Unaccounted for costs of Fossil Fuels

Discussion in 'Too Hot for Swamp Gas' started by enviroGator, Feb 6, 2014.

  1. enviroGator
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    enviroGator Well-Known Member

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    This site likes to debate the cost effectiveness of clean energy vs. conventional fossil fuels. Most environmentalists argue that fossil fuels wouldn't look so good if "external" costs - i.e., costs due to environmental damage - were factored in.

    Often the debate is over global climate change which is a complicated issue and certainly hard to prove. Other impacts, such as air and water pollution may be noted.

    Here in NC we are getting a display of one of those hidden costs - coal ash ponds. An ash pond has sprung a leak and is poisoning a major river.

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/coal-ash-spill-nc-river-contained-22384415

    "Since the leak was first discovered by a security guard Sunday afternoon, Duke estimates up to 82,000 tons of ash mixed with 27 million gallons of contaminated water has spilled into the river. Officials at the nation's largest electricity provider say they cannot provide a timetable for when the leak will be fully contained, though the flow has lessened significantly as the pond has emptied."
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2014
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  2. enviroGator
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    enviroGator Well-Known Member

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  3. g8orbill
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    g8orbill Gators VIP Member

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    it happens
    they will clean it up
  4. enviroGator
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    enviroGator Well-Known Member

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    I agree with this.

    Not so much this.
  5. g8orbill
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    g8orbill Gators VIP Member

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    well let's hope they will do so
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  6. gatornana
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    gatornana Administrator

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    The problem is that it's difficult if not impossible to clean up.......cheaper and easier to cover it up like the BP gusher.

    That is what has always disturbed me about the "drill, baby, drill" mentality.......life is not that simple. It just not a matter of if they have an accident or spill, they'll just clean it up. Once the environmental damage is done, it's done.


    http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/82-000-tons-coal-ash-spill-plant-north-carolina-river-n23401

    But the company's statement did not provided a timetable for when the leak will be fixed. And regulators are still trying work out if the ash, which can contain toxic chemicals, including lead, arsenic, mercury and radioactive uranium, is a hazard to people or wildlife, The Associated Press reported Thursday.


    Brian Williams, a program manager with the Dan River Basin Association, told the AP he is worried that the extent of the damage might not be understood for years.

    "How do you clean this up?" he told the news agency. "Dredge the whole river bottom for miles? You can't clean this up. It's going to go up the food chain ... Everything in the ecosystem of a river is connected."
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  7. Emmitto
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    Emmitto VIP Member

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    Great topic Enviro. Coal ash is indeed the underbelly no one wants exposed. 130 million tons a year produced. A decent chunk goes into "beneficial use" like dry wall, concrete, road fill, etc. but 70M tons or so go into ponds and impoundments and tick...tick...tick...

    And the charming "beneficial use" tag is sketchy too. Ask the residents around Battlefield Golf Course in Chesapeake.

    It'll have to be dealt with in a meaningful way eventually. For now, out of sight out of mind. But if you live near a coal-fired power plant then you live near a massive ash pond. Just don't think about the uranium, arsenic, lead, mercury, or any of the other 70 or so elements leaching into the ground water.

    BTW, the EPA is set to rule on ash late this year. Most sane observers see it as a hazardous waste (Class C). But EPA has been fighting tooth and nail to call it non-hazardous (Class D). And obviously the power and money is behind the latter.

    Perhaps one way to more accurately reflect the cost would be to ship each person on the grid their portion of coal ash each year. Use it in your garden or spread it on the lawn. Let the kids wallow around in it. It's harmless!
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  8. Emmitto
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    Emmitto VIP Member

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    Same story, but getting a little more run. It's amazing how something like this isn't front and center.

    http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/09/us/north-carolina-coal-ash-spill/index.html?hpt=hp_t2
  9. oragator1
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    oragator1 Premium Member

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    It will be excused away or quickly forgotten, just as it was in WV, or with the recent pipeline spill in Arkansas and a number of others.
    Jay Rockefeller came out today and said he wouldn't drink the water in WV because he doesn't trust that the government agencies care more about the people than the corporations. It's a sad state of affairs, coal and oil have a stranglehold still on production of our third most important industry (behind agriculture/water and healthcare), and in a place like WV or even Appalachian NC they have the jobs power too. This gives them a massive amount of power. Just another reason to wean off of fossil fuels.
  10. MichaelJoeWilliamson
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    MichaelJoeWilliamson Well-Known Member

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    What is the human cost of not using inexpensive fossil fuels? Or for somehow dramatically increasing the costs? The cost in human life and human suffering?
  11. G8trGr8t
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    what regulatory agency do we pay to insure the inspection and maintenance of the ponds? are they doing their job?

    if we doubled the cost of electricity tomorrow and lowered the yield on arid land by 30 - 40% what impat would that have on the population?
  12. Emmitto
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    The EPA doesn't regulate it. So yes, they're doing the job that the coal and utility industries have paid them to do.

    I think NC inspects ash ponds every two years. So a faulty pond could only leak for 23 months before it's nipped in the bud. So they're also on it like blue on rice.

    Hard to say on that last one. We know that doubling the price would certainly result in less usage and an increase in replacements. Where would it equalize?

    Not sure what you mean with a 40% reduction in yield on arid land.
  13. Gatorrick22
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    Gatorrick22 Well-Known Member

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    What is your definition of "Climate Change?" You really mean to say AGW, don't you? And how is it that "Global Warming" morphed into this new term? Is it because the climate is in perpetual change, has been for billions of years, so you can never be wrong about it, so you took that moniker instead of Global Warming?

    Do you really think stealing money (see EPA'S illegal legislations... A.K.A. regulations) because the Earth tilts and wobbles on it's axis, gives your friends the "warmists" a leg to stand on?

    The only "cost" we have to worry about is the communist movement in the U.S.A., trying to bamboozle the taxpayers out of their hard earned money on a scam, AGW, that no amount of money will change a thing, except in wealth re-distribution. A commie favorite.

    How does the science of green house gases work differently than what's happened in the past? Where is the proof that climate is not still swinging back and forth decades at a time? And how is it that man kind changed it, when it's been the same ebb and flow for billions of years?

    So in the end we know two things. One, that Climate Change happens, and it always has happened. And two, that the Leftists took "Global Warming" and changed it to " Climate Change" so that when it gets cold they don't look dumber than they already are. After all, this faux AGW is about greenhouse gasses that 'supposedly' cause the Earth to get hotter, not colder.
  14. G8trGr8t
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    Fertilizers from nat gas

    perhaps the EPA should have focused on coal ash and pet coke before worrying about co2
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2014
  15. Emmitto
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    You'll get little argument from me on that one. EPA has been running from coal ash even longer than CO2. It's not exactly like they've been jonesing to do either. Then again I'm not familiar with EPA actually fighting to not address coal ash in a Supreme Court case. Either way coal ash is and always has been a menace.

    And I don't care if it's EPA, I just responded with them because it's the most obvious. States can do it. But what coal-dependent state is going to do that?

    EPA is set to finally establish a rule on coal ash later this year. But they had to be dragged kicking and screaming after Kingston.
  16. enviroGator
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    enviroGator Well-Known Member

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    1. Sure AGW is you wish. What you call it doesn't really matter to me. A rose by any other name.

    2. And it has been discussed many times that the term global climate change can from the pubs who thought it would help muddy the water.

    3. Note this post wasn't about climate change, but was about how not all the "costs" of fossil fuels are direct and properly accounted for in the cost comparisons to clean energy alternatives.
  17. tegator80
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    tegator80 Well-Known Member

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    It is disappointing that we like to take our eye off the ball because we think things are working on auto-pilot, the Exxon Valdez probably being the most egregious. That is why I am leery of nuclear power, even though the industry as a whole takes it seriously. Chernobyl is a possibility anytime someone gets "ideas."

    But the true "inconvenient truth" is that we don't really have any viable options for keeping our economy afloat. I would settle for forcing companies to disolve (I am talking to you BP) and merely locking up all of the executives in that arena of the firm. But then that would take resolve and I don't see much of that these days.
  18. jimgata
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    A similar problem exists with the manufacture of batteries for electric cars. Dangerous pollutants are a biproduct of mining for the metals necessary to make the battery. Heavy equipment, fueled by fossil fuel, needed to mine.
    The actual manufacture of the batteries include bi products which could enter the groundwater. Batteries last apprx. 3 years and hen must be disposed of, again subjecting dangerous materials entering the environment.
    So you can see there is no free ride for any form of energy and something society must determine which is best.
    Cheaper fossil fuel energy could help the poor and 3rd world countries raise their standard of living at a faster pace, thus saving more lives.
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  19. Emmitto
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    Emmitto VIP Member

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    Actually I'd argue that third world countries are better equipped to start with renewables. And by better equipped I mean not equipped at all. They lack central production, distribution, and transmission infrastructure. One problem with moving away from that for the U.S. is the astronomical investment made in the whole system (which has been a phenomenal success, BTW. I have no beef with fossil fuels just for the sake of it.)

    And your point about externalities with alternate sources is well taken. Just as I believe the cost of coal ash shouldn't be subsidized by mass distribution, other sources shouldn't be subsidized either.
  20. Gatorrick22
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    You do know that in politics that these two things are very related and it's the only reason we even debate fossil fuels in the first place. These two points are inextricably connected to each other.

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