Posted: 05 Jan 2011 04:31 AM PST
The Pennsylvania DEP has just come out with a new report that should help put the “clean coal” myth to rest once and for all. According to the report, the subsidence caused by underground coal mining has impacted hundreds of buildings, springs, wells and ponds across ten counties in southwestern Pennsylvania, where 50 mines are active. Taking into consideration the devastation caused by mountaintop coal mining in the nearby Appalachian region, it’s hard to see where the “clean” fits into the picture.
Underground Mines and Surface Damage
The potential for damage is not limited to individual buildings and small local water supplies. The lake behind a dam in Pennsylvania recently had to be drained because the dam was undermined, and an investigation revealed that the surface damage caused by underground coal mines can range much farther than previously thought from the actual mine site. Also in Pennsylvania is the notorious case of Centralia, in which the entire town had to be abandoned due to an underground coal mine fire that started 50 years ago and is still burning with no end in sight, and the Jeddo Mine Tunnel, which has drained polluted water into local streams for more than 100 years.
Whither Clean Coal?
Given the reluctance of local communities to host new coal fired power plants, and the conversion of existing coal plants to renewable biomass, coal is slowly beginning to lose its prominent – and risky – role in our energy landscape. There’s no denying that improvements in coal burning technology are needed as we transition to safer and more sustainable energy sources, but the only true long term improvement would be to stop destroying large chunks of our country’s natural heritage in order to feed coal fired power plants – and especially to stop the apparent insanity of blowing up parts of America to export coal overseas.
Image: Coal by psd on flickr.com.
Posted: 04 Jan 2011 11:39 AM PST
With its steep terrain topped by glaciers, Nepal has the greatest hydro power potential in the world, at 84,000 megawatts. To date, only a small portion of that has been developed, 600 megawatts – enough to serve a small population who live a much less energy-intensive life than people in the US.
But, with warming, over the last few years, Nepal’s glaciers have already been retreating.
This reduces dry season flows formerly fed by gradual melt water throughout the spring and summer. Now river flow from glacier melt is much more unstable throughout the year, putting at risk both hydro power and agriculture. As glaciers melt, new glacial lakes are forming and overflowing making the flow erratic and unpredictable.
The increasing unpredictability of hydro power due to warming has already created chronic electricity shortages over the last few years, which has already impacted small business.
A Small Factory Foundation Survey recently found that around 41 percent of medium-scale industries have had to close due to the ongoing electricity crisis, which has led to more blackouts in recent years. Last year saw 18 hour cuts during the dry season.
Minister for Environment, Science and Technology Formullah Mansoor told Thaindian News in 2008, "Despite our negligible emission, Nepal is suffering from rapid snow-melting, expansion of glacial lake, formation of new glacial lakes, receding snow line, haphazard weather pattern resulting in flash floods and droughts."
"Nepal has introduced policies and programmes on climate change in the current three year interim plan to create awareness and to promote private-public partnership in this direction."
As bad as it is now, with eleven hour power cuts, Energy Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat estimates power will only be available for just four hours a day during the dry season, by 2013.
Scientists project averaged mean temperature increases of 1.2°C and 3°C by 2050 and 2100 for the region.
Image: Mike Trent
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