The Tragedy of Coal


he massive underground coal mine blast that killed at least 25 miners on the afternoon of April 5 in Naoma, W.Va. brought back some doleful memories.

Exactly one year ago, I was in Naoma cruising up and down the Coal River Valley working on a story for Richmond’s Style Weekly on Richmond-based Massey Energy Co.’s mountaintop removal practices in which entire mountains in the Central Appalachians are lopped off like a bottle cap to get a rich coal seams. The millions of tons of waste are stuffed in streams and massive sludge ponds filled with billions of gallons of toxic waste sit here and there contained by often fragile earthen dams.
Now, Massey is the locus of great grief. The miners were working in an especially gassy part of Upper Big Branch Mine went the explosion set off. Some were torn apart by the blast; others suffocated. Hope is fading for another four who may or may not have made it to underground safe rooms equipped to keep them alive for about 96 hours.
The Massey disaster points out, once again, some very ugly things about the firm and coal mining in general. Coal supplies more than half of our electricity in this country, but it is dirty and dangerous. It is a major contributor to global warming and although safety records are much better than they used to be, mining is still an exceptionally hazardous way to make a living.
Massey used to be synonymous with a fairly philanthropic family in Richmond that gave to cancer centers and education. True, they were staunchly anti-union but they didn’t have Massey’s Bad Boy image of today. The family sold its interests off first to St. Joe’s Minerals and then to Los Angeles engineering giant Fluor which spun off Massey in the late 1990s.
The new face of Massey is that of a dark-haired, jowled man named Don Blankenship who is a latter day tycoon. He has stirred controversy by giving millions to elections of legislators and judges, especially in West Virginia where some of Massey’s most profitable operations are. A stickler for the bottom line, he is known to check faxed production reports from his mines every two hours. He’s now drawing fame because in a court case, evidence was produced that he wrote a memo that in his mines, production comes first.
Blankenship is an in-your-face type. He’s called Al Gore a “greeniac” and once came close to punching out an ABC reporter who confronted him at a Massey facility in Kentucky. Massey was responsible for one of the biggest environmental fines ever when a sludge lake dam burst. Even at the Upper Big Branch Mine, regulators cited it for 50 “unwarrantable” violations last year even though Massey’s Website brags that it’s 2009 safety record was better than the industry average.
A few personal notes:
  • I spent part of my childhood in north central West Virginia where coal was a big part of life. Back in the early to mid 1960s, strip laws were a joke in the Mountain State and it was common to wake up one morning to find the property next to you blown apart and hauled away. I used to play on the remains which had poisonous yellow lakes from rain leaching from coal. We used to collect the bones of the dead animals.
  • On occasion, some of the fathers of my grade school classmates died in deep mines.
  • When I was away at high school in the DC area on Nov. 20, 1968, a Consol mine blew up in Mannington, in Marion County, a county north of where my family lived. It killed 78 miners. It was not far from where the Monongah mine blew up on Dec. 6, 1907, killing 361.
  • I used to have to take West Virginia history and learn how to spell the state flower, the rhododendron. But our state-sanctioned history books never talked much about the dangers of coal on the War of Blair Mountain in the 1920s that involved the U.S. Army using fighter planes to bomb and strafe striking miners.
  • In 2002, I was five miles in a mountain at Red Ash, Va. on a story for Virginia Business magazine. It was a Massey mine and they actually let me in. It was “low coal” and we had to maneuver in seams no more than 40 inches tall. I remember feeling intensely claustrophobic but in time, a strange sense of calm came over me.
  • Last year, at Coal River, a man in a pickup truck took offense that I was photographing a school next to some giant Massey coal silos. He followed me around the twisting mountain roads for a while.
So, the current disaster once again spotlights coal’s dangers. A number of people commenting on this blog (who life in coal-free places like the Washington suburbs) say it is an essential part of our energy mix. Well, I guess if you don’t actually live near the coal, you don’t really understand it.
Peter Galuszka
N.B. The photo is of the Monongah disaster in 1907.

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67 responses to “The Tragedy of Coal”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Interesting background Mr. G., Thank you.

    If mountain top removal is controlled and mines are made safer that will mean the price of energy from coal will go up.

    There is a lot of coal in the US but it will be more and more costly to extract and convert to energy in ways that do not cause more and more damage.

    That is not good for those who have become adicted to cheap energy, whatever the source.

    From your perspective Mr. G., what should media have done in the past?

    And what should media do in the future to prepare citizens for reality?


  2. Groveton Avatar


    The mine explosion was a terrible tragedy. Massey seems to forever be in trouble of their own making. I won't rush to judgement here but I'll be very interested in the cause of this latest disaster.

    Mountaintop removal is disgraceful. At some point your erstwhile neighbors in West Virginia need to put an end to that horrible practice. The ball is in their court on that one. Plenty of nice, liberal places in the world burn coal for electricity without blasting the tops off mountains to get at the coal. Germany, for example.

    The problem with your argument is exemplified by the man in the pickup truck who followed you around after you took the photos. It is very unclear to me whether the people in West Virginia's coal counties would vote coal mining out of their counties if they were given the chance. There are certainly anti-coal activists in West Virginia. However, there are plenty of people who see coal mining as one of the few ways to make a decent living (even given the extreme dangers of the occupation).

    Fishing is another very dangerous occupation. The move "The Perfect Storm" was basically non-fiction. Completely non-fiction was the scene at the end when the people of Gloucester, MA (a relatively small town) remember the citizens who have been lost at sea over the years. In the past 350 years Gloucester has lost over 10,000 seafarers to the Atlantic Ocean. That's just under 29 lives per year … from a single town. Perhaps you should remember that the next time you reach past your white wine for another bite of sushi at some fancy white tablecloth restaurant in Richmond. But, then again, I guess you don't live in a fishing town.

  3. Avatar

    to Massey this is just a cost of doing business.

    this is Bush's legacy as he eviscerated the Mine Safety Health Administration (and OSHA) and stocked it with coal company executives. staff was cut, fines were not enforced, and rules relaxed.

    Obama appointed Joe Main, former UMWA safety VP and nationally recognized advocate for mine safety.

    this is just an old leftie stating that safety trumps production in my world. that's the way we do it in my FD union.

    Oh that's right, Massey is the best union buster company in the US.

    RIP miners. the bad news is no one will think about you next week when they leave all their lights on…


  4. Anonymous Avatar

    Peter, fascinating perspective. I know little about coal mining, but as I grew up in Minnesota, I know about iron ore mining, open pit mines, and even worked on the Reserve Mining case to stop the dumping of asbestiform fibers into Lake Superior.

    When the iron mines were in their prime, the Iron Range had some of the best public schools in Minnesota with the lowest real estate taxes. I know there were also bad accidents and many environmental issues. The city of Hibbing was relocated a couple of times to make room for more mining. Take a look at the Hull-Rust-Mahoning open pit mine some day. Now that's a big hole.

    Since both the natural ore and taconite salad days are long gone, life on the Range has been pretty tough and depressed. I've been gone from Minnesota so many years that I don't know how most people there would feel – return to the mining days with all of its problems or avoid those problems and have different ones today.

    Life is full of trade-offs.


  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Mountaintop removal is disgraceful. At some point your erstwhile neighbors in West Virginia need to put an end to that horrible practice. The ball is in their court on that one. Plenty of nice, liberal places in the world burn coal for electricity without blasting the tops off mountains to get at the coal. Germany, for example.


    This practice isn't limited to coal, nor is it new. Much of the mountain at (Carrera?) has been removed to get at the marble.

    Same with the copper districs in Portugal where the moutains have been cut into fantastic terraces.

    (Does Germany actually mine coal in mountainous areas?)


  6. Anonymous Avatar

    What you are looking at is a system where total cost = coal cost + external cost + government costs.

    If you just shift external costs to coal costs the total cost doesn't go up. The apparent price of coal goes up, but now you are buying more than just the coal.

    Total costs will go up if the cost of reducing the externality is more than the cost of the externality. Which means you are paying a premium price, not for the coal, but to make damn sure your air and water is clean. You are paying a premium price for the precautionary principle and the externality removal: the cost of coal itself hasn't changed.

    If you replace the coal with renewables the competitive space isn't the cost of energy but what you are willing to pay for clean air and water. Renewables will have their own externalities, too.

    If you wind up paying the same total price for renwables as you would have paid for coal plus cleanup, then you are effectivley paying the same premium cost for cleanup as you would have for cleaning up coal, since you are getting eqqual energy either way.

    In the case of coal you have government intervention in monitoring and enforcement. With renwables you have siting and other issues.

    Not to minimze the tragedy in any way, but the cost of safety in coal is mostly already incorporated in the price through wages paid, insurance, and whatever safety equipment and procedures cost.


  7. Mimi Stratton Avatar
    Mimi Stratton

    I learned everything I ever wanted to know about Don Blankenship from this article in Vanity Fair (2006?):

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    Have we had more mining deaths under Republican or Democratic Presidents?

    Surely someone is going to blame Obama for this tragedy.


  9. Larry G Avatar

    I think there is a misunderstanding at times over what the real damage is from mountaintop removal as evident in RH comparing it to marble mining.

    Coal is mixed in with other rock – and in WVA that rock has sulfur in it and when mountaintops are removed the rock is exposed and then dumped into coves and valleys where the rain then mixes with the sulfur to make acid.

    This is the same acid that currently renders rivers like the Cheat and the Tygart (which form the Monongahela.. which confluences with the Allegheny to form the Ohio..but I digress) – renders those rivers devoid of aquatic life and where it is really bad from the abandoned mine outflows along these rivers – the rocks are orange.

    Now.. Ray brings in his equation but he never acknowledges how we reconcile the externalality of a dead river – or how we factor in the destruction of rivers – as collateral damage to well cooled homes in the summer .

    But one more fly in the ointment that cuts the opposite way here and that is that open pit/mountaintop removal – as bad as it is environmentally, it's probably less deadly to the miners than deep mining.

    But I am glad to see more and more people start to appreciate just how nasty mountaintop removal is – because the more people who know about it – the better the chances that something will be done about it – and that's not a bad thing.

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    All I pointed out was that moutaintop removal is nothing new.

    People who are opposes to motain top removal are opposed to moutain top removal. They are preservationists who think things should be left natural, as they always were. They would be willing to give up the Pieta for the majestic natural beauty of the mountain.

    They may also be opposed to filling our valleys and poisoning our stream beds. But that happens with underground mining as well. I'm merely pointing out that there are two separate objections going on here. And they are not new. Hydraulic mining was an early form of moutain top removal.

    The differnce is the amount of other dirt and rock that is removed to get to the seam. This is not coal, but it may still contain compounds that are poisonous in high enough concentrations.

    Larry has conceded that if it is a low enough concentration that it harms no one, then it is not pollution. Except we know that there are such things as bioconcentrators which are dilute in the environment but not in the higher species.

    One thing you can say about moutaintop removal is that no one has been killed by a conentrated methane explosion during that operation. However, legions of men have been killed surface mining at Carrera. An ordinary quarry is just mountaintop removal where you don't take the whole top of the "mountain".

    We don't call mountain top removal quarrying, because it hasn't got the same emotional punch.

    There are three things going for moutnaintop removal, all of which boil down to cheaper. It is faster, safer, and wastes less coal.

    I now that coal has sulfur in it. Larry says the overburden or tailings also has sufur in it. I don't know if that is true, but it doesn't ring true from what I remember from geochemistry or economic minerology. However, there is no doubt the streams are being poisoned.

    My guess is that the tailings get coal mixed in with them when mining the edge of the seams and the waste coal is responsible for most of the sulfur. When the moutantop is removed it is broken up and now there is a huge surface area exposed to water. Whatever poisons are in the tailings will be exposed to a new environment.

    What you have is a giant chromatograph in which the solvent (water) causes bits of poison to flow from one rock or soil particle to the next, alternatly sticking to the rock and floating or disolving in the water.

    Ordinarily this process results in cleaning or filtering the water, which is why we can generally rely on wells. But, like a chromatograph, the column must first be purged of contaminants, before it can be used.

    If you dump a mixture of poisons in the top of a chromatograph they will travel down the tube at different rates as you flush the tube with clean water or solvent.

    At the bottom of the tube you have a detector which can recognize pure solvent. When the first poison comes though it trips the sensor and notes the time, and so on. A certain poison will always travel through the column in the same amount of time, given the same temperature and solvent flow rate. But if the colomn is saturated with poison, you just get one continuous signal.

    Usually the detector looks at colors, hence the name chromatograph – color and time.
    The poisoned streams have wretched colors: they a have a continous signal that will last a long time. Until the column (the tailings pile in this case) is flushed clean.

    Before you had poison rocks and now you have poison water, but overall you have the same amount of poison, util some other chemistry happens.


  11. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry is beating up on my equation again, saying it is no good because we don't know the values or because one of the values is infinite, in his view.

    TC = PC + EC + GC

    Consider the radiator on your car. The radiator absobs heat from the engine. That's production cost – PC.

    The radiator rejects heat to the outside – External cost.

    The size of the radiator is the government cost.

    Your car has a temperature guage that tells you the temperature of the water in your radiator. You probably very seldom look at it. It may not even have a guage to look at, just an idiot light to tell you if something has gone wrong.

    There is also a thermostat, a bypass valve, and a pressure relief valve as part of the governing system. And a cab heater.

    Most of the idea we ahve no idea what the temperature is in the radiator. It isn't even important. What is important is the temperature of your exhaust valves and valve stems. Race cars and airplanes monitor that temperature directly, and for good reason.

    Simplified, you can say that for this system the total temperature (average temperature) is the engine temperature plus the radiator temperature plus the engine temperature. Or, since everything boils down to dollars the total cost is the engine cost plus the atmosperic cost plus the radiator cost.

    Larry would say this is bogus because we do not know or have not looked at the temperature.

    It's a ridiculous argument because the equation is still true, whether you bother to learn the values or not.

    Sure enough, if you put in a big enough radiator, you won't ever have to worry about wrecking your engine by overheating it. But without the thermostat and regulating valve your engine will run cold and be inefficient and unproductive. You will have more waste in the tailpipe. And you have to build, pay for and carry around this huge radiator.

    It is wasteful and harmful to the environment, even though you apparently solved the immediate problem. You are much better off with a thermostat to measure and a wastegate to regulate the problem.

    Larry says it is impossible to do becuase we can't agree on whether to calibrate the thermostate in degrees, or ergs, or joules or faffoofniks.

    And I say that's the problem. The real problem. We know we have a problem, we agree on that, but we can't agree on how to measure it. Without that, we can't even begin to think about discussing the best way to solve the problem.

    I say pick one. You might blow up an engine or two in extreme conditions, racing up Pikes peak, or plowing at max RPM on a hot day, but at least you can narrow the possibilities.

    Larry would have us carrying around a radiator the size of a house, and the Republicans would say the hell with the radiator — slap some fins on it and let it be air cooled. (Never mind how inefficient THAT is.)


  12. Anonymous Avatar

    the better the chances that something will be done about it – and that's not a bad thing.

    Nice of Larry to give us the forgone conclusion at the end.

    I say we don't know whther it is a bad thing or not. We can't decide how clean is clean or how dirty is dirty.

    Those who can afford it and choose to have well cooled homes in the summer. I don't.

    Then there are those that cannot afford it. We can "do something" about mountaintop removal, and the inevitable result will be that fewer people have wll cooled homes and more people croak because of it.

    We know this is true the same way we know the radiator saves the engine and warms the atmnosphere. we just don't know how much or how true. And we can't agree on how many miners lives are worth how many lives of mostly old and poor people.

    If you are worried about some kind of global catastrophe (out of many possibilites) soonner or later it comes down to your life against some other. Might be Eskimos or subsistenc farmers in Sahel or the aged poor in Toledo, but that's what it is, and we may as well recognize it.

    The orange sulfurous gunk on those rocks will eventually percolate its way to the ocean, where it will settle to the bottom and come to rest. Maybe right next to a subsea fumarole that is spewing sulfur naturally. It will be ingested and excreted a few times by sulfur loving organisms and eventually become part of the sediment. The sediment will turn into an upthrust zone and turn into a new mountain that our descendents will mine.

    In the grand scheme of things we are a natural part of the process, just like the sulfur loving organisms. At some level, it must be a kind of obtuse ego trip to blame ourselves for everything unnatural that happens. How much sleep am I supposed to lose over rabbits in Australia?

    I'll bet that outside the event horizon ther is a whole species of homeless black holes, just looking for a wormhole that terminates on earth.

    Maybe we should get the Sierra club to start lobbying for a fix.


  13. Larry G Avatar

    "Larry" is basically reciting the facts and the process as currently known and practiced by the EPA/USA.

    This is not a personal contest between my unique personal views and Rays ideas as my views basically reflect and support the current policies of this country.

    " On July 9, 1970, President Nixon transmitted Reorganization Plan No. 3 to the United States Congress by executive order, creating the EPA as a single, independent agency …"

    " Related legislation


    1955 – Air Pollution Control Act PL 84-159

    1963 – Clean Air Act PL 88-206

    1965 – Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act PL 89-272

    1966 – Clean Air Act Amendments PL 89-675

    1967 – Air Quality Act PL 90-148

    1969 – National Environmental Policy Act PL 91-190

    1970 – Clean Air Act Extension PL 91-604

    1976 – Toxic Substances Control Act PL 94-469

    1977 – Clean Air Act Amendments PL 95-95

    1990 – Clean Air Act Amendments PL 101-549


    1948 – Water Pollution Control Act PL 80-845

    1965 – Water Quality Act PL 89-234

    1966 – Clean Waters Restoration Act PL 89-753

    1969 – National Environmental Policy Act PL 91-190

    1970 – Water Quality Improvement Act PL 91-224

    1972 – Federal Water Pollution Control Amendments of 1972 PL 92-500

    1974 – Safe Drinking Water Act PL 93-523

    1976 – Toxic Substances Control Act PL 94-469

    1977 – Clean Water Act PL 95-217

    1987 – Water Quality Act PL 100-4

    1996 – Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996 PL 104-182


    1947 – Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act

    1964 – Wilderness Act PL 88-577

    1968 – Scenic Rivers Preservation Act PL 90-542

    1969 – National Environmental Policy Act PL 91-190

    1970 – Wilderness Act PL 91-504

    1977 – Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act PL 95-87

    1978 – Wilderness Act PL 98-625

    1980 – Alaska Land Protection Act PL 96-487

    1994 – California Desert Protection Act PL 103-433

    1996 – Food Quality Protection Act
    [edit]Endangered species

    1946 – Coordination Act PL 79-732

    1966 – Endangered Species Preservation Act PL 89-669

    1969 – Endangered Species Conservation Act PL 91-135

    1972 – Marine Mammal Protection Act PL 92-522

    1973 – Endangered Species Act PL 93-205

    Hazardous waste

    1965 – Solid Waste Disposal Act PL 89-272

    1969 – National Environmental Policy Act PL 91-190

    1970 – Resource Recovery Act PL 91-512

    1976 – Resource Conservation and Recovery Act PL 94-580

    1980 – Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act ("Superfund") PL 96-510

    1982 – Nuclear Waste Repository Act PL 97-425

    1984 – Hazardous and Solid Wastes Amendments Act PL 98-616

    1986 – Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act PL 99-499

    2002 – Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act ("Brownfields Law") PL 107-118"

    I would point out that not a single one of the above has the name "Larry" next to it but instead PL (public law) the work of hundreds/thousands elected and appointed that "Larry" supports and agrees with.

  14. Larry G Avatar

    I pretty much accept the current approach except I'd like to see it expanded to include Mountaintop Removal which, until this point in time, has been given essentially a waiver.

    The basic problem with Appalachian coal is that it provides vital jobs to region and it's people that is in desperate need of them and not many alternatives if those jobs go away.

    So we have WVa workers, Mine owners and electricity users all "invested" in mountaintop removal and none of them really willing to give it up.

    Appalachia has traditionally been a place where polluters would sell WVa on the jobs it would lose to other states if it had as strict pollution laws.

    So Appalachia became the state of choice for many industrial polluters until the EPA came onto the scene and put into place National Policies that applied equally to all states – except for mountaintop removal for their coal.

    And it did not start that way – it evolved from deep mining and strip mining of more level landscapes.

    Strip Mines on more level terrain can basically expose a seam, get the coal out and then cover it back with overburden and then a soil/clay cap to seal the water/acid reactive materials.

    But that same process cannot physically be done in hill country where the overburden has to be dumped in the valley's and coves and there is no way to really go and extract the material because the trees and vegetation are gone and water will still flow when it rains.

    For those of you who live around a creek.. Imagine how you'd try to reconstruct it after 100, 200 feet of rock was dumped on top of it.

    For all intent and purposes, the creek is destroyed when the material is deposited on top of it.

    this is what is occurring across Appalachia and the choice of not doing it means either the loss of jobs or a return to deep mining which as we know is deadly work.

    I don't think folks who live in Facquier or Loudoun, or Fairfax would find it acceptable to dump fill into the creeks where they live but if you told them their electricity would go up 50% to save the creeks in Appalachia, what would they say?

    So far, they say.. covering up the creeks in WVA is just fine apparently as long as we don't have to cover our creeks ups or have them run orange from acid, eh?

    Ray and folks like him are free to promote a different way of looking at trade-offs and, in fact, many lobby groups do but to essentially demand that your equation be adopted and the calculations proven is pretty laughable in my view.

    If you think there is a better way, then get your act together and show how your way is better…

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    Whatever you do is going to adhere to that equation. You can go in blind and probably increase your total costs, or you can try to understand the true costs toget the best result.

    The best result means that you do not waste money time and resources. It also means that you do not value one group of lives more than another.

    What advocacy groups do is advocate for their interests over and above others. That necesssarily increases total cost, unless by pure happenstance they hit upon the best current option.

    All I'm suggesting is that you are more likely to find it if you actually look for it.

    If you are not willing to look for it, then you ar not an ethical environmentalists but a special interest superego.


  16. Anonymous Avatar

    …as my views basically reflect and support the current policies of this country.

    So do mine. But the current laws and practice of the country require cost benefit analysis to ensure that government does not enact legislation/regualtion that actually make the populace worse off.

    Current laws and practice require that no person or group bear and undue burden from EIOTHER the enforcemkent or LACK of enforcement of environmental regulations.

    Current law requires compensation when property is taken for public use.

    In spite of the litany of work Larry has recited I beleive we can do a better job and do it cheaper and more equitably by paying more attention to the items above, and in particular by revisiting the cost benefit analysis of a regulation over time.

    I don't understand why anyone would be opposed to those ideas and goals.

    Except for one thing. Much of our environmental law to date has been of the "command and control" type of regulation. Economists and environmentalists alike now consider that market based regulation is better, cheaper and more flexible, and that command and control regulation leads to undesired results.

    The single reason to cling to command and control regulation is to retain power, which translates to violation of someone else's property rights.

    Larry insists that we should not have to pay for the kind of environment we want. You don't pay people not to pollute, in his view.

    But what my equation shows is that you will pay one way or another, just as surely as you cannot create or destroy matter, and just as surely as entropy always increases.

    You may as well know what you are paying to whom, unless you don't care or unless you are certain you are on the "winning" side.

  17. Anonymous Avatar

    I don't think folks who live in Facquier or Loudoun, or Fairfax would find it acceptable to dump fill into the creeks where they live but if you told them their electricity would go up 50% to save the creeks in Appalachia, what would they say?

    A perfect example of why environmental protection is all about property rights. Whatever you do to diminish property rights or otherwise increases costs in the name of protecting the environment puts a price on environmental protection.

    Once we put a price on it, it is o longer priceless.


  18. Anonymous Avatar

    "What GAO Found

    Observations on EPA’s Cost-Benefit
    Analysis of Its Mercury Control Options

    GAO identified four major shortcomings in the economic analysis underlying
    EPA’s proposed mercury control options that limit its usefulness for informing decision makers about the economic trade-offs of the different policy options. First, while Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance directs agencies to identify a policy that produces the greatest net benefits, EPA’s analysis is of limited use in doing so because the agency did not consistently analyze the options or provide an estimate of the total costs and benefits of each option. For example, as seen in the table, EPA analyzed
    the effects of the technology-based option by itself, but analyzed the effects
    of the cap-and-trade option alongside those of another proposed rule affecting power plants, the Clean Air Interstate Rule (the interstate rule),
    without separately identifying the effects of the cap-and-trade option. As a result, EPA’s estimates are not comparable and are of limited use for assessing economic trade-offs.

    GAO recommends that, prior to
    finalizing a rule, EPA take steps to address shortcomings in its cost benefit analysis to increase the usefulness of the analysis for
    decision making. In commenting
    on the report, EPA said that it plans to largely address GAO’s
    To view the full product, including the scope
    and methodology, click on the link above. For more information, contact John Stephenson at (202) 512-3841 or

    Emphasis mine


  19. Groveton Avatar

    "I don't think folks who live in Facquier or Loudoun, or Fairfax would find it acceptable to dump fill into the creeks where they live but if you told them their electricity would go up 50% to save the creeks in Appalachia, what would they say?".

    The people in Loudoun, Fairfax and Facquier don't get to elect the legislature in West Virginia. And the people of West Virginia have not seen fit to elect a legislature which outlwas mountaintop removal.

    This is the liberal's quandry. Liberals want people to be just like them. But they find out that most people don't want to be just like them.

    Larry should do a liitle more research into uranium mining. His "clean nuclear" electricity has its own set of environmental consequences. Like coal, there are uranium tailings and tailing ponds. Unlike coal the uranium tailings are radioactive.

  20. Larry G Avatar

    I'm not sure I claimed that Nukes generated "clean" power to start with.

    But… WHERE one mines coal and uranium and other materials that once exposed, leech pollution is important.

    Coal and Uranium can are are successfully and safely surface mined in arid parts of the world (on purpose!) where rainfall is much lower an the runoff can be controlled without valley fills.

    The coal in Appalachia is CLOSER than the coal from more arid but further afar…

    Coal from arid geography is used out West and in multi-hundred year abundance and via rail car to the East – for a price.

    We do have a choice.

    I suppose that Groveton thinks it was a liberal plot to remove lead from gasoline, etc eh?

    and he sure missed this part:

    " On July 9, 1970, President Nixon …. by executive order, created the EPA …"

    Now that's a liberal for you, eh?

    Today, Mr. Nixon would be considered a RINO for sure, eh?

    that goes to show you how far right – the right wing has moved…further to the right.

    But I sense that Groveton is feeling a tad guilty here because he really does know that Mountaintop Removal is real and not a liberal fantasy and that we who live in NoVa do share some responsibility for the practice.

    It's not WVA Groveton that is approving the mountain-top removal, it's the Feds now… since they took over national control of pollution in 1970, so he just chose to make WVA the bad guys instead of the mining companies.. but same basic strategy… evade responsibility and blame others.. liberals, etc… rather than accept some responsibility.

    The people who live in NoVa (including me) can pretend that it's WVA govt that's behind it but once again folks like Groveton would be just pretending that he bears no responsibility for the practice, when, in fact, if his voice was added to mine and a million others in NoVa – I'm betting that someone up in the EPA would take notice.. and have the spine stiffened and move forward.

    The Environmental folks say that if enough of us replaced our hot water heaters with on-demand tankless versions and our heating with geo-thermal units and our lights with LEDs or equivalent that we could cut our energy use substantially enough to significantly reduce the need for additional/future mountaintop removal because – it's the demand that requires more and more coal and more and more mountaintop removal to get to it.

    My basic view is to understand – to want to understand – and from that point on – think about what things might be possible to get to a better situation.

    but I do believe that all of us should not pretend that we have nothing to do with it – because we do.

  21. Anonymous Avatar

    C'mon, Larry, getting the
    best environment for th elowest price should be a non-partisand goal.

    President Reagan was the first president to require cost benefit analysis by executive order, and that policy has been followed by every president since.

    We all are responsible for what happens to the environment, and we should expect to pay to keep it clean, just as we do for our own home.

  22. Anonymous Avatar

    The Environmental folks say that if enough of us replaced our hot water heaters with on-demand tankless versions ….


    They are idiots. This is wishful thinkin and it shows why they are environmenta folks and not economists. Efficiency only delays demand temporarily and ultimately increases it. If we reduce usage the price will go down and usage will go up again.

    Sooner or later someone will want that coal and want to get it the least expensive way possible.


  23. Anonymous Avatar

    – for a price.

    We do have a choice.


    Not until we agree on how to measure costs. there is no point in having a choice if you don;t know what it is, or if you demand the higher cost choice be assumed as better.


  24. Larry G Avatar

    we already do cost-benefit analysis.

    they are not perfect and they do get criticized and changes made in response to constructive criticism.

    those who do not agree with the way they are done – have the right to make arguments to improve them.

    but the burden is on them to make their case and calling those who they presumably will make their case to – unethical liars and thieves probably won't get you a much better listen.

    You can bet that any level that the EPA sets for any permit is first opened to comments and that industry groups will make their best arguments for less restrictions and others will make their arguments for tighter restrictions and that the EPA has to justify their decisions and that if they don't or they don't do it well, they end up in court, have their standards overturned and have to start all over.

    This has been going on since 1970 and if you go back and consult the list of public laws that now apply to pollution, you'll see that most, if not all of them are still laws and still in effect.

    For instance, how many challenges have there been to the banning of lead in gasoline?

    despite all the gloom and doom that was predicted at the time the law took effect.

    Remember the hooray about how engines would self-destruct without the lead?

    we were going to be overrun with hordes of insects that would ravage our food supply if we banned some insecticides?

    In every one of the cases, there was a cost-benefit study done and comments accepted from citizens, industry groups, scientists and corporations.

    Ray is free to submit his ideas. He is free to advocate for his equation. People do.

  25. Larry G Avatar

    " Efficiency only delays demand temporarily and ultimately increases it. If we reduce usage the price will go down and usage will go up again."

    that's not what happens in the countries that do this.

  26. Groveton Avatar

    "The people who live in NoVa (including me) can pretend that it's WVA govt that's behind it but once again folks like Groveton would be just pretending that he bears no responsibility for the practice, when, in fact, if his voice was added to mine and a million others in NoVa – I'm betting that someone up in the EPA would take notice.. and have the spine stiffened and move forward.".

    Liberals love collective guilt. I don't. I believe in local autonomy and accountability. If mountain top removal is ruining West Virginia then West Virginians should put a stop to it. Period. Ditto for mountain top mining operations in Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, etc.

    You know my hatred of Dillon's Rule. You know I think localities should be able to make sthat affect them.

    Here's the problem Larry … I don't hear a majority of people from mountain top mining areas demanding that the practice be stopped. Until that happens I am not going to demand it either. I take the same medicine I give out. I don't want Del. Athey (a small town lawyer from Front Royal) leading legislation to re-design suburban sub-divisions. I don't believe he has the competence in that field. And I won't tell people from coal country how to mine coal. Because I don't have competence in that field. My bet is neither do you.

    Mountain top mining isn't the real issue here. The real issue is who ought to decide how coal is mined in coal country – the people who live there or the white whine and quiche crowd (pun intended) from Northern Virginia.

  27. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    If you look at that mine you will see it runs under what appears to be a mountain top removal operation. Wonder if that had anything to do with it?

    As for the people outlawing mining, well just keep dreaming. Mining provides money that many wouldn't have otherwise, even as automation replaces employees. Neither party wants to see that change.

    My town used to be a maintenance and switching yard for the coal trains. Members of my family worked the tracks and also mined. Strip mining closed the mines and eventually the trains went away when all the coal was gone. Then the state opened up new areas to coal companies and the leeches fanned out buying access rights from people who needed the money.

    Guys like Rockefeller string the people along and get re-elected, but you will never see them stand in the way of a bulldozer. The best you can expect is a few kind words then it's back to business until the next Mannington, Sago or Upper Big Branch.

    I've said before that I support mountaintop mining, that it provides jobs and an economy. But to be perfectly honest, I mainly support it because the workers aren't going into little holes in the ground. I support it so the churches down in the holler are spared the anguished cries of loved ones scaring the hell out of little kids, who can't understand why their favorite uncle isn't around anymore. I would have traded a hundred mountaintops just to have him back.

  28. Larry G Avatar

    I would agree (again) that a big part of this is the jobs – that are vital to any area with few other options and also that surface mining jobs are safer than deep mining jobs.

    Make no mistake though that the damage done is permanent.

    The streams that are already acid-filled have been that way for a generation or more and we're adding to the inventory.

    Perhaps it is liberal quiche to fret about the permanent loss of a stream due to acid …. that there is no redemption… no ultimate "clean up".. just a stream that kills whatever hapless critter than mistakes it for habitat.

    If that's true, then surely all this hoopla about "cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay" must appear as pure, unadulterated liberal do-gooding, eh?

    So.. acid-filled rivers in WVA are WVA's business but a polluted Chesapeake Bay or MTBE-contaminated groundwater in NoVa or creosote/anti-fouling paint in HR/TW streams is "different"?

    Groveton apparently believes that State/Fed/EPA/DEQ approach to pollution issues is inferior to local Home Rule approaches.

    perhaps he thinks the same about seat belts and nutrition labels, prescription drugs and what pesticides can be sold locally or not – also.

    If so.. we're headed in the wrong direction on this, eh?

  29. Anonymous Avatar

    "….that's not what happens in the countries that do this."

    Yes, yes, the price of fuel is depressed by lack of demand, and stating otherwise does not change the facts.

    Gas is a global commodity. Low gas prices in the US are partly a result of Europeans using less (they use a lot more diesel, however). Europeans use less not because the price of gas isn't lower, because it is.

    Gasoline is 42p per liter in England, and all the rest of the cost is tax, which artificially raises the price.

    TC = PC + EC + Government Cost.

    Although in this case what the goernment is charging is far higher than the government cost, so part of the tax belongs in Government Cost and part of it belongs in External Costs. In Europe when you buy gasoline the tax money goes into the general fund and is used for many things which are external to the cost of gasoline.

    If you want less of something, tax it. The result in Europe is that they forego the use of energy when it might otherwise be profitable to do so. The result is that Europeans produce less GDP per unit of Energy than the US.


  30. Anonymous Avatar

    Antifouling paint reduces fuel usage and co2 emissions and lowers the cost of fish.

    Everything is a trade-off. We just don't know the cost of the trade.

    With market mbased environmental regulations and correct property rights law, we would know the costs.


  31. Anonymous Avatar

    The real issue is who ought to decide how coal is mined in coal country – the people who live there or the white whine and quiche crowd (pun intended) from Northern Virginia.

    This was the same situation with Measure 37 in Oregon. Liberal Urban areas were controlling land use over much of the rural state, basically outlawing any legitimate way to earn a living there.


  32. Anonymous Avatar

    We could clean up Chesapeake Bay in a year, if we really wanted to.

    Question is, where would 3.5 million people live and work, after we make it impossible here.


  33. Larry G Avatar

    can't have it both ways. In countries that encourage the use of tankless/on-demand water heaters, they use about 1/2 the electricity as we do and your claim is that when this is done that overall usage will go up and it does not as far as I know.

    same deal with gasoline. They use less gasoline not only per-capita but also overall.


    and didn't you say that Japan uses less energy per capita but still maintains a competitive GDP?

    so it sure looks like that there are existing valid examples where conservation does not result in higher overall use.

  34. Larry G Avatar

    re: cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay for the quiche-eating liberals of NoVa, Md, Pennsylvania, and New York via the EPA vice each state having a separate idea of what to do or not to do.

    I guess I have to be more explicit in my commenting.

    1. – Somehow I do not think that even Groveton would agree with Ray (basic premise) that we could get even better GDP from the NoVa region if we stopped all these expensive efforts to keep the Potomac Clean and instead "use" the Potomac like we did in years past when we maximized our GDP by using the river as on open sewer.

    Succinctly stated – I think even Groveton and many to the right of him would side with the quiche-eating liberals to fight any efforts to return to open sewers as a way to increase our GDP.

    And according to Ray – we STILL don't know how much raw sewage is "acceptable" to dump in the river because we have not plugged it in to his equation to find out if we are at the "sweet" spot of balancing raw sewage with maximum GDP.

    2. – What NoVa decides to do or not with regard to pollution works the same way as it does to other communities upstream of NoVA.

    So if WVA decided to allow dioxin and MTBE and Kepone dumping in the upper reaches of the Potomac, it would show up in concentration in this region just as it would if one of Groveton's neighbors decided to get rid of 30 gallons of Roundup in the creek upstream of Groveton's neighborhood.

  35. Anonymous Avatar

    industry groups will make their best arguments for less restrictions and others will make their arguments for tighter restrictions and that the EPA has to justify their decisions and that if they don't or they don't do it well, they end up in court, have their standards overturned and have to start all over.

    This is precisely what I told my county supervisor, "Look, if you will pay me 5% of what you claim I'm saving you, then I'll shut up."

    Even if it is less than what I might have gotten from what you took away from me, I can still be stasified with that small a payment because I don't have to incur the risk I would have taken otherwise.

    5% is a fair return for what you claim you are saving at my expense, and it turns out it is almost exactly the profit it takes to keep this farm afloat.


    You rar entirely and completely missing the point and continue to misrepresent my position.

    You are corrrect, insudtry groups will continue to make their arguments, and we know from experience that their positions are overstated. Teh costs they actually experience after regulation are generally less than orginally claimed.

    The 1970 clean air act was an exception, because much of what it did was delay previously issued regulations when it became clear that they were (presently) unachieveable.

    So this is an example of the opposite case in which the environmental side of the house made deamnds that were unrealistic, and based on understimated costs on the environmental side.

    But what we tipically see is a cost benefit ratio that overwhelmingly favors the environmental side. Some of them so overwhelminglyh that they are hard to accept as real. I think this is part of the problem withthe current CO2 debate: the benefits claimed (Save the entire world from imminent environmental, economic and social collapse) are enormoous compared to the proposed costs (Reduce combustion by 80% for only 1% or 2% of GDP).

    My argument is fist of all that we should recognize such claims for what they are: a sales pitch rudely supported by a dubious cost benefit analyisis performed by a party with a dog in the fight.

    We can have much better and much more believable cost studies, but we don;t do it because no one takes them seriously anyway.

    That said, what we ought to do is take those studies at face value and assume that they are correct.

    So, if we have an air quality rule that costs the industry $10 billion and we claim health benfits and productivity benefits worth $100 billion, then who ees the benefits?

    Other industries and the health insurors, for starters.

    What we are saying with a cost beneit ratio like that is precisely that someone is getting subsidized at someone else's expense.

    If the benefits are that high, then we ought to be able to use some of them to make sure the costs to the polluting industry are zero.

    If the benefits are REALLY that high, then what is the objection to a Kaldor-Hicks solution?

    WELL, either the benefits are not that high or else the winners are being greedy.



  36. Anonymous Avatar

    Previous entry got scrambled. First three paragraphs belong at the bottom.



  37. Anonymous Avatar

    if we stopped all these expensive efforts to keep the Potomac Clean and instead "use" the Potomac like we did in years past when we maximized our GDP by using the river as on open sewer.

    Jesus Larry I never said any such thing, pleas stop putting lies in my mouth.

    I never, ever suggested that we stop all efforts to clean up the bay or any other part of the environnment.

    All I suggest is that we stop pretending that it is worth WHATEVER it costs, or alternatively that if we agree that A,B and C are worth speniding every cent we have on then we are not going to do D,E, and F.

    The laws of economics and the laws of the environment are inextricably bound by the laws of energy and matter. We cannot achieve zero pollution (zero entropy) with out expending infinite resources to do it.

    What I said is that SOME of the value of our environment is due to its carrying capacity for waste.

    If we spend TOO MUCH to keep it TOO CLEAN we wind up with higher costs than if we accurately value its ability to absorb wastes.

    But instead of taking an honest approach we start with the position that only pristine is clean enough, that there is no right to pollute and no reason to.

    That approach will give you one answer but it will not be the answer that gives you the best cost benefit ratio.

    It will cost you MORE money, an as a general rule MORE money means you are using MORE resources and it results in an answer that is not only more expensive but LESS GREEN than the right answer.

    Therefore, any ETHICAL environmentalist will only advocate for the search for that one best answer. That answer may change over time, so we need continuing analysis of not only the environmental gains we make, but the actual cost over time of achieving them.

    Once we have that data in place we will be in a better position to make the next round of improvements amicably instead of wasting even more energy andresources on arguing and lawsuits.


  38. Larry G Avatar

    I don't think the basic position is being represented because the position seems to be that you must have pollution up and until the point is reached that brings in the best return for the pollution tolerated.

    And then we follow that idea with the one that right now we really don't know if we're too low, too high or just right because we don't use the RH truth equation from on high.

    and of course, everything that has been done to date to determine the right balance is totally bogus because it's been done by environmentally unethical liars and thieves who have no intention of doing an honest equation.

    where have I got it wrong?

  39. Larry G Avatar

    re: "…. I don't want Del. Athey (a small town lawyer from Front Royal) leading legislation to re-design suburban sub-divisions. I don't believe he has the competence in that field. "

    You must be speaking of the UDA legislation – which will likely have little effect on places like Fairfax ..because they already support density and lots of it.

    The UDA law is driven as much by the development community as anyone else and what it says in a nutshell is that each country must set aside enough density to accommodate 10 years of growth – the minimum required density being 4 units to the acre and the growth horizon – based on historical census data (look back).

    It's classic command and control from the State and I actually agree with Groveton and I think it's ironic that it has support from the development community which is often well representative with conservatives who favor less govt and less command&control govt unless of course a place like Fauquier and/or other counties decides that they're targeting a lower rate of growth and they will not designate by-right density but rather use it as a bargaining chip for having some control over the scope and scale and type and who will pay for the required infrastructure.

    we're just back from our annual spring canoe trip – 5 days on a remote river where we're bath in the river and poop in the woods… and make sure that every piece of clothing that we own is fully saturated with campfire smoke.

    Lots of wine this trip – which pretty much kills an ambitious ideas attempting to paddle a lot of miles each day.

    The primary goal when paddling is to find the right kind of a sandbar… gently sloping for the baths but close enough to the woods for a short-hop latrine visit.

  40. Anonymous Avatar

    I was just listening to the Kojo Naamby show and he had a discussion with a couple of foresters discussin gthe future os Southern Foprests. They noted that since 1979 the forest canopy in Fairfax had decreased from 72% to 46%, but in Loudoun County it has actually increased.

    That's because in Fairfax the dairy business that fluorished until 1945 declined and forest took over. But in Loudoun, development took place directly on farmland, which had no trees, but which were planted in the newly developed areas.

    They went on to say that 80% of southrn forest is privately held and the owners are over 55 years old. So the discussion turned to what would happen next. Frequently the younger generation has urbanized and have little interest in the land.

    One forester said he always tried to convince owners of the value of the land so it could be put in conservation easement, but he frequently ran into resistance.

    But the second forester ran down a list of prooducts that the forest produces, only one of which the owner gets paid for. His take was that in order to preserve our forests we would have to pay for the services they provide through things like water credits and carbon sequestration in addition to the periodic income that comes from logging.

    You would have thought his comments were written by me.

    My ideas on market based conservation are not bizarre, they just have not been adopted, yet.



  41. Anonymous Avatar

    everything that has been done to date to determine the right balance ……..

    Nothing to date has been done with that goal in mind.

    Environmentlaists and industrialists alike approach every confrontation with the idea of what is the most I can get.

    And no, I never said that only environmentalists are liars and thieves. It cuts both ways and boths sides contribute to coming up with answers that are wrong and cost us more than necessay.

    However, as you point out, for the elast 30 years environmentalists have won most of the battles. My assumption is that we have made some legislation that points in the right direction but could have stopped much sooner, or achieved the same results less expensively.

    I don't see any environmentalists suggesting that we go back and revisit prior cost benefit estimates to verify that they are still correct. You don't see any conservationists suggesting that we go back and reconsider the value of land that was previously placed in conservation easement.

    And why should they? They whole point of conservatin easements is that they are permanent: you never have to admit to a mistake.


  42. Anonymous Avatar

    The UDA law is driven as much by the development community as anyone else …..

    By some of the development community. Of course the big developers like it: it represents a huge barrier to entry and takes out entirely the individual owner.


  43. Anonymous Avatar

    having some control over the scope and scale and type and who will pay for the required infrastructure.


    It has nothing to do with infrastructure and everything to do with who will own and control the open spaces.

    "My plan for your property…" he told me……


  44. Larry G Avatar

    I think you need to differentiate between forestry and Silviculture because "trees" can and are planted and retained for decorative purposes rather than productive purposes.

    I suspect most of the trees in Loudoun are not there as a harvestable crop which I see quiet often in my neck of the woods where, fairly routinely, a hundred acres or more is "harvested" and the land basically looks like a bomb hit it… and is highly unpopular with the folks who bought 5-acre plots for their family homes.

    I continue to advise people to spend time in rural areas on the old U.S. Routes… not the interstates where one's perspective of land and what it is and is not used for is totally different than the quiche-eating perspective in NoVa and environs.

    there are 40,000 square miles in Va – that's times 640 acres per sq mile – more than 25 million acres – much of it in fallow fields and forest. Forest can bring a handsome amount of money if one is willing to whack it down and spend the next 10,20,30 watching it slowly regrow.

  45. Anonymous Avatar

    "…overall usage will go up and it does not as far as I know."

    You haven;t looked very hard. Show me anyplace where total electricity usage has gone down, and it isn;t related to a general decline in the economy.


  46. Anonymous Avatar

    I think you need to differentiate between forestry and Silviculture because "trees" can and are planted and retained for decorative purposes rather than productive purposes.

    Foresters call this urban forestry.

    Such trees grow, mature, and eventualy need to be harvested. Urban forestry is a specialty in demand because frequently you find specimen trees of species not found in the forest.

    Urban forestry needs special skills and equipment (and insurance) to take down a tree in crowded conditions, but on the other hand you do not need to build logginf roads.

    Uban foresters actively work to spot the right size tree in the right location. EMR should love that.


  47. Larry G Avatar

    Europe and Japan and Australia?

    they use much less electricity per capita than us..

    you claim that if that happens it leads to overall higher use and I do not see it…

    how can they use 1/2 what we do and still use more ?

  48. Anonymous Avatar

    "Forest can bring a handsome amount of money if one is willing to whack it down and spend the next 10,20,30 watching it slowly regrow."

    And your point would be?…..

    The forester specifically made the point that tree harveting occurs in 10 or 20 year cycles (You don't just whack it down, except in special circumstances, as advised by your forester.)

    So you as a business get paid once every ten or twenty years, but the grocery bills and tgaxes come due every year. It is precisely to ease the cash flow problems that plagur landowners that new compensation plans are being developed.

    Government cannot afford to buy all the land we migh wish to preserve, and besides it is cheper to rent than to own. But then, every rental needs a caretaker, and he expects to get paid.

    Nop pay, no caretaker.


  49. Anonymous Avatar

    they use much less electricity per capita than us..

    Wrong. We have been through this and I have show you the data.

    Japan uses less electricity per capita and produces more gdp per capita, but it is almost and isolated case.

    All of the major European countries that use less electricity per capita also produce less GDP per capita, and in fact their energy efficiency: what they produce for what they use is less than ours.


  50. Larry G Avatar

    the point being that you don't grow and harvest trees in subdivisions and urban areas because the trees are valued for their visual not their product.

    People who grow and harvest trees expect to spend 10,20,30 years looking at what looks like a battlefield while the trees slowly re-forest.

    It's not something your average suburbanite is going to support nor appreciate.

  51. Larry G Avatar

    nope. you said that conservation leads to MORE use, not less.

    make your point or retract it.

    people in Europe, Japan and many other countries conserve electricity and use less of it than we do and it has not led to increased use per your claim.

  52. Anonymous Avatar

    "Total world consumption of marketed energy is projected to increase by 44 percent from 2006 to 2030. The largest projected increase in energy demand is for the non-OECD economies.

    The current economic downturn dampens world demand for energy in the near term, as manufacturing and consumer demand for goods and services slow.

    OECD energy use grows slowly over the projection period, averaging 0.6 percent per year, as compared with 2.3 percent per year for the emerging non-OECD economies."


    It grows more slowly, but it still goes up.

  53. Anonymous Avatar

    "Net electricity generation worldwide totals 31.8 trillion kilowatthours in 2030 in the reference case, 77 percent higher than the 2006 total of 18.0 trillion kilowatthours. The strongest growth in electricity generation is projected for the non-OECD countries. Non-OECD electricity generation increases by 3.5 percent per year in the reference case, as rising standards of living increase demand for home appliances and the expansion of commercial services, including hospitals, office buildings, and shopping malls. In the OECD nations, where infrastructures are well established and population growth is relatively slow, much slower growth in generation is expected, averaging 1.2 percent per year from 2006 to 2030."


    US cconsumption or growth in consumption is the least of our worries.


  54. Larry G Avatar

    that was not your point.

    you said that conservation leads to more use – not population growth.

    prove your point or admit that you're wrong.

    using LESS energy to make a product, by the way, means a HIGHER rate of productivity, not lower.

    if you can make twice as many widgets for 1/2 the electricity, then you've INCREASED your productivity.

  55. Anonymous Avatar

    the point being that you don't grow and harvest trees in subdivisions and urban areas because the trees are valued for their visual not their product.

    Oh really?

    I made around $1500 two years ago harvesting urban trees, and that was purely part time. Believe it or not, it is an actual occupation.

    There isn't a month go by that I don't see some gorgeous tree being cut up for scrap and firewood. What a waste of resources.


  56. Larry G Avatar

    " I made around $1500 two years ago harvesting urban trees"

    you're not "harvesting" a tree for it's product guy…

    you're removing something that is no longer wanted or in the way and as you said the wood product is not valued except perhaps as fireplace fodder.

    you're confusing tree removal with silver-culture.

  57. Anonymous Avatar

    "…using LESS energy to make a product, by the way, means a HIGHER rate of productivity, not lower."


    Not if you are making less product. Eurpean countries make less product for each unit of energy than the US does. Despite the massive amounts of energy we use onaly a few countries use theirs more efficiently.

    European energy use is still growing and not only because of population growth. It is growing because new uses for electricity occur every day. European usage increases as they become more efficient at producing goods. They use more electricity because they produce more goods which they can sell at a lower price.

    Right now that happens slowly in Europe because high taxes discourage investment that will not make a return. The price of electricity in Europe does not reflect its cost. There is very little value added in Europe because they have a Value Added Tax.

    When was the last time you saw an Austrian refrigerator or an Italian stove or a Swiss water heater at sears?

    If you want less of somthing, just tax it.

    Don't claim that taxing the bejeezus out of energy saves you money because you use less energy.


  58. Anonymous Avatar

    you're not "harvesting" a tree for it's product guy…

    Why am I bothering then? Of course I want it for the product? What else?

    I'm still using the stuff I cut up because I built a barn out of it. I created something entirely out of scrap and then the county taxed me for doing it, and taxed me every year since! Just for owning my own sweat and blood.

    you're removing something that is no longer wanted or in the way

    How is that any different when I take a mature tree out of my forest? I don't want it there any more and it is in the way of the smaller trees.

    Just because a tree fell on my house doesn't mean I'm not going to cut/saw it up and use it.

    Do you really not understand anything, or do you just like to make foolish arguments?


  59. Anonymous Avatar

    I can't take a tree out of the forest without making amess any more than the mainers can take coal. The only difference is that I'm only ony guy. The scars I make are smaller and they heal faster.

    Otherwise the process is the same: you can't make something out of nothing. To make something out of anything other than nothing you will use stuff up and you will put in money, effort, and risk.

    I'm no different than Wal-Mart. The less stuff I put in the cheaper I can sell it, the more I sell the more stuff I use.

    Unless government taxes me to a halt.


  60. Larry G Avatar

    the foolish claim is that people actually plant and grow trees in urban areas for the express purpose of harvesting them as a business that provides wood products.

    that's not only foolish but bizarre but par for the course with much of your nonsense blather.

  61. Anonymous Avatar

    I never made that claim. But anyone that grows a tree ought to make plans for its

    There are, however, sawyers who work exclusively in urban areas who do cut timber for productive uses. I know two sawyers that mainly cut only antique lumber, recycled from warehouses and barns.

    And there are foresters who work exclusively in urban areas to promote tree growing and to see that they are put to productive use when harvested.

    My own forays into urban areas have been minor, but we are still talking multiple truckloads of lumber. Big trucks.

    From my experience working there I could easily have picked up a lot more customers, but I have enough to do.

    For one customer I simply took my sawmill to him and trained him to use it. He had over fifty logs to saw, sitting in his back yard.

    For another customer, I sawed up two good size trees and sold himm the lumber when finished.

    Aside from urban sawyers there are also other tree services that recycle trees that are insufficient or too damaged for production of lumber into other wood products such as wood pellets, hardwood mulch, and engine3ered wood products such as OSB and particle board.

    "Using wood from urban trees, and the extra effort this entails, is easily justified by respect for the material and by a deep aversion to seeing it treated as waste." There are a number of groups that started as non-profits to promote recycling of urban forests which were so successful they became profit making enterprises.

    The California Dept. of Forestry has purchased five bandsaw mills and five portable kilns to have on hand to loan to local governments, non-profit organizations and private firms who are willing to explore this work, buld park structures, donate to habitat for humanity, etc.

    Some of these people would have been better off to just go buy what they need, but they would miss all the fun and the material would go to waste.

    Waste not, want not.

    I will say one thing, though. Bucking a 4500 lb log isn't for everyone. And dropping a big tree adjacent to someones home isn't for the faint of heart, either.


  62. Anonymous Avatar

    You don't know blather from experience.

    I once gave my resume to someone and after he read it he said, "Have you actually done all this stuff? "


  63. Mimi Stratton Avatar
    Mimi Stratton

    **rolling eyes**

  64. Anonymous Avatar

    I know, I thought it was silly, too. I haven't done half of what I would have liked, and all the stuff I've done seemed perfectly normal to me.

    Ever see someone frozen, catatonic with fear? I know plenty of people who have seen that, and to them it is a normal expected reaction.

    But it isn't something everyone sees, by a long shot, or ever wants to. Especially if they have to take over.

    Ever set off a hundred pounds of explosives in an oil well?


  65. Anonymous Avatar

    "Note to Environmentalists: Economists are on your side.
    There is a tendency among some environmental writers to dismiss “classical”, “traditional”, “neoliberal”, or “mainstream” economics as somehow inimical to environmental interests.

    The problem is that more often than not these writers get the facts wrong.

    It’s almost as if the knee-jerk aversion to economics that exists among many environmentalists prevents them from acknowledging the truth: that mainstream economics is very much on their side. While criticizing economics may help them polish their leftist credentials and demonstrate the contrarian-independent thinking that grabs headlines, it ultimately leads to sloppy thinking. "

    From environmental economics.

    This has beenthe crux of my arguments here. Larry thinks my ideas are bizarre (even though they are not mine), aand I think his ideas are the result of sloppy thinking.

    I believe sloppy thinking leads to higher costs, and higher costs (for policy anyway) is neither green nor ethical.

    But at least Larry will talk about it. EMR is hopeless.

  66. Anonymous Avatar

    Intesting articles in this week's Time magazine on ultra trace chemicals in our water: plastics and pharmaceuticals.

    Also on Denmark's green power initiatives.


  67. Anonymous Avatar

    Mitsubishi bought a reef and built it out into an artificial island, a kilometer long, so the company would have a base for undersea coal mining operations in the area. And for many years, it was the world's most densely populated place, with 85,500 people per square kilometer in 1959 — and 135,000 people per square kilometer in the densest areas. The name, Gunkanjima, is Japanese for "Battleship Island," because the artificial island resembles a battleship when seen from the ocean. The island was completely closed down in 1975, when the coal ran out, and now it's quite possibly the world's largest ghost town. It looks like a dark fortress, its shadowy walls looming like death.


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