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Mountaintop Coal Removal = Bad Math!

Gregory Wendt, CFP | Thursday July 9th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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It is has been widely recognized by thinking people around the nation that Mountain Top Removal mining for dirty coal is bad.
Scott Badenoch, CEO and Co-Founder of Creative Citizen recently wrote in his article for MNN:

“Mr. President, it is your duty as a citizen of this planet to put an immediate and irrevocable moratorium on Mountaintop Removal today. Go to Appalachia and see for yourself. There is no time to waste; there is no compromise. Human lives and nature’s mountains are at stake.”

It’s mysterious that our own Obama administration continues to look the other way. Then again, perhaps it is creating JOBS and making MONEY for the coal industry.
Hmmm… money, jobs. Hot commodities in this beleaguered economy, right?
Well how much money?


A recent article by Rob Perks published on NRDC’s blog cites a study that the money math just doesn’t pencil out.
The article states:

Consider that coal mining costs Appalachians five times more in early deaths as the industry provides to the region in jobs, taxes and other economic benefits. This is according to a new study which finds that coal is more a curse than blessing for the region.
“Coal-mining economies are not strong economies,” said West Virginia University researcher Michael Hendryx, who co-authored the study. He added that coalfield communities “are weaker than the rest of the state, weaker than the rest of the region, and weaker than the rest of the nation.”
According to the study, the coal industry generates a little more than $8 billion a year in economic benefits for the Appalachian region. However, the conservative estimate of coal’s costs — in terms of the value of premature deaths attributable to the mining industry across the Appalachian coalfields — comes to $42 billion.
“Natural resources such as forests and streams have substantial economic value when they are left intact, and mining is highly destructive of these resources,” the study says. “For example, Appalachian coal mining permanently buried 724 stream miles between 1985 and 2001 through mountaintop removal mining and subsequent valley fills, and will ultimately impact more than 1.4 million acres.
“Coal generates inexpensive electricity, but not as inexpensive as the price signals indicate because those prices do not include the costs to human health and productivity, and the costs of natural resource destruction.”
“In response to this and other research showing the disadvantages of poor economic diversification, it seems prudent to examine how more diverse employment opportunities for the region could be developed as a means to reduce socio-economic and environmental disparities and thereby improve public health.
“Potential alternative employment opportunities include development of renewable energy from wind, solar, biofuels, geothermal, or hydropower sources; sustainable timber; small-scale agriculture; outdoor or culturally oriented tourism; technology; and ecosystem restoration,” the study says.
“The need to develop alternative economies becomes even more important when we realize that coal reserves throughout most of Appalachia are projected to peak and then enter permanent decline in about 20 years.”

This is just a case for bad math, bad economics. Why does this continue? Who’s watching the henhouse here?
These are questions that many are pleading the Obama administration to address.
Let’s all hold the space that Mr. Obama will actually lift the rug, see the dirt and get out his calculator.
Then he has only one choice – end MTR.
And to drive the point home – here is a testimony from RFK Jr. at the end of 2008 which states the issues as clearly as I have heard.


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