimburse you for the shortened life of
your car if you are in one of places with more acid rain?
Toxic Metals ** 10 to 60 billion
Particulates/Health 5.6 to 48 billion
US coal industry 2005-2006
The coal industry in the USA is only $50+ billion/year industry in sales.
So if they all about as profitable as Peabody (largest US coal energy company) looking at 4-6 billion in earnings/year.
Which is far less than the health care costs per year.
Far less than the damage to property.
Plus they are subsidized even to get that measely amount.
40% of freight rail cargo is coal.
There are about 900 rail fatalities per year Coal statistical share of that is 360. The 2 billion tons of coal also sometime travel in large trucks. There were about 5000 large truck fatalities per year in the united states.http://www2.blogger.com/post-edit.g?blogID=17555522&postID=508496613352056777
Blogger: advanced nanotechnology - Edit Post "More against coal"
There are about 24 mining workers driving fatalities per year and 621 workers per year died from material moving (1.24 billion tons of coal in 2002
Coal share of that is probably about 100-150 workers.
Breakdown of freight tonnage
1.8 billion tons by rail. (40% of rail tonnage is 720 million tons. So 500 million tons would move by truck.
Moving that much material also uses up a lot of gasoline. So the secondary effects continue to increase the costs in money (40% of railway maintenance related to coal and more oil used) and lives (truck and rail pollution generated by moving all that coal.