Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Accurate Pen

What we have here is the greatest opportunity ever in history – and it only involves you writing a couple of letters.

We have an opportunity to avert the worst disaster humanity has ever witnessed – Global warming and mass ecocide. That's right, we can make a difference. We must at least try. This is critically important. Our efforts might even avert what could end up being the last straw for our civilization. Let's face it, every civilization before us has collapsed. Are we next? It's starting to look like it. Will it happen soon? I don't believe that it has too.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it won't be the worst disaster in human history. But, all indicators are that global warming is really bad – and if it gets as bad as some scientists predict, it could lead to mass extinctions (an article in National Geographic suggests as many as a million species). Let me remind you that humanity is not above being one of those species slated for extinction.

So, we've barely recorded a rise in the Earth's temperature, and we get hurricane Katrina – and all the others, including a big typhoon in China just a few of months ago (that wreaked far more havoc than Katrina).

In the Oceans, increased hurricane severity isn't the only sign. Seventy percent of the Oceans' coral is sick, dying, or dead. Red tides and dead zones have popped up from out of no where.

Allow me to speculate for a moment; but if we can heat the atmosphere, and we can heat the oceans, maybe we can heat our Earth's crust too. If so, maybe even the Tsunami of 2004 was avoidable. If so... expect more.

Just how bad does it have to get before we notice and take action?

I think most of us already know that burning coal for power has been very bad for the environment. We also know that it is an avoidable process. Neither wind, solar, geothermal, wave, or tidal generators produce any greenhouse gases. And, alternative power generators have no equivalent of the smoking trains or barges that deliver coal – and the smoking bulldozers, loaders, and trucks that mine coal. In spite of what the coal companies try to tell us, the technology for alternative energy is available here and now. There are existing examples of all of these alternative power generation methods, making a profit, somewhere on the planet. I have listed some of them on other entries of my blog. And no, I haven't listed supposedly "clean" coal.

Even if the coal power industry built only “clean” coal plants – and they have yet to build even one, there is still this matter of strip mining ecocide. Or, as Discover magazine quotes a local from the Appalachian coal mining area; “Even if you could get marshmallows to come out of a power plant's smokestacks, you can't wash the blood off coal.”

But what can we do?... We can assert ourselves. The most important thing Americans can do now is let our power companies know how unhappy we are that they intend to build more coal fired power plants. We are the customers. We make the decisions. And we've decided that this is a bad idea.

The time is now. The opportunity may be passing us by. Because; after they've started construction – once they've spent real money, it will be ten times harder to stop them.

Actually, I've been a little lazy so far, myself. I would rather pay a reasonable bill and turn on a switch to get my power. But, this is losing its appeal to me. I don't want to be responsible for Global warming, pollution, and destructive mining practices. If they build a coal fired power plant near me, I won't buy any of their power. I'll put up my own windmills and solar panels. And I'll store the energy, either in flywheels or generate hydrogen... I really don't want to bother, but I will. And there are probably millions of others, maybe even you, who feel the same way.

The problem for the power companies is that they don't know what our tipping point is. They don't know when we'll decide that we've had enough. They don't know how close they are to driving us away as customers. We need to let them know – before they spend billions of dollars on out-dated, polluting, water wasting power plants – that we won't buy power from.

Write you local power company, and let them know where you stand. Many of the people within that company want to build alternative energy generators. Give them a stronger voice.

Imagine, just writing a letter could change history. This is your opportunity to change the power companies' minds, and maybe even save our civilization. Together, we have far more influence than you ever thought possible. Tell others. E-mail your friends. Notify organizations that you think might care. Post it on your blog, website, MySpace, or YouTube. But, do it now. This opportunity won't last long.

Just think, if enough people write their power companies, we could force them to stop the construction of all the coal fired power plants in the US – and significantly slow Global warming.

Here is a sample letter. Cut and paste it into your letters if you like.


To whom it may concern;

I am considering no longer purchasing power from your company. I am considering installing my own power generation equipment. I am considering helping others build and install their own windmills and solar panels, once I have mine up and running. I am even considering supporting local alternative energy companies.

It doesn't have to be this way. You can do the right thing and build alternative power generators instead of coal fired power plants. Personally, I don't want to be bothered with having to generate my own power. But I will not continue to support a system that perpetuates the production of tons of pollution, Global warming, and strip mining ecocide.

You haven't fooled me, with your “clean” coal stories. I know that 90% of the coal fired power plants that are in America's immediate plans for construction are not even close to clean.

You haven't fooled me with your “cheap” coal stories. Once we build all of these coal fired power plants, and commit to decades of coal dependency, it's obvious the price of coal will go up.

And you also haven't fooled me with your “cheaper than alternative energy” stories. We taxpayers have to pay for all of the subsidies and tax breaks that make coal fired power plants appear cheaper. If our government had any common sense, coal would be taxed and alternative energy would be subsidized. Someday, this will happen. And who will pay? The ratepayers.

I draw the line here. This is my commitment. My future power will be generated by sustainable and safe technology.

Much more than your bottom line is at stake – but your bottom line is at stake. Your decision to build coal fired or alternative power generators will determine my, and many others' decision to buy power from you. Please, make the right decision.

Thank you,

Rick Spilsbury

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What They Actually Think About "Clean" Coal

This is a picture of the Mojave Generating Station, near Laughlin, Nevada. As you can see, there is absolutely no pollution coming out the the smokestack... The reason you don't see anything, however, is because this coal fired power plant has been shut down.

The owners of this plant would rather shut it down than upgrade the pollution control equipment. Here's an indicator of what they really think about “clean” coal.

Of course, the power companies didn't actually shut it down on their own. They were forced to – after they lied in 1999 that they would put on the equipment... and after 6 years, still hadn't.

What? The coal industry lied!!! Need I be more sarcastic?

(Side note: This plant was one of the dirtiest emitters of mercury in the country. But the pollution control equipment wouldn't really have helped that.)

Ironically, in a way, I somewhat agree with the coal fired power industry. I feel that the pollution control equipment would been more or less a waste of money. All it would have done is transfer the pollution problem to the ground. Since it's physically impossible to make these poisons disappear with scrubber technology, all they would have accomplished would have been to keep them out of the air and concentrate them in a sludge pond.

Will sludge ponds leak? Absolutely. There is no such thing as a perfect container – and sludge ponds are far from perfect. 75% of US coal fired power plants use unlined, unmonitored landfills and surface impoundments.

The Mojave Generating Station may be shut down (for now), but the poisons it released will be here for us to deal with for a very long time... You can see this plant's sludge ponds in the picture (but you can see they're actual size much better on Google Earth). And, just in case you hadn't noticed, those “surface impoundments” (sludge ponds) are less than a mile from the Colorado River.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Much Much More Expesive Coal Plants

Hey! Is anybody out there paying attention? The CEO of Duke Energy just announced that the cost to build one of their coal fired power plants just increased by 50% - up one billion dollars! And the cost to build one of their ““clean”” coal plants almost doubled.

I'm no economist, but I would think that's bad for business. Yet, somehow, Duke Energy's stock is up... Oh... yeah... They don't have to pay the extra billion dollars... taxpayers and ratepayers do.

Guess what? When you try to rush through the construction of over a hundred coal fired power plants, you end up with a sellers' market. The CEO of Duke Energy put it well: “Part of the cost increases is just because (these firms) can do it right now.”

Did he mean “do it”... or do us?

Think about it. For an extra billion dollars, you could build a lot of windmills and solar panels.

My guess is that, if Congress doesn't pass another Energy Bill pork barrel giveaway (with billions in subsidies for coal) – the coal industry won't be competitive. You know, you can call me a dreamer, but my dream is that someday we pass an Energy Bill that gives subsidies to wind and solar instead.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Windmills - When There Is No Wind

Inevitably, and reasonably so, the point is made; “So, with windmills, what do you do when the wind doesn't blow?” There are a number of possible options:

  1. The first answer, the answer the coal industry wants you to think is the only answer; is to buy power from coal fired power plants. Even if this were the only answer, we could greatly reduce our pollutants and the use of our precious water most of the time.

  2. The second answer is that we could buy power from windmill farms from far away where the wind is blowing. This is a huge country. Somewhere, the wind is always blowing.

  3. We could also rely on solar power. Don't let them BS you about the price of solar power. The cost of solar power has dropped significantly due to new technology. Solar power is competitive now.

  4. We could store the energy. That's right, there are a number of ways we could generate excess energy, and store it for the days with no wind. Now; the first thing you will hear from the naysayers is that batteries won't work. I agree. Let's move on. What I recommend are flywheels. They store energy in a rotating mass – which can be easily recovered on quiet days without reliance on power generators from anywhere else. They are essentially available off the shelf. They're non-polluting. And their producers claim that they are 90% efficient!

So, as you see now, days without wind would not mean days without power. Some combination of all of these options (and maybe some others) will ensure that we always have enough electrical power on hand.

Picture this:

If Nevada were to generate our power using a combination of wind and solar – with flywheels storing energy for times when it is calm and dark; we would use no water, we would not pollute, and the cost of our energy would never go through the roof (because wind and sunlight will always be free).

We can wait for this day to someday happen, or we can do it now. The technology already exists. All we have to do is buy it and install it. Don't let them BS you about the cost. Sure, they'll profit more if we use dirty, low tech coal. But, their creative accounting is all lies. They leave out the costs to us; the health costs, the environmental costs, the loss of our community's water, the loss of our attraction to new residents, and the temporary nature of this type of power generation. The coal fired power people intend to use us, abuse us, and leave us with the mess to clean up. It doesn't have to be this way.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Even the Power Company admits wind is cheaper

High Country News published an article in it's May 2005 issue titled The Great Energy Divide about the challenges consumers face in getting their OWN power companies to build windmills instead of coal fired power plants.

Although an initiative had been voted for by Coloradans, the power companies hadn't made any plans to build any windmills, and kept right on planning to build a number of new coal fired power plants. Apparently, they don't believe that the customer is always right – or in the power of democracy.

One of the biggest opponents of the Colorado publics' desire for windmills has been Xcel Energy. They really want to build another coal fired power plant. But, why?

High Country News states that: “coal has its obvious appeal: It's a known technology, it's reliable and traditionally it's been cheap.

But the price of coal has been rising since 2003. Even the Powder River Basin coal ... the Nation's cheapest – is becoming more expensive. The current breakdown of price per kilowatt hour, according to Xcel's own numbers are: 3 to 4 cents for wind, (and) 4 to 5 cents for coal”

That's right, the company that will more than double its pollution emissions at its Comanche Station when it adds another coal fired power plant, could have done it for cheaper with windmills. These are there own numbers! So, what did they know back in May of 2005 that we didn't know?... They probably knew that the Energy Bill of 2005 would be passed later that year. They knew that sweetheart deals would soon be made in the back rooms of Congress, and that taxpayers would soon be footing the bill in subsidies to make coal cheaper for them again. But definitely not cheaper for us. (Taxpayers are paying the difference.) And most definitely not cheaper when you consider all of the health problems caused by coal pollution that never seem to be included in the power companies' cost accounting.

The lone windmill farm in Lamar, Colorado is owned by a Scottish company – that's right, Scottish. It's now so obvious that the US energy companies have been extraordinarily complacent when it comes to alternative energy. US energy companies don't even know how to build windmills. So, instead of trying to catch up, they've stacked the deck, they've corrupted our government, so that they can keep making profits – no matter how many people get sick, no matter how much our weather is changed, and no matter how much life on our planet dies.

And now they want even more money from us to get us dependent on coal. That's right, they think they can get away with taxpayers paying billions more to them - so that they can continue to CLAIM that coal is cheaper. Check my Nov 10 entry; "Lame Duck Legislation"

Friday, November 10, 2006

Lame Duck Legislation

The good news is; a whole bunch of corrupt politicians just lost their jobs. The bad news is; they still have their jobs till January.

That's right, a whole bunch of lame duck politicians will be looking for work come January... and they really want to impress their future employers – their present lobbyists. Be on yellow alert for some really bad spending bills in the next month.

I'll warn you about one: another Energy Bill.

In case you don't realize how bad the give away of our tax dollars to the big oil, coal, and nuclear companies the Energy Bill of 2005 was, click here. Guess what? Thanks to the Energy Bill of 2005; we got to pay them even more, right when the oil companies were making record profits.

This kind of Energy policy makes no sense whatsoever. Billions of our tax dollars subsidize fossil fuel corporations, they don't have to pay nearly their fair share of taxes and royalties, and they leave an ecological nightmare everywhere they go – for us to live with or clean up ourselves... and Bush just asked for even more for them!

In his recent address, “President” Bush has asked our lame duck congress to rush through another Energy Bill before the end of 2006. See if you can find his request buried in this fluff filled press release from Fox.

This is what information I have on the Energy Bill. It looks like they want to charge us $20 billion to make the big energy companies even richer.

... I'll let you in on a little secret. If they were competing on a level playing field, wind power would be cheaper than coal. (for more info, check my next entry)

In an ideal world, Congress' Energy Bills would support wind, solar, wave, and geothermal energy. In our world, we tax these technologies and subsidize their dirty, low-tech competition.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Department of the Inferiors?

How could those bureaucrats in Washington ignore their own people in the field, and order the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to all drop their protests against the Las Vegas Water Grab? It was just wrong. It ought to have been illegal. But, it was also just the tip of the iceberg... That's right, there's much more.

Check out the news releases on the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility website. The list goes on and on. If it weren't for people like the ones who ultimately work for the Department of the Interior, and still have the nerve to stand for what they feel is right – we wouldn't even know about most of these subjects.

Most recently, there have been two scandals at the Department of the Interior (DoI). I'll tell you the smokescreen scandal first. It's about nothing important. And its implementation was designed to aggravate conservatives, so they wouldn't notice the second scandal. The scandal I'm speaking of is, of course, the DoI internet porn scandal. Apparently, DoI employees watch too much internet porn at work. So, the DoI computers now block out all that internet porn – and a few conservative blogs... a few conservative blogs? What? Do you understand “wag the dog?” Sure, this story got a lot of press. But the real story was that honest employees of DoI are in open rebellion against the corruption they've witnessed.

Auditors for the DoI claim that, since 1998, 1.3 Billion dollars was not collected in royalties, and have taken it upon themselves to personally sue more than 20 oil companies, on behalf of taxpayers. Even the DoI's inspector General has testified that “short of a crime, anything goes” at the Department of the Interior.

Members of Congress have called for a hearing on the DoI's “pattern of corruption.” To hear their press release (which I highly recommend), Follow this link, scroll down to the player, and then scroll down ¼ of the way down the player to “House Democrats call for hearings on alleged DoI misconduct.” Yes... They are Democrats. But, somebody was going to have to do something. And the Republican “Congress has failed to oversee the corrupt activities of this administration.”

There could be as much as 80 Billion dollars at stake – money that taxpayers will have to make up for. As you might have expected, Republican Chairman Richard Pombo didn't want a hearing. But, we got one.

DoI “bungling” as Time magazine calls it, has been going on for quite some time. Some of these people go back to the Reagan years. And historically, corruption and the DoI go way, way back. Do you remember your history lessons about the Teapot Dome scandal?

Native Americans have known about the DoI for a long time. We've been trying to warn you. But since, for the past hundred years, the royalties haven't been paid to Indians – nobody paid much attention.

The Black Mesa Indigenous Support website states: “all across the nation billions of dollars in American Indian royalty funds remain unaccounted for, and many tribes are accusing the Interior Department of mismanaging the funds. The Bush administration has actually intervened in a Navajo Nation lawsuit against Peabody that produced evidence that company engaged in backdoor deals with the Interior Department and diminished Navajo royalties since 1985. A U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the Interior Department violated its trust responsibility when it engaged in these deals. The Bush administration says a ruling ordering the government to make payments to the Navajo Nation to replace lost royalties would be too costly and could lead to similarly expensive rulings favoring other tribes that share royalties with other energy companies.”

Yeah... But, wouldn't that be the right thing to do? They want us to pay our taxes, don't they? I know that it “would be too costly” wouldn't work on the bottom line of my IRS form.

Hey, I have an idea. Let's replace the IRS with the DoI, tell them to keep up the good work, and we won't have to pay our taxes.