Category Archives: Broken in the USA

guns & gas

Coal Mining, Coal as an Energy Source and the Environment

Coal Mining, Coal as an Energy Source and the Environment

Coal mining is an important industry and is especially significant to the economy of West Virginia, both in terms of GDP and employment. Unlike gas and oil there are enough coal reserves to last at least 100 years, assuming current population growth rates. That’s the good news.

The issues in the short term are relatively low pay for the health hazards and working conditions. Below ground coal miners earn an average of $19 per hour. Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP), also known as black lung disease or black lung, is caused by long-term exposure to coal dust. It is common in coal miners and others who work with coal. It is similar to both silicosis from inhaling silica dust and asbestos dust.

Deforestation and Erosion: As part of the process of clearing the way for a coal mine, trees are cut down or burned, plants uprooted and the topsoil scraped away. This results in the destruction of the land (it can no longer be used for planting crops) and soil erosion.

Even more important is the impact that burning coal for power production has on the environment. Burning coal releases toxins. Coal contains sulfur and other elements, including dangerous metals such as mercury, lead, and arsenic, that escape into the air when coal is burned. Burning coal also produces particulates that increase air pollution and health dangers.

Burning coal emits large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Coal is composed almost entirely of carbon, so burning coal unleashes large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. These emissions have been shown to increase the greenhouse effect in the atmosphere and lead to global warming.

Because coal is so abundant and relatively inexpensive, many people are reluctant to give it up as a fuel source. Luckily, ways to use coal more sustainably and minimize its environmental damage are available. Clean coal solutions include the following:

  • Integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC): IGCC technology converts coal into gas, removing sulfur and metals. This gas generates electricity by fueling turbines while the side products (sulfur and metals) are concentrated and sold. IGCC plants are cleaner and more efficient than coal-burning electric plants and have the potential to capture CO2 emissions in the future.
  • Carbon sequestration: One of the biggest problems with burning coal is the amount of CO2 it adds to the atmosphere. Carbon sequestration includes various ways to capture and store carbon underground instead of allowing it to fill the atmosphere. Currently, some coal-burning plants store carbon in underground abandoned mines or in oil wells. Other plants pump the carbon into sedimentary rocks or below the ocean floor.

A Return to Prominence

A Return to Prominence

Make America Great Again was a slick slogan and not altogether unwarranted. To make things better it is important to understand the areas where we once led the world, but have lost that position.

Shortly after WW II we were the only viable Super Power politically, economically and militarily. Our standard of living was unsurpassed. The rest of the world looked to us for both leadership and as an example of what is possible.

Today we rank 15th in terms of standard of living behind all of the Scandinavian countries, most of Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand. While our economy, in terms of GDP, has risen by 100% in the last 20 years, the average middle class family incomes have only risen by less than 10%. Over the past 20 years the cost of both healthcare and advanced education has risen at 2 ½ times the rate of overall inflation. Our per capita healthcare cost is by far the highest in the world and averages 2 ½ times the average for the EU countries. Our per capita healthcare costs exceed $11,000 per year. At the same time our quality of healthcare is ranked only 37th by the WHO. The healthcare is the single largest industry in our economy currently standing in excess of $ 3.5 trillion. Our infrastructure, especially as it relates to transportation, has substantially deteriorated. Our debt to GDP ratio stood at 35% in 1970 and it currently stands at 136%. Our spending is out of control. While this is only a sample of areas where we have lost prominence, but they are important issues that deserve attention and affirmative action to repair.

What needs doing, you ask? I can tell you what doesn’t work. Finger pointing and blaming the “other” side. My observation that the extremes on both sides of the political divide are in control of the narrative. Unfortunately, they seem to be attracting more folks that in the past confedered themselves to be open minded and more moderate. Polarization is increasing and it does not serve our country well. Many persons tend to blame both the media and our elected officials for what is wrong and they are definitely co-dependent. However, I ask what are we, as individuals, doing to make a difference. I witness republicans pointing fingers at the democrats saying that their liberal, socialist agenda is ruining the country. I witness democrats saying that our problems are a result of short-term profit-oriented agenda espoused by republicans. I ask, how is this working for us?

What I am suggesting is that the solution can start with each of us. It’s a simple behavioral change that is most difficult to implement. It begins by not playing the “blame game”. If we can achieve that then the next step will be to look for common ground. We will always have issues that are beyond compromise and on those we simply agree to disagree. I am certain that there are items on education, healthcare, middle class incomes, budgeting and infrastructure where common ground is possible. It only takes a few to be examples for others. Become an example and spread the word.

Our career politicians will not make the needed changes as it would threaten their political longevity. The only other way to make the changes that the majority of voters want is through the Constitutional Amendment process. Our founders saw this as a way for the will of the people make changes as times warranted it. After the initial 10 (AKA the bill of rights) we have made 17 additional changes. Now is the time for one that makes comprehensive improvements. The first item would be term limits (you can understand why your elected representative will not favor this change). The most recent polls indicate that over 2/3rds of voters’ favor term limits for members of congress. A recent poll in Idaho came in at 84%. Once this occurs it will be making future elected politicians more accountable to the will of the people.

Including too many provisions in a potential Amendment would make it more difficult to survive the approval process, but I would include the following provisions: Elected representatives to have the same healthcare coverage as the general population and add on amendments to proposed legislation (that have nothing to do with the intent of the bill) are no longer allowed. All of these have tremendous support of the voters and none would ever pass Congress.

Representation in our voting system

135 Representation in our voting system

As of May 2020, Gallup polling found that 31% of Americans identified as Democrats, 25% identified as Republican, and 40% as Independent. Additionally, polling showed that 50% are either “Democrats or Democratic leaners” and 38% are either “Republicans or Republican leaners” when Independents are asked “do you lean more to the Democratic Party or the Republican Party?”

However, actual registration by party is different:

In aggregate, 40% of all voters in party registration states are Democrats, 29% are Republicans, and 28% are independents.

Registration stats in 2016:

Number of Registered voters 158 million                                                                    Number of persons eligible to vote 224 million                                                            Number of voters in 138 million

Stats for 2020:

Number of registered voters   211 million                                                              Number of persons eligible to vote 229 million                                                                                       Number of voters 150 million (est.)

Observations:

The largest % of the population identifies themselves as Independent. Is this group well represented?

Great strides have been made in promoting voter registration and it appears that almost all of the new voters did vote in 2020.

However, there is still a very large number of registered folks that do not vote (approx. 60 million). Do why know why? Is there anything that can be done to encourage them to participate?

The E.C. (Electoral College)

Following illustrates my issue. Wh7 does Wyoming have four time the voting power of Texas. Check out the following chart.

 # of ECPopulationvotes per
Statevotesmillion pop
Texas3828,995,8811.31
Florida2921,477,7371.35
California5539,512,2231.39
Georgia1610,617,4231.51
Arizona117,278,7171.51
Virginia138,535,5191.52
      
Delaware3973,7643.08
Rhode Island41,059,3613.78
Alaska3731,5454.10
D.C.3705,7494.25
Vermont3623,9894.81
Wyoming3578,7595.18
Total181 121,090,667