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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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  • by taiwanjohn ( 103839 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @02:06PM (#46466259)

    Here's an idea: eliminate ALL subsidies, across the board. Let fossil fuels and renewables duke it out on a truly level playing field. Speaking as a "green energy" advocate, I would welcome this challenge. So would Amory Lovins, [] one of the "gurus" of the green movement.

    Funny thing though, when it comes to talk about cutting these subsidies, the "big oil" boyz are all against it. Sure, they're against green energy subsidies, but if you want to cut their subsidies, all of a sudden you're threatening the "lifeblood" of the American Way[tm].

    For a splash of cold water on the "fracking revolution" check out this interview with Chris Martenson and Richard Heinberg. [] We are already in a much more precarious position than most people realize.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @02:09PM (#46466281)

    You betcha. My electricity bills have a generation breakout graph every month. Shutting down coal mines would force a major portion of my electric network to simply brown- or black-out.

    I'm amazed at the depths of stupidity that Liberals and other such freaks drop to when they are given the opportunity to type out their nonsensical ideology on a computer. When I was young, I had only suspected that most people were pretty dumb... now the Internet has confirmed that suspicion. The average intelligence is sadly quite dumb when it comes to understanding our own socio-economic systems.

  • 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 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 RatherBeAnonymous ( 1812866 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @02:20PM (#46466445)

    Sure, we would have fewer premature deaths from respiratory illnesses, but that would mean more non-working octogenarians and nonagenarians. Studies out of Europe have shown that keeping people smoking and obese is much more economically viable because they tend to be productive up until retirement, or near-retirement, age, then die of a short illness. "Healthy" people, on the other hand, live a long time, fighting off repeated illnesses for a decade or two after retirement. Eliminating coal would probably have a similar effect.

    http://daveatherton.wordpress.... []

    I am playing devil's advocate here. I don't believe we should keep coal just to kill off retirees. After-all, I plan to be one someday.

  • by brufar ( 926802 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @02:20PM (#46466453)
    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, plus the necessary Electrical service upgrade to support the electric booster furnace for this region, makes it unaffordable to install in an older home, like most other 'green' solutions.

    Until someone finds a cost effective, affordable solution to replace these, Coal will remain king in my home.
  • by Pino Grigio ( 2232472 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @02:38PM (#46466657)
    Actually, the Labour governments before her shut down more mines than she ever did; a considerable number more. But don't let the facts spoil a good fantasy. If anything destroyed the miners it was union militancy; the useful idiots of the left who allied themselves with Soviet Russia.
  • by JDS13 ( 1236704 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @02:55PM (#46466899)

    Absolutely right. It's so-called "green" energy that gets real taxpayer subsidies, with capital contributions, taxpayer-funded rebates, loan guarantees, accelerated depreciation, purchase mandates, and (to name just one egregious example) the insane Zero Emission Vehicle credit system that creates a situation where electric cars actually increase net CO2 emissions (not that that matters).

    And how will we heat our homes on a cold, dark, windless winter night? And get hot water?

    The idea that $50 billion in capital would be squandered in this way boggles the mind. The people who came up with this press release probably have never run more than the $50 in their checking accounts.

  • 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 DaveAtFraud ( 460127 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @03:03PM (#46466989) Homepage Journal

    Are you still dancing on that woman's grave? Jeez, conservatives didn't celebrate this much when Joseph Freaking Stalin died.

    Didn't Hate Week sate your hatred? You know, the week after she died when you had hate parades to show just how much you hated her. No, seriously, this really happened. Hate parades.

    Liberals hate conservatives but they REALLY hate conservatives like Thatcher and Reagan who got it right. Conservatives like Bush Jr. and Palin are easy targets and ad hominem attacks that discredit the person rather than the ideas. Thatcher and Reagan put their ideas into operation and both countries benefited. That's what really pisses off the liberals. They'd rather have the country going down a rat hole the way GB was under Labour governments than admit a conservative like Thatcher was right.


  • 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.

Genius is ten percent inspiration and fifty percent capital gains.