Coal Hard Facts from the book From Kyoto to Katrina to Keystone… How right wing politics hijacked the climate issue

Was peeved enough to present this allegorical chapter from World of Thermo since President Trump signed an executive order rolling back President Obama’s climate initiatives today.

For a detailed look at the ramifications of Trump’s executive orders on the EPA and climate please look at Dr. Jeff Master’s blog:

Story 30.                                                               Hard Coal Facts

Boom!  Part of the top half of Mount Needle disintegrated in the West Virginia Appalachians. Men had used dynamite to get to the coal using an easier method than underground mining…mountain top blasting and strip mining. The roar of bulldozers could be heard in what was a peaceful valley below. The foreman on the job was talking with our old oilman, Rush Slick, “Yeah, yeah, I know you want this job done yesterday. My, you are an impatient man! My crew is spending nearly every daylight hour striping the mountain. The new road for our trucks is complete. We can start hauling coal to the train depot tomorrow.”

“Excellent, Grunt. I will see to it that you get a big bonus,” replied Slick.

“I can’t stand this noise,” Ma Stunt said to Pa Stunt.

“Yeah, my great grand pappy would be rolling over in his grave if he knew that I allowed Mount Needle on our land to be blasted. Old grand pappy Joe Stunt died from lung cancer mining that mountain, and his old shaft got blasted yesterday.  Still, we need the money. We need more syringes and another good fix,” said Pa Stunt from his rickety porch.

Unknown to the Stunts, their great grand pappy had mined Carbo way back in 1870. The same afternoon that the Stunts were having their conversation contemplating using strip mining money for drug use, a member of the Clan of Storms paid a visit to Mount Needle. A torrent of rain fell for hours as lightning crashed and thunder roared. At 8PM a river of mud and debris crashed into the Stunt house washing the ramshackle residence down the side of the mountain. Oh well, the Stunts didn’t get their fix. Perhaps this event at the end of their lives was karma.

Months earlier, our old communist friend Chang was in Rush Slick’s Dallas high rise office of Gunk oil. Slick’s secretary had tea and fortune cookies prepared for the meeting. Chang sat down, took a nice long drag from a cigarette and said, “This contract is very good! Here is my signature Slick. China will thank you for your service.”

“Just make sure that I get my money. Yeah, I know that you are a communist in name only…. Just teasing. Anyway, I am glad that I can help keep the lights on in China,” said Slick.

Chang said, “You have also contracted with Junk Freight, I take it. We will need their trains to haul the coal from West Virginia to Washington State. My fleet of cargo ships will then take the coal, of course, from Washington to China.”

“A new port in Washington is nearing completion.” Yes Chang, all has been prearranged. We will start blasting in April, “said Slick.

About a year later it appeared that Slick and Chang’s plan was going off without a hitch. The first loads of coal were headed through the Plains on a very long Junk Freight train. Of course, Carbo was behind the whole project. Reminiscing about his release Carbo said to Toasty and Roasty in the Nest hideout in the Russian Caucasus, “Those freight trains rolling through the Plains remind me of when I was first released in the 19th Century. My how the humans, have developed transportation since then. I hope that those tons of coal that will be burned in China contain at least a few more sentient molecules. I need more of our friends to do our bidding.”

What Carbo, Slick and Chang weren’t counting on was that Greenthink had gotten wind of the plan. Doria and Philip worked countless hours during 2012 from their secret office in San Francisco with a circuit court judge who could not be influenced by the minions to stop that coal from being burned. Surprise! The first train got stopped at the Washington border, and there was no way any shipments of coal could get to China.

Chang was furious as he spoke by phone to Slick saying, “Slick, you idiot! You knew that some environmentalists would try to stop us. Why did you not pay off that judge?”

“Believe me Chang, I apologize. This project is hurting my bottom line also,” whined Slick.

Carbo, Slick and Chang could only fume as that coal remained stuck on the tracks. For once, Carbon was foiled. Those fortune cookies did not bring luck and more wealth to Chang and Slick.


In the real world, just like in this story, mountaintop mining is a form of surface mining at the summit of a mountain used mainly for extracting coal seams. MTM is conducted in the Appalachians using explosives. Excess rock and soil are dumped into nearby valleys, in what are called “holler fills” or “valley fills”. Not only is MTM unsightly in the Appalachians, if not conducted properly, the excess debris can pollute water sources. The blasts and roadways leading to MTM sites lead to deforestation. If heavy rain does occur, unprotected residents can be in peril. MTM began in Appalachia in the 1970’s as an extension of strip mining techniques. MTM is less expensive to execute and requires fewer employees than operating an underground mine; thus, despite also being safer, coal miners in Appalachia complain of lack of work. Currently efforts are underway to help former miners in Appalachia to get green energy jobs. Hopefully, the practice of MTM will stop so that the Appalachians will have a vibrant, green future.

China is the world’s largest user of and producer of coal generated electricity as of 2014, although some analysts have concluded that coal consumption peaked for good during that year. On the other hand, an analyst for the Institute for Housing and Urban Development expects coal consumption will bottom out by 2018, then rise again before peaking in the 2020’s. Growing economies, such as China’s, are hungry for energy sources. Usually, developing countries go down the cheapest, easiest path towards meeting their energy needs being short-sighted when it comes to the issue of global climate change.

In 2012 and 2013 lawsuits were flying between the states of Washington, Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming. Regulators from coal country were warning Washington that there would be a heavy price to pay for not allowing coal to move through that state to a new port being built just for the transport of coal to China. The over 500 million dollar Millennium Bulk Terminal would be capable of shipping 44 metric tons of coal annually, according to the Washington State Wire. Other states argue that the future burning of coal from the U.S. won’t make a difference in the global climate. This writer disagrees. As of this writing shipments of coal slated to move through and off the coast of Washington are stalled.


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