Thanks, coal miners, but it’s time to end your labors
Thank you, coal miners. At great cost to your own health and safety, you went deep into the earth to mine the fuel that powered homes and industries and helped build the America we know today. But now we know that burning coal is harmful to both our health and our climate. So I agree with Dan Rodricks that we have to transition quickly to less damaging sources of energy (“The nation’s goodbye to coal is taking too long. Why is Maryland still mining for it?” Oct. 1).
There’s a simple way to accelerate that process: Charge the companies that extract coal, oil and natural gas a steadily rising price on the carbon dioxide released per unit energy produced. That’s what a carbon tax does. Because coal is the least efficient burning fossil fuel, it would quickly become very expensive. Utilities would be motivated to shut down coal-fired power plants because they were losing money on them. Soon, oil and gas-fired power plants would also become too expensive to operate, incentivizing utilities to switch to cheaper energy sources like solar and wind.
What should the government do with the revenue produced from that carbon tax? I’ll bet most people would be very happy to have it rebated to them as a monthly check to spend as they wish. The U.S. House of Representatives is already considering this in the Energy Innovation and Carbon dividend Act. This could be the kind of tax people could warm to.
Cheryl Arney, Ellicott City
Western Maryland ‘littered with wind turbines’
In response to Dan Rodricks’ column on coal, I would have to say I finally agree with something he wrote.
Dan should cheer up, though. Any visitor to Western Maryland will notice that the entire mountain range in Western Maryland is now littered with wind turbines. They were, of course, built and installed by a company outside Maryland, so our state’s economy did not benefit much from their installation.
In order to build those turbines, however, we had to clear acres of old growth forest, to make the roads to build and access them, and platforms to build them on (at least they weren’t strip mined, am I right?). This then created runoff issues into the streams (but hey, they are on the other side of the Eastern Continental Divide, so it’s all those states on the Mississippi that will suffer). And I understand that the energy required to manufacture the turbines is more than they produce in their first several years, and that they are only turning a fraction of the time, which means we need — wait for it — coal burning plants running continuously to make up the gaps. And finally, in the greatest slap in the face to environmentalists, China (the largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions in the world) is building coal-fired power plants. As they Beatles said, “you say goodbye, I say hello.”
Greg Corrigan, Ellicott City
Coal was and is a ‘dangerous fuel’
The column by Dan Rodricks on Maryland’s coal mines shows how we’ve forgotten just how dangerous coal mining was. It is still a dangerous fuel. Transitioning from coal to natural gas not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions but also nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur oxides (SOx) particulate matter, along with mercury (think smog, acid rain and toxic pollutants). The transition to solar and wind must be expedited. Because there is a lively market for electricity, energy produced via coal combustion in surrounding states flows to Maryland users. Figuring out exactly how much seems to involve magic, and we do indeed have “miles to go before we sleep.” Maryland will the need participation of our neighboring states or, better still, nationwide regulations to see a reduction in pollution and a stable climate for our children.
Russell R. Dickerson, University Park