Creation Care—- and Clean Coal???

Creation Care—- and Clean Coal??? August 9, 2011

Don’t you just hate it when you get lied to by advertisers?  Shouldn’t there be a law that says that if statements are demonstrably false, they should not be able to be put in a TV commercial.   If only it were the way things worked.

I live in a coal state, a state which depends on the coal industry for a lot of its blue collar jobs.   And yet the coal industry knows perfectly well that it has a major PR problem.  The pay for coal workers in eastern Kentucky is generally speaking pathetic, especially when you discover the level of profit taking of the owners of the coal mines.   And the job is enormously difficult and dangerous.   Besides that, its a hazard to one’s health—- if you have ever run into someone with black lung disease or emphysema caused by working in a coal mine, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Then there is the untold ripping off of the employees of the coal industry. When I was working in the mountains of N.C. one time as a VISTA aide, I ran into a man who worked in a strip mine.  He had to borrow the tools he used to have a paying job, borrow them from his employer.  And one day when he left the tools on a coal cart during lunch break and they were stolen, it was he who had to pay for this,  with his meager pay check being garnished.   This was a disaster because the man had more than a few children.

And what about the level of safety in coal mines these days— is it much better than in the past?   I’ll let you look up the number and scope of coal mining disasters in this country in the last ten years and you can draw your own conclusions.  Such are the trials and tribulations of those who mine coal in the South and elsewhere.  Cue Sting’s song ‘They Mine the Black Seam’.

But what has really frosted my cake lately about this dirty business, is that the coal industry continues to advertise ‘clean coal’  indeed they even have a propaganda site to promote how they are doing things cleaner and neater these days.   WORD UP.  This is a straight up deception.  There is no such thing as clean coal. If you bother to do the research you will discover that while hypothetically there is technology that could produce ‘cleaner coal’,  in fact there is not a single plant or coal company in the country producing real clean coal today.  Not a single one. We have been snookered, so that the coal industry can continue to do what it has always done,  make a profit out of one the dirtiest forms of energy in the world.   My wife the environmental scientist and biologist regularly has Mallox moments whenever she sees coal ads on TV.

If this were not enough, there is the powerful coal lobby in Washington  (check out the many ads and politicians who have been paid off so they will merrily claim they are ‘friends of coal’ and urge us to be ‘friends of coal’ as well).   This past week,  while we were in debt ceiling  and debt reduction gridlock and somebody figured we would not notice,  “coal’s friends’ in the House of Representatives were busily trying to gut the environmental laws so that they could go back to mountain top removal, as a means of getting at that coal!

Have you ever been in an airplane and seen the ecological devastation from mountain top removal?  I have.  It”s really unbelievable this could be legal, and the worst part of all this is that is that it is totally unnecessary. There are much more efficient and better ways to get at the coal without devastating the forests and tops of mountains.    And frankly it is also not true that such a practice ‘creates many jobs’.   Wrong,  mountain top removal is basically done by dynamite and machines, not by manual labor.   I doubt it creates many new jobs at all.  One of my new favorite bumper stickers reads—- “Naked Mountain Tops are Obscene”.   Right on brother.

If all the millions that have been spent on lobbying and advertising for the coal industry had actually been spent on developing alternative energy sources, we would all be better off.    And our air would be cleaner as well.  But there are some people determined to make sure that we do not develop alternative energy sources until we have burned every bit of fossil fuel we could possibly dig up or pump out of the ground.  How short sighted.   It is also a strategy which will prevent us from leading the world forward when it comes to energy.

The coup d’ grace for me however was when the University of Kentucky here in Lexington quite happily took millions from the coal industry to build a new dwelling place for our pampered athletes known as the Wildcats on the condition that the building have a name that advertised it was a building built by the coal industry!  Sad and pathetic.

Why do I care about all this?    Simply because I am a Christian who believes that we have a responsibility to care for this beautiful world that God has bequeathed us.   Human beings are about the only creatures who foul their own nests, and coal helps us keep doing it.    Creation care is part of the task of being ‘tenders of the earth’, part of the originally mandate, the original creation order plan  of God.     So, the bottom line is—- no more lies,  no more deceptions about the fossil fuel known as coal.     The next ad I want to see from the coal industry in Kentucky, doing more than lip service to the necessity of truth in advertising would go like this—-

” Coal– its bad for the air, bad for your lungs, bad for our employees, bad for our forests, bad for the climate, and its black as Hades, but heck, it burns doesn’t it and we need it to make money.  Sure it’s a dirty job but we believe someone has to do it.   Remember, if you get lumps of coal in your Christmas stocking, its a punishment for bad behavior,  not a reward.  This has been a public service announcement.”

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