Coal Tattoo

Friday roundup, July 31, 2009


In this photo released by Greenpeace, volunteers display a banner at a coal-fired power plant in western Beijing on Tuesday, July 28, 2009. China’s top ten power companies and their heavy reliance on coal are hindering the country’s efforts to tackle climate change, Greenpeace said in a report released on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Greenpeace, John Novis)

As Coal Tattoo has tried to get across, the conflicts over coal raging in Southern West Virginia are actually happening to one extent or another all over the world. Coal is a major contributor to climate change. But it’s also considered an abundant and — if you don’t count the externalized costs — a cheap fuel. People around the planet are wrestling with what to do about it.

The photo above coincides with Greenpeace’s release of a new report  on coal power in China. It’s worth a read.

One of the major coal stories this week was the release of a TVA Inspector General’s report that detailed TVA’s failure to do anything about the repeated warnings that a coal-ash impoundment in East Tennessee could fail.


Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Kilgore, right, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 28, 2009, before the House Water Resources and Environment subcommittee hearing on the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston coal ash spill. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Incredibly, the IG report details efforts by the TVA to limit any investigation of the incident in a way that would cover up any failures by management or expose wrongdoing by TVA itself:

It appears TVA management made a conscious decision to present to the public only facts that supported an absence of liability for TVA for the Kingston spill.

Earlier this week, I wrote about a National Academy of Science study on ways to improve the nation’s energy industry. And now, there’s another study,  this one by McKinsey & Company, which says, according to the New York Times account:

… The United States could save $1.2 trillion through 2020, by investing $520 billion in improvements like sealing leaky building ducts and replacing inefficient household appliances with new, energy-saving models.

In other news and commentary this week:

— Greenwire reported about generous utility campaign contributions to lawmakers working on the climate bill in Congress.

— The Huffington Post had a commentary on coal vs. gas by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

— My coworker Susan Williams did a piece for the Sunday Gazette-Mail about the anniversary of the Siltex Mine Disaster.

— Massey Energy President Don Blankenship had this rather bizarre commentary in American Thinker magazine.

The Associated Press picked up a story from the Salt Lake Tribune by my buddy Mike Gorrell about the United Mine Workers fighting a coal company’s effort to ban chewing tobacco from their mines. It had this incredible quote from a UMWA official:

… We’ve seen no ill effects from chewing tobacco. None. And I’ve been in this industry 30 years.

(Memo to the UMWA: Check out this fact sheet from the National Cancer Institute)

— In Kentucky, the coal industry is no doubt celebrating the announcement that David Hawpe is retiring from his post as editorial director of the Louisville Courier-Journal.  I met Mr. Hawpe a decade ago, when we both were fortunate enough to have received national journalism awards from the Scripps-Howard Foundation.  We corresponded and talked on the phone from time to time, and I have admired his dedication to covering and commenting on the coal industry in Appalachia.

Finally, yet another county heard from in the coverage of mountaintop removal in Southern West Virginia … This one (a two-parter) by Peter Bull and others for Al Jazeera English channel’s show People & Power via YouTube: