Letter 93 for Day 93: Values & Voices from Earth Day

by Duane Nichols on April 27, 2017

Earth Day Message to the President, VP, Admin. & Congress

From FORREST CLINGERMAN, Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy, Ohio Northern University

Dear President Trump, Vice President Pence, Members of the Trump Administration and 115th Congress,

Greetings on Earth Day!  From its start in 1970, Earth Day has drawn the support of people from all walks of life and every corner of the country. Earth Day is also a time to remember just how closely related environmentalism and religious commitment have been in American history, as John Muir exemplifies. The beauty and fecundity of the landscape we call home is engrained in our national consciousness and celebrated as God’s glorious “handiwork” (Psalm 19:2).  From sea to shining sea, from the Berkshires to the Sierras, from the Great Black Swamp of my part of Ohio to Washington’s Potomac watershed, our natural world is considered a blessing. We are living in a wonderful and divine Book of Nature.

Yet our economy and politics are laying siege to the environment. These are not problems affecting somewhere else, at some other time.  Environmental crises are happening here and now, disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable members of our society. Our actions do violence against our human and non-human neighbors and threaten the entire universe.

Nowhere is this more apparent than when we reflect on U.S. climate policy. We are decades past debating the reality of climate change, yet you appointed Scott Pruitt as EPA Director, a person who has ignored the science of climate change. Furthermore, your administration proposed funding cuts for scientific monitoring and environmental research, and you have cut curbs aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Assessments like the EPA’s Climate Change Indicators in the United States (2016) show how climate change is already affecting health, safety, the environment, and the economy. Denial of this reality is neither intellectually nor ethically acceptable.

Trust in God requires us to face the truth, however terrifying or inopportune it may be to our plans and our politics. Faith in God means living in hope, working toward what theologian David Klemm and ethicist William Schweiker call “the integrity of life before God” (Religion and the Human Future, 2008). On Earth Day, let us vow to mend our ways and atone for our climate sins. With a sense of hope, let us take seriously our role as stewards of a world once deemed “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

Yours sincerely,

Forrest Clingerman
Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy
Ohio Northern University

>>> Forrest Clingerman, Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Ohio Northern University, is a specialist in how Christian thought engages environmental issues. As an author of scholarly works in religion and philosophy, he has written on such things as climate change, ecological restoration, local ethics, and appreciating the spiritual meaning of place.  He is co-editor of Teaching Civic Engagement (Oxford University Press, 2016), Theological and Ethical Perspectives on Climate Engineering (Lexington Books, 2016), and Interpreting Nature: The Emerging Field of Environmental Hermeneutics (Fordham University Press, 2014).
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EIA: Year over Year Change in Coal Production

A career in coal geology says WV must bank on new industries

From the Opinion-Editorial by C. Blaine Cecil, Charleston Gazette-Mail, April 15, 2017

Over the past couple of years, I have followed claims about the restoration of the coal industry in the Appalachian region. As a native West Virginian and someone who still has a strong allegiance to the state, I feel compelled to offer a different perspective on the future of coal.

I am a retired geologist who has invested most of my professional career to the study of coal geology in Appalachia. These studies included, but were not limited to, geologic controls on the origin of coal and coal-bearing strata; geological and chemical characteristics of coal that effect coal cleaning; and mineral and chemical characteristics of coal and coal-bearing strata that effect mine drainage water quality. These, and other studies, were always related to coal resources (the amount of coal in the ground) and coal reserves (the amount of mineable coal).

As a result of those studies, it became evident many years ago that the amount of coal resources and reserves are finite; reserves will not last forever.

As far back as the mid-1970s, a coal company executive who was responsible for coal exploration in Southern West Virginia told me that mineable coal was getting “dirtier and deeper (and thinner)” meaning that the best coal reserves had already been mined. Since that time, newer mining technologies (such as mountaintop surface mining) have continued to deplete coal reserves. As a result of reserve depletion, it is highly unlikely that coal mining (and jobs) can be restored in a significant and sustainable manner; recovery of remaining reserves will be increasingly difficult and expensive, thereby resulting in a steady and rapid decline in coal production and associated jobs.

Much of the remaining coal resources occur in beds that are thin, discontinuous, often deeply buried and uneconomical to mine, and that will never be included in reserve calculations. If these resources are ever to be recovered, it will most likely be through underground (in situ) gasification rather than conventional mining methods.

Unless some unknown factors intervene, coal production and mining jobs in Appalachia are unlikely to recover because of the following:

Reserve depletion. Coal reserves are nearly depleted; increases in coal production will only accelerate reserve depletion and hasten the end of a significant coal mining industry in Appalachia. This is particularly true of southern West Virginia.

Electricity demand. The demand for electricity from coal-fired power plants has slowed because many major industrial consumers (e.g., steel, aluminum, and chemical manufacturing) have closed most of their plants in the United States, giving rise to the “rust belt.” The demise of these industries can also be attributed, by in large, to resource/reserve depletion of raw materials.

Natural gas replacement. Coal is being replaced by natural gas in the generation of electricity because recently discovered natural gas is now abundant, relatively inexpensive to produce, cleaner to burn and has higher heat content than coal (on a BTU/pound basis). Natural gas-fired power plants are also cheaper to build and operate than coal-fired power plants.

Energy transportation. Natural gas is easier, cheaper, and more energy efficient to transport (via pipelines) to power plants located near points of consumption (e.g., large metropolitan areas) relative to transportation of electricity over power lines from mine-mouth power plants to major markets. In addition, gas is cheaper and more energy efficient for home heating than electricity. Simply put, natural gas is currently a cheaper source of energy than coal.

In summary, economic recovery and sustainability in coal-producing regions in Appalachia must refocus economic development on commercially viable activities other than coal production. The nearly total collapse of the coal industry in Great Britain and Germany in the latter part of the 20th century is a stark reminder that coal reserves become depleted.

Readers who wish to further explore the future of coal mining in Appalachia may consult resource and reserve data that are available online from both federal and state agencies.

>>> C. Blaine Cecil, of Rockbridge Baths, Virginia, originally from Moundsville, is an adjunct professor of geology at WVU, a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution and a research geologist emeritus for the U.S. Geologic Survey.

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Title V Hearing Set 4/26 on Compressor Station at Accident, MD

April 24, 2017

Accident Compressor Station Title V permit hearing set for April 26, 2017 at 6 PM From an Announcement by Engage Mountain Maryland, The Garrett County Republican, April 19, 2017 The air quality permit to operate the Texas Eastern Transmission facilities at Accident will be the subject of a public hearing on Wednesday, April 26, 6:00 PM at [...]

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The US Anti-Science Budget Proposal is an Insult to our Earth

April 23, 2017

Trump’s anti-science budget will be a disaster for America’s bottom line From an Article by Denis Hayes, Los Angeles Times, April 22, 2017 In its approach to scientific research, President Trump’s budget can be accurately described as a mugging. I’ve watched this happen before, up close and personal. It does not end well. In 1979, President Carter [...]

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Earth Day Message for Trump Administration, et al.

April 22, 2017

VALUES AND VOICES, LETTER 39 on DAY 39, February 27, 2017 By William P. Brown, William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary Dear President Trump, Vice President Pence, Members of the Trump Administration and 115th Congress, As an ordained Presbyterian minister and teacher, I love the Bible, as I know many of [...]

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Science Editorial: “Why EARTH Optimism?”

April 21, 2017

AAAS EDITORIAL:  Why Earth Optimism? By Andrew Balmford and Nancy Knowlton Andrew Balmford is Professor of Conservation Science in the Dept. of Zoology at the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK. Nancy Knowlton is the Sant Chair for Marine Science at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA. Source: Science, April 21, 2017: Vol. 356, Issue 6335, [...]

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Computer “Apps” are Automating Drilling & Fracking

April 20, 2017

Fracking 2.0: Shale Drillers Pioneer New Ways to Profit in Era of Cheap Oil From an Article by Erin Ailworth, Dow Jones Newswire, March 30, 2017 MIDLAND, Texas — Using a proprietary app called iSteer, Brian Tapp, a geologist for EOG Resources Inc., dashed off instructions to a drilling rig 100 miles away. This tool [...]

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The Permian Basin is Very Ritzy at $60,000 per Acre

April 19, 2017

Top shale play’s growing entry fee spurs risk-reward backlash From an Article by Joe Carroll, Bloomberg News Service, February 10, 2017 >>> Oklahoma Scoop, Stack seen drawing overflow as deals migrate Record prices for drilling rights in the Permian Basin, the most fertile U.S. shale field, are prompting oil companies and private equity investors to look [...]

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$$ Money Pours into the Oil Patch

April 18, 2017

Undaunted by oil bust, financiers pour billions into U.S. shale From an Article by Ernest Scheyder, Reuters News Service, April 16, 2017 Investors who took a hit last year when dozens of U.S. shale producers filed for bankruptcy are already making big new bets on the industry’s resurgence. In the first quarter, private equity funds [...]

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Research Shows that Methane from Gas Wells Affects Groundwater & Travels Great Distances

April 17, 2017

Researchers call for effective groundwater monitoring in Canada From an Article by Andrew Nikiforuk, The Tyee.ca, April 11, 2017 A new University of Guelph study proves what many western Canadian landowners have long documented — that methane gas leaking from energy industry wells can travel great distances in groundwater and pose safety risks, contaminate water [...]

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