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Fossil Fuels’ Hidden Cost Is in Billions, Study Says

Matthew Wald, New York Times
Burning fossil fuels costs the United States about $120 billion a year in health costs, mostly because of thousands of premature deaths from air pollution, the National Academy of Sciences reported in a study issued Monday.

The damages are caused almost equally by coal and oil, according to the study, which was ordered by Congress. The study set out to measure the costs not incorporated into the price of a kilowatt-hour or a gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel.

The estimates by the academy do not include damages from global warming, which has been linked to the gases produced by burning fossil fuels. The authors said the extent of such damage, and the timing, were too uncertain to estimate.

Nor did the study measure damage from burning oil for trains, ships and planes. And it did not include the environmental damage from coal mining or the pollution of rivers with chemicals that were filtered from coal plant smokestacks to keep the air clean.
(19 Oct 2009)
The report can be read online here free of charge.

Will EPA veto or regulate the plunder of Appalachia?

Jeff Biggers, Grist
Big News: In a historic move, Lisa Jackson’s EPA threw down the gauntlet on mountaintop removal mining last Friday—after they had just compromised on another massively destructive mountaintop removal operation. Is this the beginning of the end of the plunder of Appalachia—or is the EPA moving sideways to regulate what its own science has called an irreversible violation of the Clean Water Act?

Within the backdrop of the EPA’s extraordinary announcement to employ its veto authority at the largest mountaintop removal mine site in West Virginia, the coalfield uprising is moving on several fronts this week. Today, besieged coalfield residents in the Coal River Valley are delivering an urgent letter to West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin to stop an impending mountaintop removal operation near a dangerous coal slurry impoundment in their communities that will destroy jobs and their homeland and an internationally acclaimed wind farm. Updates of the action at the governor’s mansion will be posted at Climate Ground Zero.

Meanwhile, the Alliance for Appalachia and and other coalfield groups are also continuing to collect statements against the Army Corps’ NWP 21 permit process and their chaotic hearings last week.

Charleston Gazette/Coal Tattoo journalist Ken Ward broke the news on the EPA on Friday: The EPA announced its historic intentions to “issue a public notice of a proposed determination to restrict or prohibit the discharge of dredged and/or fill material at the Spruce No. 1 Mine project site consistent with our authority under Section 404 (c) of the Clean Water Act and regulations 40 C.F.R. Part 231.” In a line: For the first time in decades, the EPA is moving to invoke its veto power to stop a St. Louis, Mo.-owned Arch Coal mountaintop removal mining operation from unacceptable adverse impacts on the environment and water quality…
(19 Oct 2009)
related: Leveling Appalachia: The Legacy of Mountaintop Removal Mining (video)

Global Warming Accelerating While The U.S. Backpedals

Shamus Cooke, countercurrents
Two recent studies have shocked the world in regard to global warming. A phenomenon that was to happen “possibly in our lifetime” has evolved into a threat capable of transforming the world in ten years time.

A recent, extensive study of the northern polar ice caps released by climate expert Professor Peter Wadham, concluded that the Arctic Ocean would be “mostly” ice free in 10 years during the summer months.

This study is a stunning compliment to research done by NASA at the South Pole, which noted that ice sheets have been losing 30 feet a year in thickness since 2003. The research concluded that the rate of melting is accelerating, creating a “runaway effect.”

As ice sheets melt, less sun is reflected back into outer space, and is instead absorbed into the ocean — known as the Albedo Effect — further accelerating the pace of oceanic warming.

The consequences will be devastating.

The International Institute for Environment and Development has studied the possible effects of rising ocean levels, and concluded that one eighth of the world’s urban population would become “climate refugees,” creating the largest displacement of people in world history. The most vulnerable countries are China (144 million displaced), India (63 million) and Bangladesh (62 million), while lower on the list are Japan (30 million) and the United States (23 million).

…In response to the arctic ice melting, the U.S. and Europe have begun cooperating…militarily — under the NATO umbrella. They see the melting ice not as social calamity, but as a corporate-profit opportunity. United Press International (UPI) reported that U.S. Navy Admiral James Savridis remarked that, “…climate change, which is melting ice around the polar cap, is opening trade routes and access to billions of barrels of oil. That, in turn, could lead to competition and friction…” (October 10, 2009).

The friction is between NATO and Russia, which also has corporations eager to exploit the raw materials and trade routes an iceless arctic will offer. UPI reports, “Russia sent a submarine to the Arctic seafloor in February to symbolically plant a flag and announced in March that it would establish military bases along the northern coastline.”…
(19 Oct 2009)
Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action ( He can be reached at [email protected]