19 Feb 2009

Why I’ll Get Arrested to Stop the Burning of Coal

On March 2, environmentalist Bill McKibben joined demonstrators who marched on a coal-fired power plant in Washington D.C. In this article for Yale Environment 360, he explains why he was ready to go to jail to protest the continued burning of coal.
By bill mckibben

It may seem odd timing that many of us are heading to the nation’s capital early next month for a major act of civil disobedience at a coal-fired power plant, the first big protest of its kind against global warming in this country.

After all, Barack Obama’s in power. He’s appointed scientific advisers who actually believe in… science, and he’s done more in a few weeks to deal with climate change than all the presidents of the last 20 years combined. Stalwarts like John Kerry, Henry Waxman, and Ed Markey are chairing the relevant congressional committees. The auto companies, humbled, are promising to build rational vehicles if only we give them some cash. What’s to protest? Why not just give the good guys a break?

If you think about it a little longer, though, you realize this is just the moment to up the ante. For one thing, it would have done no good in the past: you think Dick Cheney was going to pay attention?

More importantly, we need a powerful and active movement not to force the administration and the Democrats in Congress to do something they don’t want to, but to give them the political space they need to act on their convictions. Barack Obama was a community organizer — he understands that major change only comes when it’s demanded, when there’s some force noisy enough to drown out the eternal hum of business as usual, of vested interest, of inertia.

Consider what has to happen if we’re going to deal with global warming in a real way. NASA climate scientist James Hansen — who has announced he plans to join us and get arrested for trespassing in the action we’re
The only hope of making the kind of change required is to really stick in people’s minds a simple idea: Coal is bad.
planning for March 2 — has demonstrated two things in recent papers. One, that any concentration of carbon dioxide greater than 350 parts per million in the atmosphere is not compatible with the “planet on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.” And two, that the world as a whole must stop burning coal by 2030 — and the developed world well before that — if we are to have any hope of ever getting the planet back down below that 350 number.

That should give you some sense of what Obama’s up against. Coal provides 50 percent of our electricity. That juice comes from hundreds of expensive, enormous plants, each one of them owned by rich and powerful companies. Shutting these plants down — or getting the companies to install expensive equipment that might be able to separate carbon from the exhaust stream and sequester it safely in some mine somewhere — will be incredibly hard. Investors are planning on running those plants another half-century to make back their money — the sunk costs involved are probably on the scale of those lousy mortgages now bankrupting our economy.

And if you think it’s tough for us, imagine the Chinese. They’ve been opening a coal-burning power plant a week. You want to tell them to start shutting them down when that coal-fired power represents the easiest way to pull people out of poverty across Asia?

The only hope of making the kind of change required is to really stick in people’s minds a simple idea: Coal is bad. It’s bad when you mine it, it’s bad for the city where you burn it, and it’s bad for the climate.

Happily, there’s no place that makes that point much more easily than the power plant Congress owns not far from the U.S. Capitol building. It’s antiquated (built today, it wouldn’t meet the standards of the Clean Air Act). It’s filthy — one study estimates that it and the other coal-fired power plants ringing the District of Columbia cause the deaths of at least 515 people a year. It’s among the largest point sources of CO2 in the capital. It helps support the mining industry that is scalping the summits of neighboring West Virginia, Virginia, and Kentucky. Oh, and it would be easy enough to fix. In fact, the facility can already burn some natural gas instead, and a modest retrofit would let it convert away from coal entirely.

Not only that, but it’s owned by Congress. They don’t need to ask any utility executives. They could just have a vote and do it — as easy as you deciding to put a new, clean furnace in your basement. It would even stimulate the local economy.

All of which means it’s the perfect target. Not because shutting it down would do much, except for the people who live right nearby. But because
When civil disobedience works, it’s because it demonstrates a willingness to bear a certain amount of pain for a larger end.
it’s a way to get the conversation started. When civil disobedience works, it’s because it demonstrates some willingness to bear a certain amount of pain for some larger end — a way to say, "Coal is bad enough that I’m willing to get arrested." Which is not the biggest deal on earth, but if you’re going to be asking the Chinese, say, to start turning off their coal-fired plants, you can probably keep a straighter face if you’ve made at least a mild sacrifice yourself.

There are dangers in this kind of strategy too. It could turn people off, make them think that global warming protesters are crazy hippies harkening back to the '60s. I don’t mind hippies in the slightest, but when the writer Wendell Berry and I sent out the original invitation to this action, we asked that those who wanted to be arrested wear their dress clothes. And not just because it’s serious business — but also in hopes of discouraging the hardcore anarchists and troublemakers attracted to such events, sort of in the way that convenience stores play classical music to keep folks from loitering outside.

The other danger is that it might convince activists that this is the most important work to do, the main tool in the toolbox. That’s almost certainly not true, which is why it’s appropriate that Powershift, the huge gathering of young people the same weekend in D.C., will focus on lobbying on Capitol Hill that Monday morning of the protest. Lobbying first, sitting-in second. And third, and most important of all, the suddenly swelling movement toward symbolic action next fall on a global basis., the campaign I helped found, is looking for new ways to make a point, with a global day of action on Oct. 24 that will link people up from high in the Himalayas to underwater on the Great Barrier Reef to… Your Town Here.

A little Facebook, a little Twitter, and a little sitting down in the street where the police don’t want you. We’ve got to see what works!


Bill McKibben is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College. His The End of Nature, published in 1989, is regarded as the first book for a general audience on global warming. He is a founder of, a campaign to spread the goal of reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide to 350 parts per million worldwide. His most recent book is American Earth, an anthology of American environmental writing. In previous articles for Yale Environment 360, he has written about the "tipping point" for climate change and the climate challenges facing President Obama.

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Well done, Bill!

I particularly agree with this idea ..

"The only hope of making the kind of change required is to really stick in people’s minds a simple idea: Coal is bad. "

I particularly wanted to test this idea in some recent public opinion research, and unfortunately, very few people think this ... see

This really has to change!

Peter Winters
Posted by Peter Winters on 19 Feb 2009

Thanks, Bill, for the great article. I love your idea of coming in dress clothes.

I believe this is a huge problem also here in Germany - people thinking that acting on climate change is the same as being an activist, and an activist is some kind of Birkenstock wearing and muesli eating Hippi.

We urgently need a lot more "normal" and high profile "dress-code-people" to join in the movement and go on the street to show the public that being active has nothing to do with being a Hippi, but has everything to do with being a responsible world citizen.

Thanks so much for helping us to move along more quickly!
Posted by Maiken on 19 Feb 2009

Right on dude, give-em hell. I have worked out aproximately how much CO2 is produced in the US through the burning of coal. The answer is 2,783 cubic miles of CO2 at STP. based on the 2007 consumption of 1,145,600,000 short tons.

Even if this were frozen down into dry ice (a completely rediculous idea requiring massive amounts of energy, but even if you did it and it took zero energy to accomplish) it would result in a block of dry ice that measures a little more than a cubic mile. Where axactly does the ACCCE propose that this CO2 be burried?

On the linked site I noted you will see my first video about electric vehicles. in the near future I will be making one about clean coal. Have a look.
Posted by J. Peter MacKay on 19 Feb 2009

Good show; thanks for pulling it off. Please put some specific details about what those of us not in D.C. can do. For starters, what are the Facebook pages and Twitter urls?
Posted by Anne on 19 Feb 2009

I just discovered this website and I love it, and one reason is great articles like this. Good luck and godspeed, Mr. McKibben, we're behind you! This NVCD movement will grow because scientists are backing you up too. James Hansen of NASA is an advocate of non-violent civil disobedience and I'd be there too if I was closer to D.C.
We're proud of you!

Posted by Shelly T. on 20 Feb 2009

Isn't advocating civil disobediance illegal or will you pull the "it's for the greater good" defence, similar to the the defence used by Nazi Germany "I was just following orders"?

Given that Hansen is a public employee, I hope he remembered to request a day off work on March 2
Posted by B Roberts on 20 Feb 2009

Carbon dioxide is a very rare, very long lived, and very potent greenhouse gas.

Prior to the industrial revolution, there was one pound of CO2 in the atmosphere in the one square foot above your head. Yet this one pound makes the difference between our 59 degree F world, and a frigid world that would resemble Antarctica.

One-third of CO2 emissions remain in the atmosphere after 100 years, and 20% after 1,000 years. The average life of this-sub-millennial CO2 is 300 years. The remaining 20% is essentially there for 10k to 100k years or more -- essentially forever.

CO2 is a by-product of burning fossil fuels. But due to its potency and long life, the heating effect of CO2 in the atmosphere is orders of magnitude greater than the energy contained in the fossil fuel. For coal, the heating effect of the CO2 by-product is 800 times as great as the energy released by burning the fuel, when calculated over the 300 year lifetime of the sub-millennial CO2.

For fossil fuels, the by-product is way more potent than the product itself. This is why we must limit our use of fossil fuels.

Posted by Mike Burnett on 20 Feb 2009

A prediction, ten years from now Bill and others will be remembered for demonstrating they were damned fools.

I just hope at that time we are not huddled around the heat of a wood fire gnawing on the bones of the last of our wildlife.
Posted by Ray on 20 Feb 2009

Silliness in spades. AGW is a politically driven myth. Protest if you want, go to jail if you want, it will make no difference. The Sun is the driver of the climate and cares not one whit for your Quixotic actions.
Posted by Shoshin on 20 Feb 2009

Remember to turn off the heat at your house while you're gone!

Oh...make sure you get a jail cell without heat, too.

And thanks for contributing to the late lights at the DC police stations who have to process your clueless cadre. I am sure there are no criminals they could be chasing in DC.

Great solution!!!
Posted by Penta on 20 Feb 2009

This would be an exceptionally poor idea. Those who already believe that "coal is bad" as a point of faith would cheer you on. However, those who are undecided will just be turned off by such extreme actions, and the anti-coal movement would lose public support. A stunt like this would only push the crusade against global warming caused by carbon dioxide further to the fringe. There is still too much doubt in the averge citizen's mind about what is really going to happen to our climate, and what is driving the changes. Every year that the temperatures go back down makes such extreme action more amd more foolish.
Posted by Paul on 20 Feb 2009

Its interesting also to see honest debate emerge now that "change" has the nation confronted with actually backing up campaign rhetoric.

Coal is better than cold and dark, Bill, leave them be!
Posted by Ray on 21 Feb 2009

Look at me, I'm here again! There isn't a problem, there isn't a problem, there isn't a problem...

People politicize an issue and use me to argue against science because it seems orthogonal to their economic and political paradigm — Ain't social marketing grand?
Posted by Denial on 21 Feb 2009

Coal as a power source belongs to a previous era. I'm with you Bill - if we leave it to industry and politicians we'll never get the globe cleaned up.
Posted by Stylish Dog on 21 Feb 2009

Shelly T,

I don't follow your logic. A citizen engaging in a well-reasoned act of civil disobedience bears no similarity to the adherents of a fascist state. In fact, it is just the opposite. Climate protesters are following their consciences in order to peacefully alter government policy. Proponents of a Nazi-like fascist state would not follow their conscience because their consciences were in many ways determined by the state. Criticize the protest if you want, but drop the Nazi comparison and come up with a decent argument.

Also, are you proposing that public employees are not allowed to voice their opinions? That Dr. Hansen, one of the leading climatologists in the scientific community, can't participate in the protest because he is employed by the federal government. So even though he is an expert in the field and even though the data has led him to the conclusion that coal fired power plants need to be phased out quickly in order to prevent massive disruptions to the climate, he should just ignore his conscience and go to work. You might say that if he chooses to skip the event, he would simply be "following orders."

Posted by Craig on 21 Feb 2009

Will this act of civil disobedience physically do anything to impede the operation of the coal plant or is it purely a publicity stunt? Civil disobedience is effective when it disrupts the operation of an unjust system. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi carried out acts of passive-resistance that made the systems of segregation and colonialism much more difficult to manage. Thousands of activists since then have reduced civil disobedience to an easy answer for how to get on television.

I suspect a well organized campaign of "hardcore anarchists and troublemakers" physically blocking the operation of a power plant for at least a week would accomplish more concrete results than getting arrested for a two minute story on the national news.

Large grant funding sources and the fear of being called hippie tree-huggers will keep most of the environmental movement from engaging in meaningful acts of civil disobedience for years to come. Young people willing to engage in effective civil disobedience will continue to get no guidance from the environmental movement.

Posted by Will on 21 Feb 2009

Dear Bill -

Thanks for everything you've done and continue to do.

However, this sentence:

"In fact, the facility can already burn some natural gas instead, and a modest retrofit would let it convert away from coal entirely"

causes me and many others great concern.

Now that conventional, easily-accessed pockets of natural gas are becoming rarer, and the resource now must be extracted from coalbeds (the strata where potable drinking water is often found in some areas) and tight shales in a dangerously polluting manner, natural gas is not an acceptable alternative. It may burn cleaner, but in a violation of the principles of environmental justice, it makes a horrible mess for the people who live where it's extracted. Just ask the folks in Dimock, PA - the most recent example on the east coast of HD/HVHF's* risk to ground & surface waters. (In PA, waste from the drilling process also seriously polluted the Monongahela River this past fall.) As Deb Meader of Parachute, CO says, "You can't live next to a gas well and not get sick."

It's very important not to fall into the trap being set by T Boone Pickens, that will not in fact green the earth - anything but - but is designed to further green his pockets.

*horizontal drilling/high volume hydraulic fracturing

For more information, please visit
Posted by Laure on 21 Feb 2009

How can you call your actions civil disobedience when government is addressing your concern?

Hey look at me, hey look at me, hey look at me..stunt to circumvent democratic process.
Posted by Ray on 22 Feb 2009

The most important video I have ever seen, extremely well done and truly alarming.

It is my personal belief that this summer (2009) will be the hottest thing we have ever seen. You will see why I believe this after watching the video.

In the last few months the amount of fossil fuels being consumed has dropped dramatically due to the recession (depression), this is good news that I strongly believe in, however the drop in soot being produced will have a big side effect.

It is my belief that we must stop the bull about clean coal and pumping the CO2 underground. It is a profoundly stupid idea. In 2007 the US alone produced 2,780 cubic miles of CO2 (at STP) through the burning of coal alone. Even if this CO2 were frozen into dry ice it would still measure 1 cubic mile. Unless you can show me the carpet that we are going to sweep that under, stop wasting my time. There is no place on earth large enough to hold the CO2.

While we pursue the Clean Coal fantasy we waste the underground caverns by pumping them full of CO2. These caverns could be used for energy storage. Pump the caverns full of air while the solar power plant makes power and blow the compressed air through a turbine when the sun goes down, same idea for wind.

We need an all out national effort to erect wind turbines and solar power plants as fast as is nationally possible. Use the caverns for energy storage and de-commission coal plants as quickly as possible.

In my opinion the only reason that the ACCCE exists is to publish mis-information. I believe that they should be held accountable for the lies they tell.

Fossil fuel use must be ended, we must use as little fossil fuel as we can to end our dependency on it. Put the last of the diminishing deisel fuel into the trucks to get the wind mills to the top of the mountains, or use it to build hydro dams. Yes I know they are bad too, but pick your poison or turn off your lights and be quiet.

Civil disobedience is the only tool that the general public has to voice their choices. If the public does not act loudly then the airwaves will be filled with the voice of the ACCCE.

Fight on my friend, with my thanks and the thanks of my children, I appreciate it.

Posted by GloballyWarmDude on 22 Feb 2009

Wow, this is just like a return to the 80's when everyone protested all the nuclear power plants because they were too unsafe.

Good thing that happened, or else we would be like France by now, and have 90% of our power made by non-CO2 producing nuclear power.

As a form of agreeing with your protest, what if the coal plants along the east coast ALL shut down their generators? This would cause a massive power outage, in the middle of winter, causing people to go without heating and start freezing. How will that help sway public opinion?
Posted by skepticguy on 23 Feb 2009

I never said shut all the coal plants down and let everyone freeze. I would never say such a thing.

Personally I don't particularly like nuclear power and would prefer we avoid it. But I also appreciate it for being CO2 free. I believe that nuclear has proven its' self pretty safe over the last 20 years. I would not object to more nuclear power plants. But given the choice I would take wind and very large scale solar.

But you substantiate your own arguement, it could easily be said that nuclear power plants are much safer now (and way too expensive)due in no small part to all the protests. I think your comment spells out exactly why protest is so important. Democratic society demands it. Public protest is effective. Even Noam Chomsky once said that there is no force on earth greater than public opinion. Obviously the ACCCE knows this and uses it to mislead the public. They build positive public opinion by interviewing laypeople on their views about power. It is an obscene use of media, asking people who obviously know next to nothing about coal what their opinion is about coal.

The only solutions that really have a 500 year un-argueably planet saving future are solar and wind. We all know this, why do we fight it? By adding energy storage to the grid these solutions become completely viable.

I said we need to de-commission the coal plants as quickly as possible while we replace them with wind and solar.

Do you not agree that 2,780 cubic miles of CO2 per year is a problem?

What exactly would you have us do to stop pumping CO2 into the atmosphere?

Please propose your solution, I personally am all ears. I would like nothing better than to hear an idea for energy production that does not produce CO2, lay it on me man, you have my compete attention.
Posted by globallywarmdude on 23 Feb 2009

Any carbon diet strategy would be dependent upon clean coal:

"The vast majority of new power stations in China and India will be coal-fired; not "may be coal-fired"; will be. So developing carbon capture and storage technology is not optional, it is literally of the essence." --"Breaking the Climate Deadlock," Tony Blair, June 26, 2008

But, Vaclav Smil, an energy expert at the University of Manitoba, has estimated that capturing and burying just 10 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted over a year from coal-fire plants at current rates would require moving volumes of compressed carbon d ioxide greater than the total annual flow of oil worldwide -- a massive undertaking requiring decades and trillions of dollars. "Beware of the scale," he stressed."

There is a technology to profitably turn the CO2 from coal-fired power plants into fuel:

"Still as ambitious as ever, (Craig Venter) just announced at the TED conference: "We have modest goals of replacing the whole petrochemical industry and becoming a major source of energy, we think we will have fourth-generation fuels in about 18 months, with CO2 as the fuel stock." What’s this fourth-generation fuel he’s talking about? Biofuel alternatives to oil are third-generation. The next step is life forms that feed on CO2 and give off fuel such as methane gas as waste, according to Venter." --"Geneticist Craig Venter Wants to Create Fuel from CO2,"

The world's emissions of the main planet-warming gas carbon dioxide will rise over 50 percent to more than 42 billion tonnes per year from 2005 to 2030 as China leads a rise in burning coal, the U.S. government forecast on Wednesday. China's coal demand will rise 3.2 percent annually from 2005 to 2030, the Energy Information Administration said in its International Energy Outlook 2008. --Reuters, 26 June 2008

China has one of the largest coal reserves in the world, and coal accounts for 67% of its primary energy use, compared with 24% for the world average. China is currently bringing two additional coal-fired power plants to the electric power grid every week. In a hypothetical scenario in which carbon intensity keeps pace with a GDP growth rate of 7%, by 2030, China would be emitting as much as the world as a whole is today (8 GtC/year) --Ning Zeng et al., Science, 8 February 2008

"Contrary to the conventional wisdom that China is outpacing the rest of the world in building coal plants, the International Energy Agency has projected that between 2011 and 2020 the OECD (most of Europe plus the U.S.), with 150 million fewer people than China, will build 10 percent more coal capacity than China (184 GW for the OECD vs. 168 GW for China)." --"Schwarzenegger's folly," Gristmill, 16 Oct 2008
Posted by Brad Arnold on 23 Feb 2009

By the way, globallywarmdude, I don't believe you when you say you would like nothing better than to hear an idea for energy production that does not produce CO2. Let's test your claim:

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." --Albert Einstein

Today, most of our electricity is produced by "electromagnetic induction," where a magnet is moved in and out of a coil of wire in a closed circuit. In other words, we now have to power the motion of either the magnet or the wire to produce electricity.

Instead, wind a solenoidal coil around a magnet, and apply electricity. The magnetic field is amplified, and the magnetic gradient can be exploited to yield more electricity than was used powering the solenoidal coil. In other words, we avoid having to power the motion of either the magnet or the wire, and can instead have a solid state power generator.

A private California company called Magnetic Power Inc ( ) exceeded breakeven (i.e. produced more electricity than it used) with a prototype in late 2004.

"In association with Magnetic Power Inc. I'm on the web talking about this. Please don't try to get me involved in your own crackpot project - one is enough. Basically, I believe it would be possible to get what looks like free energy (but which may not in fact be free) from static magnetic fields. At best, it could be revolutionary, at worst I'll have another story to tell at my own expense. I've looked at the technological approach and couldn't knock any holes in it. I am a skeptic and will believe it when I see it, and I can't see why I can't do it myself. I don't ask for permission from physicists in doing my engineering - engineers create phenomenon and physicists explain them - first things first." --Lee Felsenstein,

All truth passes through three stages:
First, it is ridiculed;
Second, it is violently opposed; and
Third, it is accepted as self-evident. -- Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)
Posted by Brad Arnold on 23 Feb 2009

"All of which means it’s the perfect target. Not because shutting it down would do much, except for the people who live right nearby."

I lived on Duddington Place, SE, a block away, for four years and and never once noticed any ill effect from this facility. No fly-ash or any other ground level pollution of any kind in it's immediate environs.

Perhaps it will have an unmeasurably insignificant impact for residents much further downwind. But it won't do a damn thing for those who live right nearby, Mr. McKibben.

The only real observable emissions were from the steam cooling tower. When the wind blew in the right direction on a wintry day you would get a light snowfall on the surrounding blocks.

It rarely produced any other observable pollution at all (I know c02 is invisible). It's probably the steam emitted, mistakenly assumed by so many greens as emissions from coal combustion, that makes rubes and rustics think it's a good symbolic propaganda site.

Posted by Kerry on 23 Feb 2009

Gee Brad I certainly wonder why you would doubt me. Throwing an Einstein quote at me does not counter my point.

If you have a zero CO2 solution now, then I am all ears.

But please don't tell me about what might happen some day. Please show me a solution that we can implement today. I believe I have done that. If you have a better solution that you can deliver tomorrow morning, or a realistic proven concept or functioning demonstration that can be scaled up then please bring it.

Far off promises only serve to delay and obscure what we must do now, not 2 or 3 or 4 years from now.

I watched the video you suggest. It makes promises and eludes to some magical future. In my opinion it is just more "I know a guy that knows a guy that has this machine that makes energy". Show me the guy and show me the machine or stop wasting my time. I will not bet my future and the future of my children on promises.

Put it on a desk, plug it in and show it working, period.

If you want to bet your future with a guy that knows a guy that know a guy that has a machine then go ahead. I do not share that inclination.

I sincerely implore you to prove me wrong, don't promise me wrong, prove it. I would love to be wrong. But please do not refer me to videos that make only claims and promises. Show me the machine. Show it working and making power. Have the results verified by an independant party. By the way I am describing a process you might want to look into, it is called science.
Posted by GloballyWarmDude on 24 Feb 2009

Instead of protesting coal plants, maybe environmentalists should apologize for forcing coal on us in the 70's. The 'No Nuke' campaign caused more damage to the environment than all the oil companies combined, and killed more people than Bush Jr. and Sr.
Posted by daveeck on 01 Mar 2009

A global warming protest during a blizzard. Too funny! I do not recognize any gods from above looking over my shoulder but concede now there is one and he/she is doubled up with a case of the giggles.
Posted by Ray on 02 Mar 2009

Ray, Weather and climate are not the same thing! Even I know that, and I reject everything.
Posted by Denial on 02 Mar 2009

I am aware of the differance but question the ability to separate the two. Climate models are precariously based upon backcasted weather events.

Both weather and climate models speculate with enough unknown drivers, unknown feedbacks both negative or positive while trying to define chaotic systems to make mockery of any claiming to forecast next week let alone next year.

Unproven theories are a dime a dozen for a reason.

Posted by Ray on 02 Mar 2009

Hey Ray,

It still amazes me that people with an IQ above that of a toaster deny and obscure GW. I stand in awe of some poeples ability to resist change. No question that 100 years from now the socioligists will be analyzing these times with great scrutiny.

While at the same time we have big money institutions like the Marshall Institute that currently argues against GW. They are known for their arguements against second hand smoke and CFC's as well, by the way.

Then we have the ACCCE which serves no purpose but to mislead the public and politicians, that is their mandate and they have nearly stated as much.

So fight on my friend, you have my full support.

But please tell us all, did you get arrested? Or at least pepper sprayed I hope :-)

Posted by GloballyWarmDude on 02 Mar 2009

Nope stayed home where it was warm and watched the hemp hats make fools of themselves.

The irony!!
Posted by Ray on 03 Mar 2009

Haha....they got IGNORED! By the Messiah's own government no less! Some advice: Less time making giant puppets, more time selling good ideas for solutions.
Posted by Penta on 03 Mar 2009

Individuals CAN prevent Global Warming

I am not completely convinced CO2 has anything to do with Global Warming. That notwithstanding, I am certain that reducing our reliance on fossil fuels is both a good idea and necessary, for a large number of obvious reasons.

The good news is that we can all make a difference. It goes way beyond buying a few (polluting) low energy light bulbs, and will have a real impact if even half of those concerned about Global Warming follow the proposals. The beauty is that even if only half do this, it makes no difference what the rest do! Renewable energy will become cheaper than fossil fuels with enough investment in the technology, and everyone will move over naturally!

Firstly, buy renewable energy.

As far as I am aware, you have the choice to buy renewable electricity in all developed countries. If you cannot now, you should campaign for that inalienable right immediately. Currently our own household buys 25% of our electricity as renewable, costing us about US$33 extra per year. 100% would cost US$183)*.

Some argue that if millions of householders (and industries, I would hope) buy renewable energy, there will not be enough. If you do not buy it, there will NEVER be enough. If you do, the money will be used to INVEST in infrastructure for future renewable energy, so making the expense just as effective.

Merely by choosing to buy this, you are immediately and directly investing in the renewable energy industry, and sending a powerful and undeniable message to those who matter, the people who actually generate electricity, not environmentalists or politicians who may have different agenda.

Secondly, stop investing in 'Big Oil' and 'Big Coal'.

It comes as a shock to many ordinary citizens to be told that the huge greedy corporations actually make money for THEM, not for some faceless consortium. Sure, corporate flunkies may make millions of dollars, but WE, as investors, make billions, and even trillions. Their huge payouts and massive junkets are insignificant compared to the profits the companies make for their investors.

You may well think that you do not invest in these companies, but if you have a pension or investment fund, you almost certainly do. These funds will, quite obviously, be invested in the very companies that make the most profits and returns for their investors. All these corporations are doing is actually acting effectively YOUR instruction, ie to get the best possible return. If WE stop investing in them, they fail, and will be forced to change their practices to survive in a capitalist environment.

The answer is to choose ethical investments (there may be different names). Talk to your financial adviser and make the switch now. ONLY YOU control your investments. Make the choice and stop letting others do it for you.

The message is that YOU control the future of energy production with your wallets. The bad news is that it will cost, but nothing the environmentalists or governments will ever do about this issue will cost you less than this, and most of what they want to do will take control away from you and waste most of your expenditure in bureaucratic bungling and misguided foolishness, in my opinion. This simple two-step approach has all the potential to work and with no complex side effects that I can see immediately. It has a direct and immediate effect.

It is so rare that we are able to do something so straightforward in this complex world. If Global Warming concerns you, I urge you to put your money where your mouth is, and make an immediate difference TODAY, before the power is taken away from you.

* Based on a usage of 5,000 kWh of electricity.
Posted by Jerome on 04 Mar 2009

You're wasting your time. All the windmlills and solar in this country today still don't equal two good nuke plants. How are you gonna power a car with a solar panel or a windmill? If you want clean air and lower CO2 emissions there is only one real option, NUKES.

Lightbulbs ... are you kidding??? Hey, how about little generators on my kids' hamster wheels?

You green types crack me up. Especially when you hop on a plane and fly off on vacation using more energy than half the worlds citizens do in a lifetime.

Get over your guilt! Admit that Nukes work and are safe and all those dopey greens that said they did not were wrong, and lets get on with our lives.
Posted by f1fan on 04 Mar 2009

The author is correct to be upset about the one trillion tons of coal burned each year to produce 50% of our electricity. However before we shut down these plants we should have some idea of how we will replace this power.

Now, I know the conventional wisdom of the faction ready to go to jail is that wind and solar are the answer. I would ask that they consider this. Wind is offline and not producing power 75% of the time in a good location. For 75% of the time fossil fuel plants must supply power, because of this no fossil fuel plant can be shut down. In 50% of the cases the back-up power is coal. This fossil fuel power will be taxed for carbon content at about 15% by the new administration. The tax after filtering through government will be used to build new wind and solar which require 75% back-up and 75% of the carbon taxes. Any power generated will cost several times that of any other power source.

The author is proposing that we spend hundreds of billions of dollars on wind and solar that cannot shut down one fossil fuel plant, costs several times more, cannot add capacity and cannot clean the air and cannot save one drop of oil.

One nuclear power plant can supply the equivalent of all the wind and solar in the US (2%). One nuclear power plant saves the equivalent of burning 40 billion tons of coal a year. For every ton of coal equivalent not burned when wind is utilized 3 tons must be burned when fossil fuel is used for back-up. It is worse than this as the wind and solar are online 25% of the time so their now 2% "contribution" to our power is actaully 0.5%. The power produced by one plant realizing actual power production is over three times all the wind and solar in the country.

Yet, Bill McKibben is against nuclear power. He says it is too costly altough the cost of wind is 1 1/2 times more per kwh for wind than nuclear power. Instead of lobbying for the only possible way to eliminate coal entirely, the only way to clean the air, the only carbon tax free way to produce power he would rather be arrested trying to shut down power plants.

Go figure.

Posted by Dahun on 06 Mar 2009

Also, I read Mr. Kibben's advice on tipping points for carbon dioxide levels. He gives an accurate number for the concentration of CO2, 385 PPM. Since the IPCC clearly states that 97% of CO2 is natural, 3% is from man's activities. 3% of 385 parts per million is 11.55 PPM (.00001155), which is the portion man is responsible for by burning fossil fuel. The US produces roughly 25% of this or 2.88 PPM (.00000288)

Now I think even Mr. Kibben would agree that dropping the level of CO2 by .00000288 would not produce any measurable cooling. It is simply impossible. To achieve this meaningless reduction in CO2 the US would have to stop all use of fossil fuels. Our civilization would be reduced to pre-caveman existence; after all even cavemen used fire. No cars, no trains, no planes, no heat from oil or natural gas, no energy for, zilch, nada

Now Mr. McKibben is right and I agree that coal burning plants should be reduced. Burning one trillion tons of coal is a serious pollutant. We also have to be realistic and know something must replace them.

There is only one source of power that can shut down coal plants, there is only one that can clean the air, there is only one that is emission free and carbon tax free and that is nuclear.
Posted by Dahun on 06 Mar 2009

"Take an average small town with its population split equaly down mainstreet. Power one side with solar and wind at honest costs, power the other side with a small nuke plant again at actual cost per Kilowatt.

What will the demographics look like after a decade."

Solar capital costs- 1 1/2 times per kw more than nuclear. Lifetime of a solar installation, less than 20 years. Design life of a nuclear plant 60 years. In ten years the solar plant will have half it's life completed, minimum.

Cost of power- Solar 15 to 20 cents per kwh. Coal, less than 5 cents

Solar- Effeciency. In the desert under the best conditions 40%. 60% of the time fossil fuel must be used. 100% of the time back-up from fossil fuel plants required, adding more cost...10%-20%, a conservative guess.

Connection to the grid:
Solar- Remote location requiring new high efficiency power lines. These lines at least double the capital costs of solar.
Nuclear- Built near the need for power and can be readily connected to existing power grids with minimal new power lines. As a practical matter most new plants would be "doubling" of existing plants.

Carbon taxes:
Solar- carbon taxes will be assessed on the 60% of fossil fuel required.
Nuclear 90% efficient with most of the downtime regularly scheduled maintainance in off-peak demand hours, virtually no back-up required.

Clean air:
Solar- 60% of the emmissions of a fossil fuel plant any amount of power produced because of the need for fossil fuel 60% of the time.

Number of coal plants shut down.
Solar- none as 100% back-up is required.
Nuclear- each of the 103 existing plants provides .19% of all the power produced in this country. These 103 plants save the equivalent of over 400 billion tons of coal burned EACH YEAR.

Land, environment- In order to produce 10% of our power it would be necessary to cover several western states with solar installations. It would take a wind farm the size of Connecticut to provide power (25% of the time) for Manhatten.

These are the facts. The proposed "alternatives" cannot meet our needs, are unaffordable, they cannot shut down one fossil plant, they cannot clean the air and they cannot save one drop of oil.

They do however provide monetary and political support for politicians, they do fool gullible people and they do benefit authors and so-called scientists who profit greatly from the fraud.
Posted by Dahun on 07 Mar 2009

Also, as I explained above man's contribution to carbon dioxide by the IPCC's own information is 11.55 PPM, in order to reach the "desired" 360 PPM from the existing 385 PPM 25 PPM would be required. this is more than man's contribution from fossil fuels. In fact it is more than twice the number.

Once we have stopped using all energy worldwide (except nuclear) what then will we need to do to reach 360 PPM? Ban eating meat? Ration food? It doesn't really matter what the course of action would be as surely man would only exist in aboriginal situations in very small numbers once energy is banned.

Saying we must get to 360 PPM is absolute nonsense.
Posted by Dahun on 07 Mar 2009

Business would migrate to the cheap dependable nuclear side of main street as would any one with a freezer full of perishables, hospitals would move, the security minded.

Rent would go down on the solar/wind side, pumped water becomes expensive, lawns vanish. Warm beer will become vouge.
All the ingredient for a slum.

Travel down mainstreet would become hazzardess due to the many extension cords strung across.
Posted by Ray on 09 Mar 2009

Climate preachers do not debate, especially cold snow covered ones.
Posted by Ray on 10 Mar 2009

It seems that Mr. McKibben has no intention to debate the subject. He nor any of his supporters care to try and defend the fact that the reduction of carbon dioxide they claim is necessary for survival is almost three times the amount the UN International Panel on Climate Control states is caused by man.

I suppose Mr. McKibben assumes the purpose of this forum is to post his theories and then sit back absorb adulation for his brilliance. Confronted with reality he seems to take the position of all zealots that their postulations are un-debatable and infallable.

Sorry, Mr. McKibben science needs to be proven and your pretensions do not stand up to science, history or common sense and you are evidently unable to even attempt to defend your statements.
Posted by Dahun on 14 Mar 2009

Just what do you have in mind to replace the coal-fired electricity? Candles? Donkeys? About 6,500 people in the U.S. work in solar and wind and these sources account for less than 1 percent of our electrical power and cost 4-5 times as much as coal fired power.

When will we be able to stick a couple of electrods into the crucible, turn on the solar power juice, and melt 10 tons of iron? By the way, steel consumption is the best single proxy for a society's standard of living.

CO2 levels were the highest known during the coldest period known. We are only 10,000 removed from the last ice age and all the progress that has gotten us out of the caves has occurred during the past 2,000 years, the warmest 2,000 in the last 20,000 or so.

Further, when there were few humans and our long-term survival as a species seemed in doubt, and we finally achieved a significant foothold on the planet, the temperature was about 12 degrees warmer than it is now and Wyoming was a tropical forest. The climate is always changing and we have no control over it. To believe we do is to believe in superstittion.
Posted by Kenneth W. ILes on 31 Mar 2009



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