There's Nothing Like a Real Coal Fire

Public Utility Commission member pushes for more coal, even after the recent TXU struggle.

But the environmental impact of coal isn't just about pollution. The old image of miners heading, sooty-faced, into the bowels of the earth is almost as dead as a canary in a gas pocket. The majority of U.S. coal comes from massive open-cast surface mining (773,705,734 tons in FY 2006 against 358,875,089 tons of underground production), and then there's the gloriously euphemistic ideal of mountaintop mining – so named because it involves taking the top off a mountain and dropping it into the valley below, just to get to the coal quicker and easier.

And what role for renewables? In the PUC's optimistic model, they're barely presenting an upward flicker in the next 100 years. If there's no carbon-charging, their graphs have the coal proportion of the power mix reaching almost 120 exojoules and renewables hovering at around 3 exojoules.

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