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Environmentalists Propose $50 Billion Buyout of Coal Industry - To Shut It Down 712

cartechboy writes "What's $50 billion among friends, right? At least Felix Kramer and Gil Friend are thinking big, so there is that. The pair have published an somewhat audacious proposal to spend $50 billion dollars to buy up and then shut down every single private and public coal company operating in the United States. The scientific benefits: eliminating acid rain, airborne emissions, etc). The shutdown proposal includes the costs of retraining for the approximately 87,000 coal-industry workers who would lose their jobs over the proposed 10-year phaseout of coal. Since Kramer and Friend don't have $50 billion, they suggest the concept could be funded as a public service and if governments can't do it maybe some rich guys can — and the names Gates, Buffett and Bloomberg come up. Any takers?"
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Environmentalists Propose $50 Billion Buyout of Coal Industry - To Shut It Down

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  • For one, more plants would just spring up. Even if part of the buyout was "you may never go into coal again," someone else may. The economic structure of energy is why coal is still king, and buying out the current players won't change that.

    For two, the cost of shutting that industry down does not cover the cost of starting new energy industries to replace it. Or were we just going to go without 37% of our electricity?

    For three, coal works efficiently and predictably at far smaller scale than most energy technologies. Many of the locations coal services today cannot be practically services by other generation methods.

    • by Bengie ( 1121981 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @01:40PM (#46465871)
      If you buy up all of the coal mines while you're at it, you'll not only drive up the price since it's all have to be imported, but the time taken to rebuild all of those plants would take quite a few years, during which time other competition would have moved in, making it much less lucrative to start a new coal power plant.
      • by PlusFiveTroll ( 754249 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @01:48PM (#46466043) Homepage

        There are many things that won't move on. Metallurgical coal for example. You'll drive up the price of other goods associated with the products made with it. That is ignoring that the power companies own many of the coal mines. You not only have to pay for the coal mine, but the loss of power generation directly.

        TL;DR: Article is ignorant of how the coal industry works.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @02:07PM (#46466265)

          The article is ignorant of how basic economics work.

          • The article is ignorant of how basic economics work.

            The AC is ignorant of what was written in the article.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          TL;DR: Article is ignorant of how the coal industry works.

          These wankers are ignorant on how the whole economy works. The prices they quote are at market equilibrium, but guess what's gonna happen when there are billions of demand in the market ?

        • by rnturn ( 11092 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @02:58PM (#46466925)

          ``Article is ignorant of how the coal industry works.''

          I suspect the authors are totally aware of how the coal industry works. That's what they're trying to fix. Like you, I didn't take the time to read the whole article (maybe later) but I was appalled when I had to fly over West Virgina years ago and saw the damage to the forests (take the trip in a small plane so you can see the effects close up) that acid rain and the beginnings of mountaintop removal was causing. It makes you sick to see it and it's only gotten worse. I have to wonder if the metallurgical need for coal couldn't be satisfied by some of the extraction methods that are less destructive to the environment. Mining will always be messy but is something like mountaintop removal really necessary? If we think it's okay to take a huge area and render it uninhabitable by human beings -- like what's happening to parts of Appalachia -- then I guess we'll all get what we deserve. All in the name of cheap power. (And I don't know about you but my electric power rates go up -- never down -- every year regardless of the amount of coal that we're clawing out of the ground.) Then do we use the $50B to relocate all the people in Appalachia to other parts of the country where they won't be poisoned? That won't work either.

          Personally, I'd like to see coal powered plants disappear as fast as humanly possible. Unfortunately, until we can create a critical mass of renewable power that can be intelligently shuffled around to meet local demands, we're kind of stuck with it. Unless we can work up the political will to take the first (and second) steps. The coal industry would like that to never happen.

        • by AlphaWolf_HK ( 692722 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @03:03PM (#46466987)

          Or to be more precisely, how alternative goods/resources work.

          If you take away 37% of the supply of electricity, it will need to be replaced. This means that alternatives to coal will go up in price, and your electricity costs will go up with them. These hipsters might talk all day about saving the rainforest, but in reality they'll never go a day without their ipads and a working espresso machine.

          That would actually be a great opportunity for nuclear, however I have a feeling that these guys would hate nuclear even more than coal (I know it's stereotyping, but their type usually does and you'd be hard pressed to argue otherwise.)

          Kind of a side rant, but I'm not sure what the ultimate purpose of preventing man-made global warming is supposed to be. The best argument I've heard is to prevent the loss of landmass to rising sea water, but that's already going to happen anyways (less than 100k years ago Los Angeles was under water, and no matter what we do it will one day again be under water.) Higher global temperatures have historically resulted in more arable land rather than simple increased droughts. If you want more physical landmass, then you'll need to drop the climate to ice age levels where biodiversity actually tends to suffer. During the age of dinosaurs, the carbon dioxidie PPM was 18 times higher than it is now, biodiversity was at one of its peaks, the overall climate was 8C warmer, and plantlife was more abundant than ever. In other words, history has shown that a warmer planet is literally a more green one.

          So what kind of disaster is anti-climate change supposed to avert again?

        • by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @03:51PM (#46467573)

          The article is a summary of a larger proposal. Even in the article, they state that power generation will be transitioned to other fuels / sources, workers retrained, etc.

          Even if the larger proposal is less than perfect, it is examining relative costs and benefits of keeping vs. shutting down the coal industry. From their perspective, every dollar spent in closing down the coal industry will be paid back 2-3x in reduced costs like pollution, healthcare, etc. even after accounting for the increased cost of electricity and other items.

          TL;DR: coal costs us more to keep than to get rid of.

          Remember lead in paint and gasoline? Accurately accounting for the social/economic benefits of the lead phase out is impossible, but overall it is becoming quite clear that the lead phase-out was a win. Same for asbestos, CFCs and PCBs. For me, the jury is still out over removing arsenic from treated wood, but I think I can agree with their forecasting on coal. As for smaller scale uses of coal, those could continue, and yes, prices might rise in the short term, but actually, those industries would benefit in the longer term due to the reduced demand for coal for power, and therefore longer lifetime of the non-renewable resource.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Kilo Kilo ( 2837521 )

            The article is a summary of a larger proposal. Even in the article, they state that power generation will be transitioned to other fuels / sources, workers retrained, etc.

            There's no mention of how they plan on doing this.

            What are you going to retrain the workers to do? How are you going to "create job opportunities and prosperity for coal-based communities" ? There's nothing substantial in this article. These people think that they can replace coal overnight with unicorn farts and sunshine.

            The coal industry is bad for the environment. Yeah, we get it. However, it's a major part of the economy and one of the leading producers of electricity. While trying to transiti

      • by bws111 ( 1216812 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @02:23PM (#46466483)

        What makes you (or anyone else) think this is even remotely possible? Suppose you manage to buy 10% of the coal mines, and shut them down. What do you suppose will happen to the price of the remaining mines?

        These 'ideas' (along with other laughably stupid ideas like Google 'buying' the entertainment industry) always seem to miss one important fact: nobody is required to sell at all, much less sell for some pre-determined price.

        • What's more depressing is that these stories make it onto slashdot. The stupid in the environmental movement is painful to consider.
      • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @03:51PM (#46467577)

        The coal mines don't own the coal. The states do. The mines buy permits to mine it. As soon as one mine is gone, that permit is open for whomever wants to show up and take over.

        What are all the families that heat their homes with coal going to do? Are you going to buy them all new furnaces and pipe natural gas up the mountain to them? Oh, but natural gas isn't green is it? So you're going to install solar panels on their land? where does it end?

        Lastly, do you think Virginia is going to allow this at all? Shuttering their biggest industry? Not a chance in hell.

    • No mention either of contractual obligations to municipalities or business like large manufacturing plants, etc. Lawyers are salivating over this idea.

    • Or were we just going to go without 37% of our electricity?

      For certain values of people living in the Midwest, you can bump that figure up to at least 80%, if not 100.

    • by NatasRevol ( 731260 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @01:43PM (#46465947) Journal

      Well if the $50B includes buying up the lands/rights where coal is, no one else could go into coal.

      But I think $50B towards wind/solar would help replace coal more than trying to block it out.

      • by icebike ( 68054 )

        But I think $50B towards wind/solar would help replace coal more than trying to block it out.


        Put a quarter of that money (money that none of these groups have, they were planning to use YOURS), into research on wind and solar, and storage, and you will be doing the world far more good.

        Besides, the net ripple effect would require far more than 50 Billion.

    • Retraining (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @01:49PM (#46466055)

      The whole "retrain" workers gets me.

      Retrain them for what?

      Let's assume that all of those workers have the talent to be retrained in any field. What would that be?

      Are the billionaires also going to pay those folks to move to areas of the country that have other industries besides coal? Would the billionaires start other industries in coal country to absorb the workers?

      Retraining is just a fantasy for policy makers. Folks get retrained and find that they still can't get a job. Part of the reason is that the labor market is still really tight and employers are not willing to hire entry level people because they don't have to. There are plenty of experienced people looking.

      Anyway this "article" is nothing but a "what if" by the author; so it's not to be taken seriously.-+

    • For two, the cost of shutting that industry down does not cover the cost of starting new energy industries to replace it. Or were we just going to go without 37% of our electricity?

      Yep. Any plan which doesn't include this is a non-starter.

    • by ganjadude ( 952775 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @01:53PM (#46466121) Homepage
      These people are just like PETA, they want everything to be the land of unicorns but they dont think about what doing the change will do to the rest of the world.

      they dont think about the unintended consequences Sure lets just close down the major energy supply for most of the world, without a plan in the short term to replace it. We can all go 10-20 years without reliable electric right??
    • by OakDragon ( 885217 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @02:01PM (#46466211) Journal

      For two, the cost of shutting that industry down does not cover the cost of starting new energy industries to replace it. Or were we just going to go without 37% of our electricity?

      I picture vast fields of hipsters pedaling bolted-down fixies with generators attached.

    • by dj245 ( 732906 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @02:15PM (#46466371) Homepage

      For three, coal works efficiently and predictably at far smaller scale than most energy technologies. Many of the locations coal services today cannot be practically services by other generation methods.

      I think you have that backwards. Coal plants under around 250MW are generally not profitable, and a vast majority of this size have been shut down already. The bar is moving towards 500MW as being economically viable. I can count the number of new coal stations in the US build in the past 5 years on one hand. Compare that to the 1970's when a new coal plant was being built every month. The environmentalists need to learn to quit when they achieve "good enough". Coal today is just as clean as other forms of energy when you factor in all the externalities. Those externalities come in different forms however and it is easy to count 1 form of environmental damage when comparing power plants while ignoring others.

      • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @03:13PM (#46467119) Homepage
        While it is true that theoretically scientifically, we have clean coal technologies available, Coal is still the dirtiest and worst of the power technologies.

        This is because of two reasons. 1) Truly clean coal technologies are expensive - more expensive than solar powered or wind power. So practically nobody uses it. and

        2) Coal companies - more than any other power industry - have found ways to avoid complying with regulations. Specifically, they campaigned hard to allow existing plants to go unregulated until after they 'modernized' in the normal course of time. Then they refused to modernize - for the past 60 years.

        Tuna fish is one of the healthiest cheap foods you can eat - or rather would be EXCEPT for the mercury in it which comes from coal. Coal burning plants are more radioactive than nuclear power plants because small bits of thorium are in coal and when you burn it, it gets wafted up into the air and settles around the coal plant. Not to mention the acid rain and the green house gas issues.

  • Errr, no. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blackicye ( 760472 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @01:35PM (#46465789)

    This would never fly. The last 10% of the coal mines would just be laughing their way to the bank with this unexpected windfall.

  • by brainspank ( 515274 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @01:35PM (#46465801)

    imagine their sad faces when they realize that's what charges their electric cars.

    • by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @01:49PM (#46466057) Homepage Journal

      You understand the point of electric cars is to enable the changeover from fossil fuels at a systemic level, right? The car doesn't care where the energy is coming from, allowing a regulatory framework to change as pragmatic options become available.

      (My area's electricity is about 50% nuclear, 15% renewable)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I have an uncle that is an ex-GE now consulting engineer in the coal power plant industry.

      Many power plants are dual fuel: coal or NG. They run whatever is cheaper. And the thing is, at least with modern equipment coal burns as clean as Natural Gas. It even scrubs the metals out of the emissions: no mercury being emitted - or at least 99% of it.

      Coal gets a bad rap because of its history and China - they're using 19th Century technology.

      You know, General Electric is doing some great things with fossil fuels

  • Replaced by what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lgw ( 121541 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @01:36PM (#46465821) Journal

    This plan doesn't fund replacing the power from those plants with anything, just some hand waving about "renewable energy" being expanded in parallel. Cheap energy matters. The cost of everything we buy, everything we use, comes down to labor and energy costs. If you make energy more expensive everyone pays, and pays in a "regressive" way like a sales tax.

    It might still makes sense, maybe, but it will take more than hand waving.

  • another 85,000 out of work and retraining does not mean shit when they have no paycheck anymore and no new jobs to replace what was lost.
    • by jandrese ( 485 )
      Especially when you live in an area where everybody just lost their job. Southern West Virginia is depressed enough already without all of the coal mines shutting down at basically the same time.
  • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @01:37PM (#46465835) Journal
    The U.S. is just one country. Many other countries (China, for instance) are still using coal, and I think will more or less say the same thing: That's nice. We'll keep using coal. Want to be real heroes of the environment? Raise enough money to buy out the coal industry all over the world.
  • What happens to all the people who live and work in mining towns? Murder the coal mines and what have you done to all the families and small businesses that, directly and indirectly, depend on them? This is a headline straight out of Atlas Shrugged... has the whole world gone bonkers?
  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @01:40PM (#46465883) Homepage

    You have $50 billion to spend on green energy. Make your choice:
    1) Give the $50 billion to coal executives and shareholders who will then use that money to create new coal companies and open new mines, since you have done nothing to eliminate with the demand.
    2) Build $50 billion worth of green energy to put the coal companies out of business for good.

    The entire article is illogical. You can't just eliminate the laws of supply and demand.

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      All true. These kinds of people simply don't care. They will actively chase off anyone that stands as a voice of reason. They will just accuse you of being an industry shill.

      They don't want reality getting in the way of their politics.

      Same goes for the EPA BTW.

    • by Rob Y. ( 110975 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @01:58PM (#46466183)

      I would assume that this idea falls under the category of 'thought experiment'. The point being to highlight that the coal industry accounts for 'only' 50 billion dollars worth of assets, which is a smaller portion of our economy and total assets than the hysteria of 'anything you do to attempt to phase out coal will destroy America' would suggest.

      Now if the country could shift to renewables for a mere 50 billion it might well be worth it. Of course, as others have pointed out, buying up all the coal plants won't accomplish that.

  • by SYSS Mouse ( 694626 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @01:41PM (#46465901) Homepage

    I assume the proposal just assume coal industry to produce electricity, but there is more than that, The iron industry and steelmaking industry also uses coal.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by brufar ( 926802 )
      I converted my home to heat with Coal this year, as I can no longer afford the ridiculous cost of heating oil.

      Cost to Heat Last season with heating Oil -- $2,200.00 (675 Gallons of Oil)
      Cost to Heat this season after converting to Coal $660.00 (3 Tons of Coal)

      Tried a pellet stove last year, it barely put out enough BTU's to heat one room in the house. That was a $3200.00 boondoggle, took a huge loss reselling the thing.

      Don't mention geoThermal as the incredibly high cost of installation, pl
      • Just curious, if you improved the insulation on your house, how much would that save you, potentially? Did you try that and how well did it work?

        I think I invested a couple thousand on insulation for my roof and it cut my winter heating and summer cooling by 30% and the whole house just *feels* more comfortable. I think I made the investment back in two years--heating done with natural gas, cooling done with electricity.


  • by PseudoCoder ( 1642383 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @01:41PM (#46465911)
    Because they make US look like amateurs.
  • Where's the damn kickstarter?

  • by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @01:42PM (#46465923)

    As the supply of cheap power is decreased the value of the remaining generation will increase. The value of a power plant if the present value of future profits. Remove coal from the supply and power prices go up. That makes the remaining coal plants worth much more.

    25 billion might get you the first half. 50 billion will never get it all.

  • It's a valuable energy source. What's to stop anyone (eve the current coal company people from founding a "competing" "coal" company that actually digs coal and sells it?
  • by HockeyPuck ( 141947 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @01:42PM (#46465935)

    According to the US Energy Administration...

      In 2012, the United States generated about 4,054 billion kilowatthours of electricity. About 68% of the electricity generated was from fossil fuel (coal, natural gas, and petroleum), with 37% attributed from coal.

    Energy sources and percent share of total electricity generation in 2012 were:

            Coal 37%
            Natural Gas 30%
            Nuclear 19%
            Hydropower 7%
            Other Renewable 5%
                    Biomass 1.42%
                    Geothermal 0.41%
                    Solar 0.11%
                    Wind 3.46%
            Petroleum 1%
            Other Gases 1%

  • Ahh, yes! That low, low, price doesn't include the price of building renewable-power plants to replace those coal fired ones that are to be shutdown, nor does it even include any budget for sending out lots of blankets to prevent millions from freezing to death during the next cold spell. Nope, that part is entirely left down to others, and specifically to the government and thus taxpayers money. So, yeah, $50b to buy and shutdown the plants, and then what, maybe $500b of pork on a good day to replace th
    • Interesting subject but your post ends up a bit obvious and redundant given all the other posts (no offense, constructive criticism!) while ignoring the truly surprising part of this plan. The entire coal industry can be bought for ONLY $50B?! There are individuals walking around with more money than that. Exxon's profits for 2013 alone were over $30B. How is an entire 100+ year old industry that supplies 40% of our power and holds political sway over a bunch of states only worth $50 billion?

  • "When I grow up, I want to cure world hunger!" The coal will still exist, people will still find coal, people will still want coal, etc., etc.
  • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @01:46PM (#46466007)

    In addition you have to replace a whole bunch of brand new highly efficient and scrubbed power stations, and totally shut down steel production.
    Metallurgic coal (coke) is essential for steel production. That pushes steel production to other countries, causing a world wide shortage, and we end up paying more and they end up polluting more.

    Coal gasification [] projects, current and planned, would all be wiped out exactly when they are needed.

    You can't simply look at the market cap of coal industry companies on Yahoo and sum them all up.
    Like most plans, this is a simplistic and simple minded approach. It would never work

  • Because if this ever started to get traction, the price of those coal mining companies would start to go up, just like virtually every other company that gets targeted by a hostile takeover. Even if they get enough to cover that, the boards of these companies could conceivably use a poison pill and issue discount options to everyone else to dilute the bidder's interest.

  • You know that old joke ... Will the last one out turn off the lights.

    How do these bozos plan to power the lives 300+ million Americans who like to read at night, watch TV and have electric appliances do their laundry and wash their dishes.

    And don't just say, "solar" or "wind" without including the cost (in $Gazillions) and time (in decades) to build out an entirely new infrastructure while inventing some way to store power for calm nights.

    Nuclear? Great. Better start changing regulations and lining up money

  • 50 billion (Score:4, Funny)

    by thoth ( 7907 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @01:54PM (#46466139) Journal

    They should try Kickstarter!

  • The 1872 GMA law, signed by Ulysses S. Grant to hasten western development during the Apache Indian Wars, gives mining companies 1) right to lease rather than buy the land, at about $5 per acre, 2) no responsibility for remediation and pollution cost, and 3) no obligation to pay taxpayers any royalty on what's mined from the Federal Land. After 137 Years, it was nearly (finally!) updated in 2009, but candidate Barack Obama cut a deal with Nevada Senator (D) Harry Reid.

    As for coal, according to Bureau of Land Management "BLM has responsibility for coal leasing on approximately 570 million acres where the coal mineral estate is owned by the Federal Government. The surface estate of these lands could be controlled by BLM, the United States Forest Service, private land owners, state land owners, or other Federal agencies. BLM receives revenues on coal leasing at three points: 1) a bonus paid at the time BLM issues the lease an annual rental payment of $3.00 per acre or fraction thereof, 2) royalties paid on the value of the coal after it has been mined. The Department of the Interior and the state where the coal was mined share the revenues." News Flash: The total fees collected do not even cover the costs of staff at the Interior Department or BLM!

    Most of the mining done on the federal lands is hard rock mining (copper, gold, silver, etc.) but that is also the highest source or carbon and toxics (47% of all toxics released by all USA industry). It bankrupted Superfund (14 of the 15 largest sites are metal mining on federal land). The mere suggestion in 2009 that the GMA might be reformed caused stock in recycling companies to go up, and commodity hedge funds to go up.

    • by NoImNotNineVolt ( 832851 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @02:27PM (#46466537) Homepage
      According to Wikipedia []:

      "The mining law applies to some mineral products, but not others, and the list has changed over time. Since 1920, the list of locatable minerals does not include petroleum, coal, phosphate, sodium, and potassium. Rights to explore for and extract these are leased through competitive bidding." (Emphasis mine)
      • The source of the parent quote above is the Bureau of Land Management federal website. Perhaps whoever authored your wikipedia article is making a distinction about the "Mineral Leasing Act of 1920" which is derivative of the GMA. Or perhaps Jack Abramoff's mignons have been editing your wiki. But again, this is from "BLM has responsibility for coal leasing on approximately 570 million acres where the coal mineral estate is owned

  • by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @02:11PM (#46466303) Homepage Journal

    Quite frankly, you're wasting your time.

    Most of the owners of coal stocks intend to hold it.

    You'd be better off investing in more efficient coal-burning plants that cause less waste and less pollution, including GHG emissions, from the same unit of coal.

    You're also missing that a lot of the country is national and state parks and federal lands (like military) which are forced to lease lands with coal at insanely low rates for mining.

    Fix those things. Your money will go farther.

    (personally, my carbon impact is about 1/10th of most Americans, so Do More, Whine Less)

  • Chump Change (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MadMartigan2001 ( 766552 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @02:12PM (#46466309)
    The Federal Reserve spends 85 billion a **MONTH** on quantitative easing. Yet 50 billion will buy out the entire coal industry of the United States? Something is wrong there.
  • by hAckz0r ( 989977 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @02:15PM (#46466357)
    Except raise the prices of electricity. The Coal plants will just import form overseas and the proce to consumers will be higher as a result. Not that raising the price won't change the economics, but it won't kill the industry like they seem to assume here. It would be better to pour their money into some R&D to find a better substitute with a lower cost green alternative. After all $50 Billion with a 'B' would certainly help find better technology if in the right hands.
  • by Oligonicella ( 659917 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @02:19PM (#46466419)
    As always, these plans call on **other people's** money to do what their little hearts desire. And note, one suggestion was government funding. You know, taking money from people who are against their idea to fund it. As always.
  • by sandbagger ( 654585 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @02:19PM (#46466427)

    I guess we'll be building a lot more nuclear power plants, then?

    • by Tom ( 822 )

      I guess we'll be building a lot more nuclear power plants, then?

      I, for one, maintain that a mix of renewable and nuclear power is the future. Coal really is the absolute worst thing you could do. Its environmental impact is crazy, a coal plant actually leaks more radiation than a nuclear plant, and depending on how you get the coal, the impact on the landscape and lives of people nearby can be utterly insane.

      This is the realty of coal: [] []

      Some of these are so large, they are clearly visible on satellite image

  • by Koreantoast ( 527520 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @02:24PM (#46466499)
    I'm REALLY curious as to what they expect to replace the coal mining business with in the middle of rural West Virginia. Even assuming you could retrain all those workers, that simply leaves an entire army of now skilled workers sitting in towns that have had their economy completely decimated by the elimination of coal. One doesn't simply regenerate a brand new, magic economy there from scratch. Even something as basic as building a new factory, say a solar panel factory, would require not just the cost of building the factory, but the infrastructure to support said factory (roads, water, power, rail links, etc.), and $50B is not going to cover the cost of doing that for 87,000 workers.
    • by Tom ( 822 )

      Because people being out of jobs is the really important thing when you have to decide between fucking up the planet or not fucking up the planet, yes?

      Funny how /. has multiple personalities. When it comes to the MPAA and RIAA, we keep telling them that analogy with the car replacing the horse carriage and to move with the times.

  • by SvnLyrBrto ( 62138 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @02:45PM (#46466761)

    I agree pretty much wholeheartedly that the coal companies need to die. But a 50-billion dollar payoff to an industry that is proud to poison the skies, destroy the landscape, and ruin the drinking water? Give free money to the people who want the USâ(TM)s environment to become more like Chinaâ(TM)s? Oh, HELL no. Put them out of business by any other means necessary. But letâ(TM)s not give those bastards a single red cent. Seriously. Screw those guys.

    A better idea would be to impose (and enforce) strict carbon and particulate caps, deny permits for strip, open-pit, and mountaintop-removal mining, and crippling penalties for release of mining and processing chemical waste into the water supply. And you know what? If the coal companies are willing to reform themselves to operate within those constraint as good corporate citizens, fine. I will reform my opinion of them if and when they do. But otherwise? Screw âem.

    And if weâ(TM)re going to spend 50-billion dollars on getting the US off of coal, letâ(TM)s do it the right way and use it to fund R&D on alternate, cleaner, energy sources: efficient photovoltaics, energy-positive fusion, thorium or fast-breeder fission, and so on.

We gave you an atomic bomb, what do you want, mermaids? -- I. I. Rabi to the Atomic Energy Commission