Coal Fading to Black?

August 27, 2013


I’ve posted before about Coal’s death spiral from the viewpoint of utilities, and  the warnings from the US Geological Survey about the illusion of “200 years of coal”.

In the last week I’ve been getting a stream of notes from anti-coal activist Leslie Glustrom about what may be signs of the inevitable collapse of the market for coal in the US. She writes

Producing coal in the US is now like scraping the bottom of the peanut butter jar–it is getting harder (and therefore more expensive) to produce the coal–which is one of the reasons coal costs are generally rising on average about 7% per year around the country….

Now she’s fleshed it out in a piece for the Boulder Daily Camera:

What was true about coal that was mined in the last century is no longer true; coal deposits that are being mined now are buried deeper and are more expensive to mine. Coal company profit margins are narrowing or even turning negative and the major U.S. coal companies are reporting billions of dollars of losses.

The major U.S. coal companies have lost over 80 percent of their stock value since 2008 and are borrowing money at interest rates of 8-10 percent in order to pay off their staggering debts. Patriot Coal filed for bankruptcy in mid-2012 and other large U.S. coal companies have been put on bankruptcy watch.

Read the rest of this entry »



The big utilities in California like Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, and San Diego Gas & Electric are heavily lobbying Latino leaders in the State Legislature. The utilities are trying to get Latino leaders to support efforts to obstruct California’s rooftop solar growth. California Latino voters support rooftop solar by wide margins. Latino leaders in the state legislature should listen to Latino voters instead of siding with the big utilities.


..a recent bill introduced by Fresno-area Assembly member Henry T. Perea, AB 327, which would penalize ratepayers who have net-metered rooftop solar, reflecting a repeatedly-countered utility talking point that people who generate their own electricity aren’t paying their fair share of the state’s grid operation cost. Perea’s bill would allow utilities to charge a monthly $10 fee for access to the grid, though that could be reduced to $5 a month for households making under 200 percent the state poverty line. points out that families asked to provide an additional $120 a year to the electric company might find that a disincentive to going solar. The group has teamed up with the Sierra Club’s My Generation campaign and the economic democracy group The Other 98%to oppose bills like Perea’s, and the coalition created an online petition along those lines.

Utility Dive:

Southern California Edison (SCE) “hates rooftop solar.” That’s the premise of a fake, satirical commercial (see below) made by, a Latino activist organization. teamed up with the Sierra Club and The Other 98% for its “Save Rooftop Solar” campaign, which seeks to fight big utilities’ antagonism towards rooftop solar.

The organization argues that California utilities such as SCE, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) “are heavily lobbying Latino leaders” to get them to “support efforts to obstruct California’s rooftop solar growth” even though “California Latino voters support rooftop solar by wide margins,” according to Arturo Carmona, Executive Director of

The big utilities like Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, and San Diego Gas & Electric have traditionally relied on the big profits they make from bloated dirty energy projects. Dirty energy projects – like natural gas plants – are often built in poor communities, polluting our air and guzzling up water resources at a time of record droughts.

Read the rest of this entry »

The full court press against climate denying politicians continues.  To those who say this can’t possibly make a difference, I would say, think of all the ridiculous right wing memes that gained currency simply by repetition from the Fox/Limbaugh echo chamber.  (gore invented the internet,  death panels, kenyan birth certificate, weapons of mass destruction,….)

“Climate denier” is now shorthand for those that do not accept mainstream science of the atmosphere – and that’s primarily because a few stubborn folks just kept saying it, and saying it…


New York ad agency Barton F. Graf 9000 has turned its roguish attention to the issue of climate change, and helped activist group 350 Action with the amusing video below. According to the YouTube description: “Since 1954, the World Meteorological Organization has been naming extreme storms after people. But we propose a new naming system. One that names extreme storms caused by climate change, after the policy makers who deny climate change and obstruct climate policy. If you agree, sign the petition at” The snarky tone preaches to the choir, but it’s hard to resist lines like, “If you value your life, please seek shelter from Michele Bachmann.”

more at


Atmospheric Scientist Andrew Dessler of Texas A&M has been doing a lot of important writing and speaking on the topic of climate sensitivity over the last several years.  His debate with Richard Lindzen, posted here a while ago, is  a good example of how he has managed to clearly explicate the major drivers of climate change.
He  assures me that he wishes this video was funnier and snappier. What it is, is, an  important first pass at pushback on the “climate sensitivity” meme, which is clearly shaping up as the initial pushback against the new IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), which will come out this fall.

I’ve since interviewed Andy by Skype, and am working on my own climate sensitivity piece, which I am sure will not be as precise and erudite, but, who knows, maybe I can include some Elmer Fudd clips to pump the levity content.


The crippled nuclear plant at Fukushima is losing its two-year battle to contain radioactive water leaks and its owner emphasized for the first time it needs overseas expertise to help contain the disaster.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) is grappling with the worst spill of contaminated water since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused a meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant. The call for help from Zengo Aizawa, a vice president at the utility, follows a leak of 300 metric tons of irradiated water. Japan’s nuclear regulator labeled the incident “serious” and questioned Tepco’s ability to deal with the crisis. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made similar comments earlier this month.


A nuclear expert has told the BBC that he believes the current water leaks at Fukushima are much worse than the authorities have stated.

Mycle Schneider is an independent consultant who has previously advised the French and German governments.

He says water is leaking out all over the site and there are no accurate figures for radiation levels.

Meanwhile the chairman of Japan’s nuclear authority said that he feared there would be further leaks.

The ongoing problems at the Fukushima plant increased in recent days when the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) admitted that around 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water had leaked from a storage tank on the site.

The Japanese nuclear energy watchdog raised the incident level from one to three on the international scale that measures the severity of atomic accidents.

This was an acknowledgement that the power station was in its greatest crisis since the reactors melted down after the tsunami in 2011.

But some nuclear experts are concerned that the problem is a good deal worse than either Tepco or the Japanese government are willing to admit.

Read the rest of this entry »

Music Break: Electric Feel

August 23, 2013

I know I’ve posted this before.
Don’t care.
Y’all needed this and didn’t even know it.

I’m on the shore of Lake Michigan in a magical place for the weekend, and it’s sort of just exactly like the video, minus the dancing hippy chicks, music track, motorcycles, Chucky Cheese puppets, Rock stars, Rainforest,  Ram’s horns, and psychedelic rainbow mud.

The moon is here though.
The moon is definitely here.

I was walking into my local Kroger store the other night, and, well, funny thing.
I’m not a car guy. Never have been. I hardly know one make from another, and don’t care a whole lot.
But I’m walking in the store, and I feel this, like, magnetic pull,…from this gleaming, jewel like, black thing in the parking space next to mine.. that makes me swing around like I’m pulled by strange tractor beam.  Stop. And look, and stare.
I’m thinking..
What is that? BMW? Infiniti? Lexus?

Nope. It’s a Tesla. And Dayuum – that is some kinda beautiful machine. All sleek, and black, and shiny, and polished, and curvy, and sleek, and well,

So I go in and buy some fruit and hummus. And on the way out, I see this tall, distinguished looking gent approach the car and beep it with his keys.

“How do you like your Tesla?” says I.
He cracked a huge smile.

“It does exactly what they say it does. I’ve been to Detroit and back, Grand Rapids and back, with no recharge. I love it.”

Sorry Fox News. Electric and Hybrid Cars are taking over.


In a welcome development for the planet, the cars on American streets are becoming much more climate-friendly much sooner than many had expected. Consumers are increasingly buying fuel-efficient hybrid and electric vehicles thanks to breakthrough innovations and supportive government policies.

The transportation sector accountsfor 28 percent of American greenhouse gas emissions, the most after power plants. Reducing those emissions will require many changes, including greater use of public transit. More efficient cars will almost certainly play a critical role, too; increased fuel efficiency helped reducecarbon dioxide emissions from passengers cars by 16 percent from 2005 to 2012.

Automakers sold more than 350,000 hybrid and electric cars in the first seven months of this year, up 30 percent from the same period in 2012. While these vehicles make up less than 4 percent of light vehicle sales, hybrids, which use electric motors and conventional engines, are now so mainstream that there are more than 40 models available. The most popular one, the Toyota Prius, is among the 10 best-sellingpassenger cars in the country.

Read the rest of this entry »