Monday, July 29, 2002

I'm glad to report that I didn't spend my entire vacation reading. While I largely ignored the books that I had dragged up to our vacation destination, I did manage to polish off a half-dozen magazines. Consequently, I have been thinking a lot about coal lately.

One of joys of traveling north was that it was an escape from the humidity and the dangerous smog of Southwestern Ontario. Incidently, the Ontario government shamlessly blames the United States for our poor air quality days. But, according to the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, much of our air quality problems are our own. Let me set this up for you. When the Ontario government issues a "smog advisory", a number of municipalities (including Windsor) react by putting into place spare the air actions, such as notifying the public and encouraging use of public transport, reducing the use of gasoline-powered equipment, and refraining from refueling city vehicles.

Also on smog days, the Ontario Power Generation (OPG, formally Ontario Hydro) creates electricity for export using coal-fired plants to create the equivalent of the smog pollutants from 2.4 million cars. Exported to the United States. Ahem. And OPG is still under the jurisdiction of the Ontario government. Ahem.

OPG runs five coal-fired generating plants: Lakeview (Mississauga), Nanticoke (Lake Erie; largest coal-fired generating station in North America) , Atikokan (Northwestern Ontario), Lambton (Sarnia; where I believe the electricity to fuel this pretty computer before me comes from; #2 polluter in Ontario) and Thunder Bay (Northwestern Ontario).

And coal is bad. Who says so? The Economist for one. They called it "Environmental Enemy No. 1" ....

There are three reasons for calling for such an energy revolution. First, a switch to cleaner enegery would make tacking other green concerns a lot easier... The second reason is climate change... The third is the most pressing of all: human health.

From the same July 6th-12th, 2002 issue in "Blowing hot and cold" :

According to Michael Grubb of the Carbon Trust, a British quasi-governmental body, the long-term problem is coal. In theory, we can burn all of the conventional oil and natural gas in the ground and still meet the most ambitious goals for tacking climate change. If we do that, we must ensure that the far greater amounts of carbon trapped as coal (and unconventional resources like tar sands) never enter the atmosphere.

Coal takes all the enviromental benefit out of your brand new hybrid electric car.

The above link goes to an article from the lastest issue of This Magazine (July/August) which is dedicated to the idea of getting off the grid. I liked the issue but it didn't give me enough info how to stop my coal dependence without retrofitting an old van or setting up my own wind-powered turbine myself. The Ontario Clean Air Alliance has a factsheet for coal-free electricity but its only for governments and corporations.

Will do more research and will let you know.

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