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Refuse Allegiance to Coal

Posted on Nov 23, 2009
AP / Oded Balilty

Miners shovel coal next to a power plant in northern China, a country that, together with the U.S., accounts for more than a third of the world’s carbon emissions.

By Chris Hedges

There are some 614 coal-fired power plants in the United States, and it is up to us to shut them down. No one in the White House will do it. No one in Congress will do it. And no one at the coming U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen will do it. We will build local movements to carry out acts of nonviolent civil disobedience to halt the burning of coal, or the polar ice caps will continue to dissolve, the Greenland ice sheet will disappear, the glaciers in the Alps, the Himalayas and Tibet will melt, and widespread droughts, rising sea levels and temperatures, acute food shortages, disease and gigantic mass migrations will envelop the globe. We are killing the ecosystem on which human life depends. One of the major polluters is coal, which supplies about half of the country’s electricity. NASA’s James Hansen has demonstrated that our only hope of getting our atmosphere back to a safe level—below 350 parts per million CO2—lies in stopping the use of coal to generate electricity. We are currently at 390 parts per million carbon dioxide.

“The world political system is not about to keel over and give us a treaty that will get us to 350 parts per million anytime soon, or in fact do anything of great note,” the writer and environmental activist Bill McKibben told me when I met him in New York City. The author of “The End of Nature” and “Deep Economy” said: “The news that the Obama administration had punted on the Copenhagen talks is discouraging. The good news, to the extent that there is any, is that we finally have the beginning of a real global movement about climate change.”

McKibben and his group,, this year organized perhaps the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history: On Oct. 24, people in 181 countries joined in calling for environmental reform. But such popular calls for change have largely been ignored by the leaders of industrialized nations. The climate crisis will be solved by widespread and sustained civil disobedience or not at all.

“There were no celebrities, no rock stars, no movie stars,” McKibben said of the October protest. “People were rallying around a fairly obscure scientific data point, and the 25,000 pictures or so that have come into the Flickr site from the 5,200 events in 181 countries make it clear that the canard that environmentalism is something for rich white people is crazy. It is mostly something for black, brown and yellow people and mostly something for poor people. We are all going to bear the consequences before very long, but Bangladesh and places like Bangladesh get it first. This is why it was so great to see them heavily involved. We have about half the countries in the world that have endorsed the 350 [parts per million] target. Unfortunately they are the poorest countries on Earth. They will not carry the day at Copenhagen or anywhere else, but they have begun to challenge the right of the rich countries of the world to submerge them, burn them up or whatever else.”

There are five countries that are responsible for over half of fossil-fuel-related CO2 emissions. The United States and China alone account for more than a third. We in the U.S. have been the world’s largest emitters for more than a century, although we have now been overtaken by China, where growth in emissions has been driven by a rapid increase in coal consumption. China is currently opening an average of two coal-fired power plants a week. Emissions there have more than doubled since 1990. The burden to act rests on us, our major trading partner and a handful of other highly industrialized nations.


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“The average American family uses more energy between the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve and dinner on Jan. 2 than the average Tanzanian family uses all year,” McKibben said.

The projected rise of sea levels, as much as six feet this century and 23 feet if the Greenland ice sheet disappears, will submerge coastal nations such as Bangladesh, a country of 160 million people, as well as places such as the Mekong Delta, the Maldives and the Marshall Islands. The disappearance of glaciers in the Himalayas and on the Tibetan plateau—glaciers that feed the Indus, Ganges, Yangtze and Yellow rivers—will create catastrophic water shortages and devastate the rice and wheat harvests in China and India, where about four of every 10 people live. World food prices will rise dramatically. If we can’t save countries such as the Maldives and Bangladesh we will also be unable to save Venice, Hawaii, the Netherlands, New Zealand, London, Hong Kong and Manhattan. But don’t expect much from Barack Obama and other leaders in the industrialized world. Their loyalty is not to the planet, or to us, but to the oil and gas industry, the coal industry and the huge corporate polluters who own them.

“Even the inadequate bill before the Congress has been postponed until the spring,” McKibben said, “which in my political calendar is a little too close to the election to be very comfortable. We are getting no leadership from the president, rhetorical or otherwise. All the problems are obvious. The only good news is that there is finally something that looks like the glimmer of a movement.”

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By prosefights, November 26, 2009 at 7:32 pm Link to this comment

Altenergy may be BS aka fraud?

Sunlight 200 Btu per hour per square foot

Wind 75 Btu per hour per square foot of wind turbine swept area in 22 mile per hour wind.

Biomass 7,000 Btu
per pound (value is for switchgrass)

How many BTUs to gather Biomass?

World dependency on coal for electricity is scary.


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By christian96, November 26, 2009 at 4:11 pm Link to this comment

Well, I placed a call for creativity earlier but
got no takers.  On “turkey day” creativity was
silenced by food, food, and more food. So I’ll
take up the challenge myself.

“Old King Coal was a merry old soul, and a merry
old soul was he,
congress is corrupt, whle the wealthy cry out the
world revolves around we.”

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By 9circlesofhell, November 26, 2009 at 11:03 am Link to this comment

Congress is irrelevant ... let’s get very well acquainted with that and adopt it as
the mantra of the civil disobedience movement.

Again, Congress is irrelevant ... say it ... own it ... share it ....

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By Night-Gaunt, November 26, 2009 at 9:28 am Link to this comment

We need to be be able to do the same with less or more with less. We have so many energy vampires in our technology and that is a waste unless you can generate more than you need and not pollute the planet you live on. It would do much for our society at large and the civilization as a whole using LEDs (Light Emitting Diods) which accomplishes the same as an incandescent bulb but use only 4% of the energy to do it without the excess heat generated. Also neon light is also an energy miser (designed by Dr. Nichola Tesla to show up Edison‘s improved light source.)*

It isn’t an Aristotilian yes or no, on or off problem no matter how it is portrayed by the energy vampires of endless Capitalism. Not at all.

*Edison did not invent the electric light bulb, he found a longer lasting better functioning filament to burn inside it. The first bulb was invented in 1842.

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By christian96, November 26, 2009 at 12:50 am Link to this comment

Old King Coal was a merry old soul and a merry
old soul was he…............

Let’s have a creativity contest.  Complete the
previous sentence to the best of your old creative

Happy Thanksgiving!  Pray for the turkeys.  Bad
day for them.

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By Gloria Picchetti, November 25, 2009 at 8:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Yes, yes, yes! Coal is wrong & we must stop using it. (Oil also) Wind & solar are the future. Please stop saying, “Global warming.” Half the people do not believe it. Let us stick to standard speak, “Conservation, ecology.” The more we use the GW word the more they shut down on all logic to save the environment.

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By berniem, November 25, 2009 at 4:56 pm Link to this comment

No matter what the planet will continue to spin & rotate for a very long time with or without homo sapiens or any other form of flora, fauna, flotsam, and/or jetsam. If we continue warming the planet many will perish from a myriad of causes. If we do manage to reverse our present course we will then continue to rapidly expand global population, and, guess what?, many will perish from a myriad of causes. Face it gang! Humankind functions on GREED! Or enlightened self-interest if Ayn Rand is to be believed. Unfortunately, this greed tends to make us myopic and narrow minded which results(all together now) in self-destructive behaviors fueled by our stupidity. But back to the original topic, don’t shut down the coal powered electric plants; BLOW UP THE MINES!(your chances are about as good).

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By Randy White, November 25, 2009 at 4:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Maybe people should just boycott electricity.

You laugh now, but you will employ it later.

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By mandinka, November 25, 2009 at 12:09 pm Link to this comment

as usual the tree hugger are out in force. It’s truly amazing that they continue to spout there nonsense. Name 1 environmental construct that has ever panned out and done some good. Here again we have someone saying ban coal plants and then what??
We can’t build nuclear power plants, if we had stayed on the path we were on we would have already met the Kyoto agreed reductions. But oh nooooo the environmentals won out.
We need to drill for our own security, but environmentalist would rather we import from unstable countries and risk our soldiers lives, or better still provide other countries money to drill so we can add to our debt and reduce our jobs at home.
Renewable energy has been around since the 1970 and it is unreliable to be considered part of the grid so spending all the money we continue to do for something that is impractical is futile.
Time to let the adults take over and let the tree huggers sit in the corner and take their naps

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By TAO Walker, November 25, 2009 at 12:04 pm Link to this comment

Eurasia2012’s “back to the stone age” comment is a notion that never fails to amuse us here in Indian Country.  The plain fact is homo domesticus has never gotten out of the stone age….nor ever will so long as they remain prisoners of their adored “industrial” CONtraption, which is literally CONstructed out-of and run-on processed rocks and ‘rock’-oil.  Face it, there’re only four “things” here to use, anyhow….Earth, Water, Fire, and Air.  You get them ruined all-at-once turning coal into electricity into mind-numbing flickering images on ‘liquid-chrystal’ screens.

Meantime, the tormentors CONtinue to have their “way” with our tame Sisters and Brothers even while destroying (with their own half-witted help) everything those captives profess to hold dear….including their own artifactual “selfs.”  Some believe you need only wake-up “....your huddled masses” to the dire immensity of their shared plight to have them respond coherently and with mutually beneficial effects to its terminal threat.  Unless, however, they also get past the infantile paralysis of their anal and oral fixations (ala Freud), they will only awaken to the horror of their own helplessness in the face of forces beyond both their comprehension and any ideological/institutional/electro-mechanical CONtrol.

Waking-up and growing-up practically over-night may seem beyond the ‘realm’ of possibility….especially at this late date.  It would be, too, were it not for the presence here of a remnant of free wild Human Beings never taken-in by the fatal seductions of “comfort” and CONvenience, and also the aid of those among All Our Relations who’ve so far avoided the worst of the “global” managers’ vicious efforts to domesticate them.

All of the industrial-strength depradations doing-in the inmates of “civilization” will stop before long….one Way or another.  The “question” CONfronting the Two-legged ones is whether they will certainly perish as “individuals,” or re-FORM their hapless “selfs” into functioning Human communities having the organic integrity necessary to “weather” the shit-storm that IS the catastrophic collapse of the command-and-CONtrol apparatus keeping them all CONfined to poverty and induced stupefaction “the stone age.”

It is a “choice” as starkly obvious, it seems to this old Savage, as it is bound to be terribly difficult for those still blissfully ignorant of the pressing need to make it.


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By prosefights, November 25, 2009 at 10:28 am Link to this comment

Here’s a good source for HEAT IN for various sources.

1 kWh = 3412.14163 BTU.

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By Night-Gaunt, November 25, 2009 at 10:28 am Link to this comment

I find it highly suspicious the timing of this “revelation” of supposed e-mails hacked etc. I have yet to see any data saying that this is real and not a hoax itself to kill any chances of stopping the globalists from continuing their rape of the planet for fun and profit. You know—-CONG and company who profit now from the status quo for over 100 years and counting. I would like plenty of independent sources to go over the e-males and study the people who claimed to have hacked it and how they did it and to see where they got it. Also to check to see if those e-mails are genuine but forged to make them seem real. Like taking real money and washing off the ink then reprinting with higher denominations to more easily pass as real. Don’t you get it? Alex Jones is of the same mind set though he claims to be against the very powers that are using this to continue profits and poisoning the planet. Too bad for us if we lose this chance to clean up our collective act.

Nothing is established in anything Eurasia2012 but you are eager to take it all in because it fits your prejudices and point of view.

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By Eurasia2012, November 25, 2009 at 8:58 am Link to this comment

Mr. Hedges is apparently unfamiliar with Climate Gate, so am directing his
attention to where he can find an abundance of
information to make it more than clear that much of the global-warming “hype” is
a big scam intended to line the pockets of the likes of Al Gore and the
“globalists.” It has just been revealed that key scientists working for the IPCC
manipulated their data and went on witch hunts for global-warming/climate-
change dissenters. In fact, why do you think that the terminology got suddenly
(and without any explanation) shifted to the phrase “climate-change”? Mr. Hedges
would clearly like to send the US back to the “stone-age” and it is one thing to
talk about getting rid of coal, but absolutely insane to do this without making sure
that there are viable alternatives in place. This is like the people who want to cut
traffic in a city in Los Angeles, but don’t seem to have a clue that to do this you
need a viable public transport system.

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By groundresonance, November 25, 2009 at 1:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

god and ten dollar gas

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By gerard, November 24, 2009 at 2:54 pm Link to this comment

Regarding coal processed for gas, here’s one that should be suspect:
  Energy companies are paying people in destitute Appalachian towns to receive “fly ash” containing arsenic and other questionable chemical remains formerly “contained” in dumpsites that can no longer “contain” the refuse. Or they are allowing the “ash” to get into local water supplies.
  Ambitious companies trying to save the coal “market” are promising “beneficiation” of the ash—their word for further “treating” the poisonous elements.  In my book, anybody who invents a word as barbarously corrupt as “beneficiation” should be suspect out of hand. As it was rather recently preceded by “collateral damage” and “war theater” and “unmanned aerial vehicles” (drones), we ought to all be onto that game by now.

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By montanawildhack, November 24, 2009 at 8:58 am Link to this comment

I’ll tell you what we can All do to help the Earth——become Vegetarians….  I’ve been a vegetarian for 30 years…  I purchase eggs and cheese from a local small farm- not the evil factory farms…  Young folks sleeping outside for a few weeks ain’t gonna do shit….  This is the same generation that sits on the sidelines and lets 2 illegal and immoral wars go full bore…  “I can’t protest the Zionist wars or I won’t get a job on Wall street or at GE making more better cluster bombs. Has anybody seen my Nike t-shirt?” 

Give me a fricken’ break…..

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By thebeerdoctor, November 24, 2009 at 5:21 am Link to this comment

Where from? Professor Peter Raynes, professor of opto-electronic engineering at the University of Oxford, who says modern LCD screens use a similar amount of power to bulky old cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions.
I am speaking of Liquid Crystal Display. not Light Emitting Diode television.
Any competent engineer will tell you that power efficiency ratings becomes nearly moot if a television is left on in standby mode.

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By thebeerdoctor, November 24, 2009 at 5:04 am Link to this comment

With this war on coal. a forum has been provided to advocate allowing the increase use of nuclear power. Said former Greenpeace activist Stephen Tindale: “It really is a question about the greater evil—nuclear waste or climate change. But there is no contest anymore. Climate change is the bigger threat, and nuclear is part of the answer.”
You have to marvel at the glib, humourless certainty of such a statement. Which is also why liberals can be at times, completely full of it. I guess Mr. Tindale no longer has a problem with nuclear waste, just as long as it is not dumped in his backyard.

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By Inherit The Wind, November 24, 2009 at 5:03 am Link to this comment

Where did you ever get the idea that LCD and LED tvs use more electricity than CRTs?  It’s simple to disprove: Tubes put out far more heat than LCDs or LEDs.  Plasmas PER SQUARE INCH of viewing area put out far less heat than tubes, but it’s true—the average plasma uses as much elec as the tube it replaces—only it’s far, far bigger.

I think Hedges call for protest is correct, but for civil disobedience, ESPECIALLY when he omits “peaceful, non-violent” from his call is very wrong.

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By Inherit The Wind, November 24, 2009 at 4:56 am Link to this comment

It seems strange to me (and probably to other TDers) that I’m not going to blast Hedges on this article.  His point is deadly serious: regardless of other consequences and costs, continued use of coal-fired power plants is catastrophic to the ecology—the air we breathe and the ability of the atmosphere to protect us from the violent rigors of solar rays.

There’s lots we can do—and I’m as guilty as the rest of us.

Yet what has happened in America?  In 1981, Ronald Reagan, upon arriving in the White House, promptly had the solar panels on the roof removed.  And that has been the Republican view of energy saving ever since. Their ONLY concession to clean energy is nuclear power—right after 3 Mile Island.

Have we seen hydrogen development? No, despite BMW having a successful hydrogen-fueled car.  Why? The usual bullshit excuses.  1) there’s no infrastructure for H2 (it hasn’t been built) 2) it uses more energy than it produces.  I like this excuse—because it’s used ESPECIALLY for H2 produced from…fossil fuels.  How DUMB is that?????

Every high school kid knows you can make H2 by cracking ordinary H20—water.  Does it use more energy that in produces? Sure, but if you use your wind and solar power to produce it, Who Cares—most of THAT power is not only wasted otherwise, it’s inconsistent.  Converting wind and solar to H2 allows that power to be both portable and storable.

Geothermal:  There’s more than one way to skin a cat. In one of the great ironies of our time, Ex-President George W. Bush has one of the most energy efficient homes of any current or former leader. His house in Crawford uses a great new technology called a geo-thermal heat pump.  Unlike long-discredited heat pumps that don’t work when the air temp is below the mid-40’s, the G/T uses the constant temps underground rather than air for its supply of heat—where the temps are normally in the mid to high 50’s.  A G/T can use a deep well when land is scarce(which will make the well-drilling business happy—it’s not just for drinking water anymore!) or it can be shallow, as in a 4’-6’ trench if you have a lot of property. It can even be at the bottom of a pond!

Even simpler: in most of the lower 48 states energy savings can be reduced by equivalent of taking half the cars off the road by….painting our roofs white.  Yeah, just that simple.  Again, HS physics.  White reflects light and heat, lowering your A/C bill by about 20% for the same cooling.

Want a heated swimming pool? I’m totally solar—my pool is heated virtually for free.  And if the pool gets too warm, just run the system at night and it cools the pool down.  Need more heat than solar panels provide? There’s a new system that runs the pool water through the hottest part of your house’s attic.  It pulls that heat out of your attic (making it easier to cool your house) and uses it to warm your pool.  Another way to heat your pool? Get a water-cooled rather than air-cooled condenser and use the pool water for the cooling.  Or, if you MUST have on-demand heating, get a pool heat pump rather than a natural gas or LP pump. 

These are only some of the things we should have CONTINUED from Jimmy Carter’s visionary predictions of over 30 years ago, but didn’t on the alter of Republican “free enterprise”.

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By miller, November 24, 2009 at 2:22 am Link to this comment

Although I agree with the sentiment and spirit of
this essay, I view the problem of coal-fired plants
as a symptom of a far bigger dilemma.  That dilemma
is overpopulation. Until our gross overpopulation and
insatiable appetite for all resources are abated,
eliminating coal use will do little or nothing.  The
imagined charms of living in a green utopia, no coal,
no plastic, no pollution, is a fantasy.  Who among
the readers of Truthdig are willing for forgo hot and
cold running water, central heat and grocery stores
located every few blocks?  The answer to that
question is precisely why our overuse of all natural
resources will continue unabated.

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By thebeerdoctor, November 24, 2009 at 12:43 am Link to this comment

It is strange that new technologies do not provide the “greener” energy consumption they are first touted for. You would think the transformstion away from CRT televisions would be, as Martha Stewart might say, “a good thing”, until you discover that newer televisions consume more power than their cathode ray parents. In the case of plasma, much more, and surprisingly, so is Liquid Crystal Display, because the size of those screens continue to become bigger and bigger.
Isn’t energy consumption what this is really about? `I remember before I experienced anything with computers, I, as a complete beginner was told “You never turn off your computer”. Of course this was Apple and Microsoft speak, since their blessed OS’ took too damn long to “reboot”, so it would only “sleep” in standby mode. Never mind that Linux OS UBUNTU figured out how to turn the whole system completely off, and turn it back on and up in running in under a minute. Does anybody fathom how much less energy would be used if people had their computers completely off, instead of in energy vampire sucking standby mode? But of course, these considerations do not have the prerequisite drama contained in confronting a corporate power structure built largely on consumer created desires.
In reading Hedges’ call to arms, he mentions Kentucky poet and farmer Wendell Berry as an ally of the cause.
Never mind what Mr. Berry has said about the war on tobacco, or the region’s need for viable pork production… such reality based perceptions need to be airbrushed out of Professor Berry’s resume, so as to not offend the more “morally righteous” found in their fledgling movement.
As a kid, my family lived in an apartment that was apart of an old house, where actual coal was used to heat the furnace. It would be delivered by a dump truck during the fall, and as a young one I watched the chunks tumble down a shoot into the “coal room” in the basement. My father and the other tenants would have to fire up heat, just like a stoker in a ship hold, to keep us from freezing during the winter. The same process occurred at my local elementary school, with its massive autumnal delivery.
From such actual experience, I find the title “Refuse Allegiance To Coal” rather strange. As kids we use to sometimes jump on that pile of coal in the basement, before going out to watch the cars on the busy road we lived on, where we breathed the exhaust fumes of leaded gasoline.
This all happened before. “Previous previous previous,” as Van the man Morrison might say, before progressive rock music, before colour television, when computers were as big as a house, in order to perform the calculations being done by a solar panel calculator, that I hold in the palm of my hand.
There is plenty of knee jerk response on the Left as well as the Right. Do the people who have the ways and means to afford a Toyota Prius, even consider what environmental impact those electric batteries will have, even as they applaud, as I do myself. the enormous reduction in emissions from this great hybrid engine? Which only points out that there is plenty of loss and gain when using alternatives… does anybody remember returnable bottles, before the word recycling was ever used?
It seems to me that complaining about China’s coal consumption is rather gauche, when you consider that you are talking about a nation that less than half a century ago, had a population where 50% were faced the immediate danger of starvation. How strange that a country that once was an industrial powerhouse (remember US STEEL?), who then abandoned production for the more lucrative occupation of being a service economy, now complains that the workers who supply the fortune for Walmart, also require an increase in energy consumption. How dare they actually have needs!

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By christian96, November 23, 2009 at 11:25 pm Link to this comment

As I read and listen to scientists on both sides
of the fence present their case I am not sure coal
is the culprit it’s being portrayed to be.  There
does seem to be ice melting but cause/effect has
not been clearly established.  Some make a good
case for the sun being the culprit.  There were
no coal generated electrical plants the last time
we experienced the ice melting.  What caused it

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By LostHills, November 23, 2009 at 8:35 pm Link to this comment

Getting off coal is one of the most important tasks that we face. We can do it. All
of the alternatives are in our hands today. All we lack is leadership and political
will. Leadership has got to come from the citizens themselves on this issue,
because the politicians have all been bought off.

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By huntress, November 23, 2009 at 7:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Congress writes laws:and doesn’t follow them; Judges follow this Corrupt system; USA set up China this way in 1949: peoples republic of dictatorship democracy. Targeting and harming people is the way: and ‘democracy’ means the PEOPLE must PAY!
Fascism is here; and sadly heads of countries have accepted they get trillions to blow: the people will never have a thing: and the “world council” is named Monsanto, Dow & Halliburton.
When the PEOPLE overthrow SLAVERY to CORP GREED: which is set up by CONGRESS: in every nation: THEN and ONLY THEN will JUSTICE be restored; Laws are ONLY for the books: and runs from Fed, to St, to county, to city: and the only “freedom” anyone has is the freedom for anyone anywhere anytime to do whatever they want: and nothing will ever be done about it.
All infants that LIVE in the USA have thyroid problems from chemicals in the food chain: most of the time they are killed: as toxins fill our homes: from paint, to tile, to countertops, to carpeting, drapes, laundry soaps, etc: NOTHING will STOP the cycle of TARGET and HARM sadly: not even people.
Instead they march off to every nation setting up this same “dictatorship” they dare to call “democracy.” Millions of children starving to death in the USA: while Hillary C & “politicians” blow over $100,000,000,000.00 a month: dominating the “food” line in almost every nation: and the oil: and no one cares enough to say: STOP this insanity.

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By ed_tru_lib, November 23, 2009 at 5:21 pm Link to this comment

Just a quick note to say how interesting and valuable, not just as commentator but leader, Hedges can be when he puts his rabid-dog antisemitism away and deals with a matter within his understanding.
Great points made and so well expressed. Chris, how come you can see corporate-inspired evil so clearly here, and not in Hamas?

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By JimM, November 23, 2009 at 3:53 pm Link to this comment

Freewill-the same is idiotically true in South Florida, of the hundreds of burgeoning new(and now being foreclosed) homes and “developments”
going in there, I have not seen a single home with solar panels. This in the Sunshine state.

It IS all about money, so when people can produce energy cheaper, (with their own systems), rather than buying it at greater cost from the electric utility,then a market is created for home energy systems, and eventually dirty energy becomes largely irrelevant. Can we ever accomplish this?

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By Jim Morse, November 23, 2009 at 3:22 pm Link to this comment

ExxonMobil is a coal company?

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By Carl, November 23, 2009 at 3:12 pm Link to this comment

Once again, around 6% of American coal is exported to nations like China that burn it in old dirty power plants. Why should we shut down plants and export our cheap coal to China to burn and pollute even more?

This is step one! Ban the export of American coal! Even warming skeptics should agree that America should preserve a limited resource. Then if we get Australia to do the same, China will be pinched and forced toward renewable energy, at China’s expense, so we all have cleaner air.

This is something that Congress may endorse.

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By TAO Walker, November 23, 2009 at 3:04 pm Link to this comment

It could be there is actually a method to the corporatist “energy” MADness….to-wit:  transforming the ‘climate’ of Earth to accommodate non-native species needing a “global greenhouse” to survive.  Homo domesticus, in this “scenario,” would be analogous to the yeast employed by people to convert the sugars in fruit juices and other things into alcohol, killing theirownselfs off in the process….this demise brought-about by suffocation in their own intoxicating industrial waste-products.

Of course it is the proud CONceit of the domesticated peoples that there just isn’t anything around able to do to them what they so slap-happily inflict every moment of every Day on “....the (y)east among them,” to clarify a word-of-caution attributed to the christian god/man.  No one here in Indian Country would ever bet anything we can’t afford to lose on such a patently idiotic and hubristic proposition.  There are sure-as-hell bigger fools in this Living Universe than the penny-ante ‘players’ among our tame Sisters and Brothers here now in these latter days.

If a civil disobedience “movement” is the only response available to the captive peoples, then they might just as well “eat, drink, and be merry,” instead, because the command-and-CONtrol apparatus is already programmed to over-ride ruthlessly anything and everything “....your huddled masses” might attempt in the way of actively derailing the project.  Anyhow, all those people traveling to demonstrations will only exacerbate the “problem” they want to “solve.”

On the other hand, there is a Way that has a chance of actually accomplishing what Chris Hedges here urges as the only viable alternative for “life as we know it.”  This approach has the additional virtue of allying the Human Beings who follow it with our Mother Earth and all the rest of Her Natural Children, in-keeping with the given organic function of Humanity in Her efforts to maintain Her own organic integrity in the face of a CONcerted effort by wannabe parasites to destroy it….and Her….and all of us.

Genuine Living Organic Human Communities have no need-of nor any use-for the the toxic effluent of industrial “civilization.”  The damned thing’s stink alone is enough to keep fully functional Human Beings from having any part in it.  It is only manufactured “individuals” who are suckers for the false promise held-out by our tormentors.  It’s the oldest CON in the-book….“sleep with me, baby, and i’ll make you a god.”

So our tame Sisters and Brothers better get together, alright, where they live-and-breathe, and start helping not their own silly selfs but each other.  It’s the one thing that offers them a chance to live through the CONtraption’s self-destruction, and the one thing its operators have no law-enforcement “answer” for….perhaps explaining why so much of their propaganda is intended to keep that the very last thing the inmates will imagine to do.

It’s The Tiyoshpaye Way.


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By FreeWill, November 23, 2009 at 2:18 pm Link to this comment

I’ve been living in South Carolina for about 10 years.  When I moved down from Nova Scotia I was stuck by the fact that virtually no one was using solar energy in any way.  Hey folks this is sunshine city and mild winters so what’s up with that? Clearly all the domestic hot water requirements could easily be met with solar collectors.  Yet, Ken and Barbie with their swimming pool and hot tub, aren’t interested in solar.  I brake it down to: stupidity, affluence, and a general attitude of not giving a shit what impact, what you are doing, will have on any one else.  It’s the same attitude we have just seen play out with the financial institutions.  The all for me, greed society in high gear. It is the rich and affluent that consume more than their share of the resources ( just like America’s position in the world) that are burning up the planet.  We need controlled limits on how much energy each person can use. If you want to use more you pay heavily for it and those funds are put into developing renewable energy.  It’s not the poor guy who is struggling to pay his light bill that’s the problem.  It’s people like Bruce Willis who burns $20,000 a month worth of diesel, every month of the year, just to heat one of his Caribbean island swimming pool.  Weather he is there or not!  Do you think anything is going to change that under the totally unregulated greed feed Capitalistic system we call democracy?

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By Jon, November 23, 2009 at 1:26 pm Link to this comment
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“China’s power sector has been expanding at a rate roughly equivalent to three to four new coal-fired, 500 megawatt plants coming on line every week.. most of the new plants have been built to very high technical standards, using some of the most modern technologies available.. [but] market pressures encourage plant managers to buy the cheapest, lowest quality and most-polluting coal available, while at the same time idle expensive-to-operate smokestack scrubbers or other cleanup technologies.. “the kinds of technology currently being adopted in China are not cheap. They’re not buying junk, and in some cases the plants are employing state-of-the-art technology.” The Chinese state has substantially improved its ability to implement and enforce rules on technology standards. It has been slower, however, to develop such abilities for monitoring the day-to-day operations of energy producers.

China’s installed coal-based electrical capacity was 484 GW, or 77% of the total electrical capacity, in 2006.

(as of 2004) China is the dominant player. The country is on track to add 562 coal-fired plants - nearly half the world total of plants expected to come online in the next eight years. India could add 213such plants; the US, 72

“But coal remains the cheapest energy source in China by a wide margin. China has the world’s third-largest coal reserves, after the United States and Russia.
“No matter how much renewable or nuclear is in the mix, coal will remain the dominant power source,” said Ashok Bhargava, a China energy expert at the Asian Development Bank in Manila.

“The National Energy Administration has approved a plan allowing China Datang Corp, the nation’s second biggest power producer, to construct a $659 million wind farm facility that will generate 400 megawatts. At $0.10/kWh, it will pay for itself in about two years.

That’s all.

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By G., November 23, 2009 at 1:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To Night-Gaunt,

If you research it, you will find wind power is highly subsidized while coal is not.  I happen to have some turbines on my property and a relationship with the local power station, so I have first hand knowledge of the subsidies.

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By Night-Gaunt, November 23, 2009 at 12:55 pm Link to this comment

If we would stop subsidizing Coal,Oil,Nuclear and natural Gas then we can get somewhere with the other sources like solar, wind, geothermal etc. which are being starved and suppressed. Until then CONG still reigns supreme and takes the lion’s share of money they shouldn’t get at all. Only new technologies need subsidies not centuries old tech. Nuclear is just plain idiotic since it is directly tied to nuclear weapons. [Remember Iran?]

We need to close the dirty, poisonous coal plants as soon as possible. The process is replace and close down not just close down as some of these prevaricators falsely claim like G ,Me& Carl gibber. Typical Straw Man attacks—-so easy and so wrong.

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By Me, November 23, 2009 at 12:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I admire Chris Hedges and find his books a source of moral wisdom.  However, this column is just plain nuts.  Shut down coal-powered electric plants—and replace them with what?  Candles and campfires?  Plants burning coal, oil, and natural gas account for 76% of US electrical production.  Has Chris Hedges got an alternative for us?  Cold fusion perhaps?  Hamsters running in exercise wheels?  Hasn’t Chris Hedges heard that the science of climate change is enormously more complicated and far less certain than the “it’s melting, it’s melting” foolishness presented in his column?  How strange that a smart, insightful man like Chris Hedges can fall for crack-pot pseudo-science.  Get to a science library, Mr. Hedges, and start educating yourself.

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By Carl, November 23, 2009 at 12:01 pm Link to this comment

This article is the type of insane gibberish the coal companies love. No solution, just mindless protests. If you want to protest, shut off the electrical box outside your home.

If you want to make a serious impact, push to items the coal companies fear. Ban the export of American coal, and more hydroelectric power.

Hydroelectric Power is Renewable Energy    
By Carlton Meyer  

Despite concerns about rising energy costs, air pollution, and global warming, there is no effort in the USA or the UK to expand their largest source of renewable energy—hydroelectric power.  Wind and solar power now provide almost 1% of America’s electricity, but neither method can provide power on the scale to replace coal-fired power plants.  Nuclear power seems promising, yet there is not enough concentrated uranium on Earth to fuel reactors in the future.

Natural gas power plants were favored the past three decades since gas was cheap, plentiful, and much cleaner than coal.  However, natural gas is not a renewable resource and reserves have diminished, sharply driving up costs.  As a result, American utilities are burning more coal, and 154 new coal-fired plants are on the drawing board in 42 states. Coal now accounts for about 50 percent of the power generated in the U.S. By the year 2030, that share will increase to 57 percent, according to Energy Department forecasts.[1]

While environmentalists are quick to denounce this trend, they ignore the most viable alternative.  Hydroelectric power provides the majority of the world’s renewable energy and 10% of America’s energy needs, down from 50% a century ago. The U.K. generates just 1.1% of its electricity from hydropower, down from 2.6% in 1990. In contrast, hydropower provides all of Idaho’s electric power, while Canada generates more than the USA.  Expanding hydropower is the most practical alternative to fossil fuels, yet no effort is underway.  In contrast, a group called “Friends of the Earth” is proud that 465 dams have been removed in the USA.[2] 

Hydropower is not purely clean as dam construction consumes energy and filling the reservoir causes the release of some methane as foliage decomposes.  Nevertheless, once a dam is constructed, it provides clean, cheap, renewable energy. This fact is ignored in debates about renewable energy, and even denounced by groups that oppose dams because they alter the environment.  It is true that dams are usually over budget, often involve political kickbacks, and never provide all they promise, yet they provide drinking water, recreation areas, flood control, and cheap, clean, renewable energy.  This is why China is building a dozen massive dams.

The value of hydropower is often dismissed for dubious reasons. Some claim that all good hydropower sites have been developed, yet offer no studies as evidence. In reality, detailed plans for dozens of new dams have been proposed in the USA, but remain unfunded or blocked for political reasons.  A few anti-growth scientists assert that hydropower is actually dirty, and have produced misleading studies to support their view.[3] They claim that rising and falling water levels produce methane from waterside foliage, but fail to mention this already occurs in lakes and rivers.
The rest of this article can be read here:

Perhaps Truthout will reprint this

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By G., November 23, 2009 at 11:59 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Coal power has, and will continue to be the most significant driver in the U.S. economy and your day to day life. The food that you eat, the clothes you wear and the house you live in, would not be economically available for most of us if it were not for the low cost energy provided by coal.

Instead of fighting coal, have you considered work ‘with’ coal?  Until electricity can be massively stored, coal will continue to be the largest source of electricity in the world.  Solar and wind power will not be able to provide the MW, stability and reliablility needed by industry to produce the goods you and all others use daily.

Unless you start running through the woods, with no clothes on, chasing a rabbit for your dinner, I can’t take you seriously.  Until then, you comments are just hypocritical.

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By prole, November 23, 2009 at 11:38 am Link to this comment

“There were students from every campus. The biggest contingent came from Clark in Wooster. The prize was whoever brought the most students got to have me sleep in their tent.”...Wooster?...all the way from Ohio? or is it just that McKibben’s Boston accent makes WORCESTER sound like Wooster? Who knows, maybe it is worth the trip from Ohio to get to sleep with McKibben. “McKibben and Berry are right. Nonviolent civil disobedience is the only tool that might work.”...good thing McKibben wasn’t in his hometown of Lexington a couple hundred plus years ago when “the shot heard ‘round the world” was fired. The colonists who waged America’s revolutionary war didn’t use nonviolence to achieve independence.  The first American revolution was precipitated in part by the Boston Massacre in the winter of 1770, just around the corner from the Common where the protestors were camping out. 
    “I don’t fancy myself up to the task of figuring out how to shut them all down”...but you do fancy yourself up to the task of figuring out how to generate new sources of energy to replace them? It wasn’t so long ago that Massachusetts and much of the rest of the country was embroiled in a very active (including C.D.) - and effective - mass protest movement to shut down nuclear power. Will that battle have to be re-fought again if coal is abandoned and nukes come back in favor? Unfortunately, energy consumption and all the electronic gadgetry powered by electricity continues to grow by leaps and bounds everywhere. No one could even read this article on Truthdig without it. Maybe it would be better to return to a simpler, more pastoral way of life such as existed in colonial America when no one thought much about the oil and gas and coal under their feet and civil disobedience was not the philosophy of choice. Sadly, the population bomb has rendered that option a little unwieldy. But, hark! Another message about the viability of coal has recently come from Boston, too. In the last issue of Boston Review, the subject was accorded a more positive spin, albeit cautiously: (

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By T. Ashcroft, November 23, 2009 at 11:34 am Link to this comment
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I don’t believe the vast majority of U.S. residents will voluntarily make the drastic lifestyle changes neccessary for significant reduction in coal consumption.  Our’s is a society of consumption, and without fundamental societal change we will attempt to maintain and expand that consumption at all costs.

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By JimM, November 23, 2009 at 11:15 am Link to this comment

Any non violent movement resisting the Powers that be will be infiltrated by paid provocoteurs who will attempt to discredit the movement by using violence.
Here in Pa, King Coal reigns supreme. However, our electric rate caps are coming off soon, which will result in a major increase in consumer prices for electric. I am seriously looking into a solar and/or wind system before this happens, and will use federal, state and local credits to offset the cost.
By greedily raising the cost of electric, the utility companies will screw themselves out of profit as more and more turn to sustainable energy as a long-term cheaper alternative. Best thing Obama can do is maintain and even increase the federal subsidy so this happens. A new push for sustainable energy technology could make it competitive with dirty energy throughout the world and esp. US, China and India. as more people can afford to buy and install individual systems.
We lost so many years when the Repugs gleefully knocked the solar panels off the white house roof when Reagan took over. This repulsive self serving act set the stage for decades of inaction. It will take decades, which we dont have, to recover from this via market forces.

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By rbc, November 23, 2009 at 11:08 am Link to this comment

I agree that fossil fueled electrical generation plants are a problem. “Close down the coal plants” does not offer a solution to the problem. In order to solve the problem you must offer alternatives. I don’t see anyone offering any practical alternatives to coal fired plants. What alternative do you support, solar, wind, tidal, extreme conservation, or any combination that will replace the power generated by coal? Offer me an alternative that is practical; realistically practical. Which alternative is technically feasible, financially feasible, efficient, and politically acceptable enough to replace the coal fired plants that are now in place.

Offer that alternative and you will probably become wealthy beyond imagining and be in line for a Nobel Prize.

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By Guy, November 23, 2009 at 10:21 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

OK, let’s break this down a second. Electricity is actually extremely simple to produce. All it requires is heat, which converts water to steam, which in turn pushes turbines, which generates electricity. Underneath the Earth’s core are layers of magma, molten rock so hot that even when it seeps onto the surface of the planet and cools as lava it can severely burn a person from several feet away. This heat is always present.

Geothermal energy has been proposed as a heat resource to create electricity that is completely renewable and 100% clean. Now let’s think about this: obviously there are logistical problems involved, like finding places where the earth’s hot mantle is close enough to the surface that we can drill down deep enough to make use of this unlimited heat source. But if we can drill on the floor of the ocean deep into the earth to retrieve oil, then WHY THE FUCK CAN’T WE USE THIS COMPLETELY RENEWABLE POWER SOURCE?!!?!?? I am not a scientist, but common sense dictates to me that there is no reason other than the proto-fascist, neo-feudal state Mr. Hedges so often cites.

Widespread adoption of geothermal electricity would mean the total eradication of “scarcity,” the fulcrum of capitalist economics. We could build 100-story sky-scrapers with hydroponic food grown on each floor using LED lights sources, all this without any carbon emissions. One of these super green-houses would probably be enough to supply food for an entire mega-opolis metropolitan area. While we are protesting the coal plants, lets also DEMAND THE OBVIOUS - DEMAND GEOTHERMAL ENERGY. The technology exists and there is no reason not to.

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By Hulk2008, November 23, 2009 at 10:20 am Link to this comment

As long as the conservatives can feed a steady stream of sound bites opposing climate reform, there will never be cutbacks in fossil fuel use.
    Our only hope is for a miracle science breakthrough in energy production that leaps over or around all existing sources - and it has to be an ultimately simple solution - one that an infant could understand.  Remember that it’s only been a year since the mantra of “Drill, baby, drill”.
    Even such a breakthrough would be opposed by conservatives - just as transistors were once resisted (pun intended - there was a huge investment in vacuum tubes that took years to overcome).

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By Jack Stevenson, November 23, 2009 at 9:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In re: Your article about closing coal-fired electric power plants

  So, you advocate turning off the airplane’s engines.  Then what?

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By C.Curtis.Dillon, November 23, 2009 at 8:52 am Link to this comment

Listening to so many deny any global warming or climate change has pretty much convinced me that the only real way to get the urgency across is, unfortunately, to let the warming happen and then to say “I told you so”.  Of course, that doesn’t really correct the problem but it is the most realistic way this disaster will progress.  Far to many, both leaders and followers, are prepared to “let it ride” and see what happens.  There is no leadership in America.  And countries like China and India think they should be allowed to spew their pollution for a while just so they can live the good life like us.  Given this state, I think is highly doubtful any meaningful reductions are possible.  Most countries are talking about 20% which only delays the inevitable.  We need to significantly reduce CO2 and methane emissions to have any chance of stopping the problem and letting the planet heal.  But I just don’t see that happening.  Very few understand just how drastic a lifestyle change is needed to stop the warming.

As for the question of my carbon footprint, I live in Eastern Europe in a 60 square meter (600 square foot) flat.  No car ... totally into buses.  And a family of 3.  We are pretty good at keeping our emissions down.

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By Alphysicist, November 23, 2009 at 8:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think it’s Worcester, not Wooster.

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By knobcreekfarmer, November 23, 2009 at 5:59 am Link to this comment

First, let me state that I am in no way an advocate for coal. I believe we are collectively
killing our planet, ourselves and hope for future generations with just about everything
that can be categorized as “the economy.”

But I wonder how many of the progressive intelligent readers here at truithdig realize just
how much “power” our society demands. How much we personally use. Each one of us is
currently sitting in a warm house, apartment or other shelter. We are all using a
computer and there are lights on. Perhaps a refrigerator, coffee pot, TV is humming away
somewhere nearby. Oh sure, we’ve all replaced our light bulbs with more efficient ones
but come on folks, what are YOU really doing to reduce you energy

Here is a really depressing fact. I’ve recently discovered, in my planning for a 3-4 kWh
solar system, that a grid tie alternative energy system requires power from the grid! So
even people personally willing to drop $15K on a “green” energy system are dependent
on the a coal fired grid!

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By Susan, November 23, 2009 at 5:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is absolutely correct—especially about nonviolent protest, and in your “Sunday best.”  I am 60, a participant in college anti-Vietnam protests.  The youthful rebellious aspect, and the violence, that was a part of those protests, gave power away to those who were ready and willing to discredit the movement.
  I’m hoping now to see a protest and civil disobedience movement that is informed by these mistakes, that is calm, respectful, and massive.

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