Coal Tattoo

Hansen on Coal River Mountain: Go Tell Obama


For more than 20 years, James E. Hansen has been one of the nation’s preeminent climatologists and a leading voice about the dangers of global climate change. Now, Hansen has weighed in on the growing battle over whether Coal River Mountain should be home to a strip mine or a wind-energy facility.

Earlier this week, Hansen posted a short paper, “Tell President Obama About Coal River Mountain,” on his Web site:

“Coal River Mountain is the site of an absurdity. I learned about Coal River Mountain from students at Virginia Tech last fall. They were concerned about Coal River Mountain, but at that time most of them were working to support Barack Obama. They assumed Barack Obama would not allow such outrages to continue.”

Hansen explains the “absurdity” this way:

The issue at Coal River Mountain is whether the top of the mountain will be blown up, so that coal can be dredged out of it, or whether the mountain will be allowed to stand. It has been shown that more energy can be obtained from a proposed wind farm, if Coal River Mountain continues to stand. More jobs would be created. More tax revenue would flow, locally and to the state, and the revenue flow would continue indefinitely. Clean Water and the environment would be preserved. But if planned mountaintop removal proceeds, the mountain loses its potential to be a useful wind source.

As regular Gazette readers know, Coal River Mountain Watch and other environmental groups are promoting a wind-energy facility as an alternative to Massey Energy’s plans for a mountaintop removal operation. Hansen’s commentary was posted to his website on Tuesday, the same day that 14 people were cited for trespassing in two protests aimed at that particular Massey operation. (Some folks in the coal industry have recently contacted me, questioning the findings of a study that touted the economic impacts of the wind proposal. I plan to look into those complaints, and report back to readers on what I find).

Last June, Hansen told Congress and then the National Press Club that the United States needed to outlaw coal-fired power plants that don’t capture their carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.

In his commentary on Coal River Mountain, Hansen says Obama supporters are already becoming “restive” and that he’s been asked to speak at a variety of actions around the country calling for faster action by the new president to deal with climate change and coal. “I don’t know what to say,” Hansen says. “I feel that more time must be given. But these people are right — the directions that are taken now are important.”