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Safety measures for coal mines may cost money, but so does poor safety. Massey Energy (soon to be sold to Alpha Natural Resources) took a net loss of $166.6 million last year. The company made more than $100 million in profits last year, and had higher revenues last year.

The reason for the loss–the Upper Big Branch disaster.

The April explosion focused attention on the company’s record of safety violations and drew intense scrutiny from federal mine safety regulators. Massey has cited the increased oversight, an ongoing mine disaster investigation and resulting production declines as reasons for its losses. The company also blamed its lower productivity on difficulty in finding enough mine workers.

In the last quarter of 2010 alone, the company’s losses totaled $70.1 million.

 

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NPR is reporting:

The Labor Department took an unprecedented step against a Kentucky coal mine Wednesday, asking that a federal judge shut it down immediately to protect the lives of those who work there.

In filing for a preliminary injunction in U.S. District Court, the government cites persistently dangerous conditions in Massey Energy’s Freedom Mine No. 1 in Pike County. The action — the toughest enforcement action available to federal regulators — would shut down the mine until safety hazards are addressed and Massey Energy demonstrates it can operate the mine safely.

 

National Geographic has a story about clean coal. It seems that the federal government is putting up money to test technology that could (possibly) keep carbon out of the air. But without legislation requiring plants to keep carbon out of the air, energy companies aren’t interested in using the technology.

This has led some critics to ask if carbon capture experimentation funds wouldn’t be better spent on searching for ways to generate energy that do not produce as much carbon or require natural resources to be mined, drilled etc.

“You can build a small number of demos, but seriously deploying? It doesn’t have a future without legislation,” says George Peridas, a scientist in the Natural Resources Defense Council climate center. “Unless the finance community has a certainty about what will happen in the policy domain, they won’t go there.”

NRDC parts ways, to some extent, with environmental groups that reject carbon storage outright, arguing that the mining of coal is too damaging or that the huge investments required would be better spent on energy sources that don’t emit carbon in the first place. NRDC has advocated more research on CCS, although the group has been critical of coal industry efforts to block the very climate legislation it sees as essential to spurring the huge investment that is needed.

Opposition to climate legislation indeed proved effective, as repeated efforts to refashion a bill narrowly passed last year by the House failed to garner the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster in the Senate.


The U.S. Psychotronic Association is holding a conference in Louisville next month. The group is headquartered in Louisville and is focused on “The science of mind-body-environment relationships, an interdisciplinary science concerned with the interactions of matter, energy, and consciousness.”

Our basic premise is that ESP is a natural occurrence. We seek to understand how it occurs, and to use that understanding for the benefit of mankind. USPA is not an experiential group; our orientation is towards the technical and scientific aspects of Psychotronics and its practical applications, merging the esoteric/spiritual and scientific worlds. Quantum mechanics has provided a “scientific” basis which allows the existence of psychic phenomena and unconventional energy effects. Members are on the leading edge of the new paradigms in science – theory and instrumentation. This is the physics of 2100.

I’ve heard a few people make this comparison, so here’s a clarification: While the USPA discusses energy fields and their relationship to human consciousness, it is not related to Freedom From Covert Harassment and Surveillance, which held a press conference with former Democratic mayor candidate Connie Marshall earlier this year.

Is the increase in the market for natural-gas electric generating stations evidence that coal is on its way out as a power source? The Rural Blog has a summary of recent stories which suggest just that.

This week Siemens Power Generation Groupannounced that it “has won contracts to supply five new high-efficiency gas plants to Progress Energy at two sites in North Carolina that have old coal-fired generators,” Matthew W. Wald ofThe New York Times reports on the paper’s Green blog. “It is also replacing old gas-fired plants in Florida.” The six Progress plants are among the 11 coal-fired plants the company owns that do not have scrubbers. Progress says it will eventually close all 11.

What do you think? Is the market driving out coal? At the same time, the EU could be driving out gas.

In case you missed it earlier, The Environment Report produced a nice documentary on the future of coal in America and you can listen to it here.

Coal: Dirty Past, Hazy Future “explores the role that coal plays in our lives and in the lives of those who depend on coal mining for a living. Can coal truly be a viable option in the new green economy?”

Metro Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh is hosting a workshop Monday evening to help Louisvillians cut down on energy bills.

From the press release:

Monday, February 8th
5:30 pm: Meet and Greet with snacks
6:00 – 7:30 pm: Workshop
United Crescent Hill Ministries, 150 South State Street
Each 1 1/2 hour workshop includes:
• An introduction to Project Warm Services
• A discussion and swap session on energy saving tips and techniques
• Hands on demonstration of how to install interior window covers on drafty windows
• Distribution of FREE supplies (plastic, tape, etc)
• Door Prizes

With LG&E’s requests for rate increases, the down economy and growing environmental concern, these forums could become more and more common.

Last summer, Stephanie reported on biotech breakthroughs with tobacco plants. Particularly, tobacco can be genetically manipulated and used to help cure diseases.

Well, tobacco can also be combined with e.coli and used to generate solar power.

From Hack-a-Day:

By genetically engineering a virus they have shown that the two can be used to grow solar cells. Well, they grow some of the important bits that go into solar cells, reducing the environmental impact of the manufacturing process.

Once a tobacco plant is infected with the altered virus it begins producing artificialchromophores that turn sunlight into electricity. Fully grown plants are ground up, suspending the chromophores in a liquid which is sprayed onto glass panels to create the solar cells.


With almost any power generation project, there’s a lot of NIMBY-ing. (Or at least accusations of it).

NIMBY means Not In My Backyard. The idea is that a community favors an idea like a new power plant or grain silo, but opposes having it built–literally or figuratively–in their backyard.

This piece on Boing Boing points out a new trend with NIMBY and wind power. It seems that plans to build wind turbines often face opposition, which planners write of as NIMBY-ing, even though it’s actually good old-fashioned naysaying. People who favor wind power don’t tend to mind having turbines nearby. People who oppose the idea don’t want turbines in their backyard, or anywhere.

In other words, what we call NIMBY is less about what people do or don’t want in their backyards, and more about people in and out of the community using the backyard as a flashpoint for national opposition. If you’re in favor of wind, you’re likely to be in favor of it in your community. If you oppose wind, you’ll oppose it in your community. But the specific location of the wind turbines isn’t really a huge factor in your decisions.

Read all about it here.

Has rock music been getting worse? Have you spent the last two decades buying fewer records and more gasoline?

Good magazine has this graph from the correlation is not causation department. It seems U.S. oil production closely mirrors the worldwide production of songs deemed “classic” by Rolling Stone magazine.

The spikes in 1956 and 1957 are eerie, but if oil production really followed quality music, then we’d still be fueling up on deposits tapped in 1996, shortly after the release of Beck’s Odelay.

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