Nov 10-11, 2007: Come to the Mountain Justice Summer Revisioning Meeting!

This is a chance for organizers, allies, and friends working with Mountain Justice Summer to examine our accomplishments over the past 3 years and create a plan to move forward together. 

This weekend-long retreat is open to any and all people involved with MJS, either presently or in the past. We want your input so we can effectively make MJS a long-standing and successful campaign to stop mountaintop removal in Appalachia. This will be a safe space where everyone is welcome to share their thoughts, ideas, comments, questions and more about the shaping of MJS. We encourage everyone to participate in the discussion — everyone\’s voices will be heard and respected by the group.

The discussions and planning sessions will start on Saturday, November 10 at 10 a.m. and go through the day. Sunday\’s session will start at 10 a.m. and go until early afternoon. Please feel free to come by at any point throughout the weekend for good discussion, music and friends.

Please RSVP as soon as possible!
Please send your RSVP (including name, organization, estimate time of arrival, accommodation plans and dietary needs) to Hannah Morgan at [email protected] or 434-960-2080.

Where to stay:
  Camping is available within a mile of the meeting hall. Space is limited though,so please be sure to specify if you are bringing a tent when you RSVP.  Thereis very limited floor space inside the house but hotels are available only 2miles away.

Hotels in Big Stone Gap:
  Country Inn: 276-523- 0374
  Comfort Inn: 276-523-5911


Directions:
  From I-81

 

  Take Exit 17 to Abingdon
    R off the ramp
    L at the 2nd light onto Main St.
    R onto Russell Rd towards Alt 58 W
    Go approximately 1 mile
    Follow curve to the RIGHT towards Alt 58 W
    Go 12 miles
    L onto Alt 58 W towards Norton
    Go 35 miles
    Go straight through downtown Norton
  Go 12 miles into Appalachia

 

*To campaign house*
    Take 2nd LEFT onto Bell St (after Appalachia High School on RIGHT)
    Take 1st Left onto Henry St
    House is 2nd house on RIGHT
  373 Henry St.

 

*To meeting space*
    Go 12 miles from Norton into downtown Appalachia
    Office is on the RIGHT after the light
    Between UMWA and Kern & Kern building
  217 Main St.

From 19/23 (Asheville)

 

  Follow 19/23 N
    Take 1st Big Stone Gap exit
    L off exit ramp
    R at 3rd light (goes into downtown Big Stone Gap)
  Go 2.5 miles into Appalachia

 

*To meeting space*
    Office is on the LEFT before the only light
    Between UMWA and Kern & Kern
  217 Main St

 

*To campaign house*
    Go through downtown Appalachia
    Take 2nd LEFT onto Bell St after light in town
    Take 1st LEFT onto Henry St.
    House is 2nd house on RIGHT
  373 Henry St.

 

   


Oct. 24, 2007: Buffer Zone Hearings Set; Comment Period Extended to Nov. 23

Additional information on this rule change.

Public hearings on the proposed Office of Surface Mining’s Stream Buffer Zone rule change have been scheduled for four locations on October 24, 2007 from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.

The public hearings will be held at the following locations:

WEST VIRGINIA (View
Map
)
Holiday Inn Charleston (Charleston House), 600 Kanawha Boulevard
East, Charleston, West Virginia.

KENTUCKY (View
Map
)

Hazard Community & Technical College, Hazard Campus, Jolly
Center, Room 208, One Community College Drive, Hazard, Kentucky.

TENNESSEE (View
Map
)

Pellissippi State Technical Community College, Goins Auditorium,
10915 Hardin Valley Road, Knoxville, Tennessee.

PENNSYLVANIA (View
Map
)
Ramada Inn Washington, 1170 West Chestnut Street, Washington,
Pennsylvania.


Oct.19-21: Student / Youth Summit

Kayford Mountain

Coal
River Mountain Watch, along with the Southern Energy
Network
and Student Environmental Action Coalition, is
hosting the 2007 Anti-MTR Student Summit October 19-21st. One hour
south of Charleston, WV it is home to wild bears, ginseng hunters, and
strip mining. Activities include visiting and learning about Marsh Fork
Elementary
, precariously placed under a 2.8 billion gallon
sludge dam, and visiting Larry Gibson’s homeplace on Kayford Mountain and
viewing the MTR site there. Hear the stories of affected community
members. Come to learn, to strategize and to network with student
activists from around the country.

Learn More and Register
That massive dragline
looks tough, but you’re tougher.

October 12-14th: Convergence of the Virginia Climate Action Network

Come to Wise County, Va on October 12-14th for a Convergence of the Virginia Climate Action Network (VaCAN).

Join the Fight for a Sustainable Virginia, a Clean Energy Future

A weekend in the beautiful Virginian Appalachian Mountains. Good food, Good people, Hiking and Fun

Register here.

Any questions can be directed to [email protected]

Click here, here, here or here for information about the struggle against destructive energy practices in SW Virginia

VaCAN is a statewide network of citizens, spearheaded by students but open to anyone interested in moving Virginia into a sustainable, clean energy future, where every Virginia citizen’s right to clean air, clean water, and clean land is guranteed equally; where our use of energy does not mean the destruction of either the global climate or of the quality of life for those living whereenergy is produced.

Today, the mountains of Southern Appalachia, including Southwest Virginia, are blown away every day in order to get at the coal buried within them, leaving lifeless moonscapes behind. When this coal is burned in coal plants, water and air are poisoned, severly effecting the Virginian citizens living near the plant, as well as anyone downwind or downstream of these plants.

VaCAN was formed in order to help the struggles against these plants, to give every Virginian citizen the opportunity to speak up against this ecological insanity. Currently, VaCAN is working to stop a proposed coal fired power plant in Wise County, in Southwest Virginia. The weekend long convergence on October 12-14th is an opportunity to meet other Virginian’s, from near and far, who hope to stop this plant, and to plan the best ways to do this. Will you join us?

Schedule for the Weekend:
The weekend will begin Friday with a dinner at a local campaign house, our head quarters for the weekend. This will allow us to meet one another, andlay out the goals and plans for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday will be spent meeting local organizers and citizens fighting for the health of their local environment and communities, including from the local group Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards ( SAMS ). We will also tour some local sites, including a local mountain top removal strip mine and, if time allows, a quick trip to the proposed site of Dominion’s coal-fired power plant. Early Saturday or Sunday morning we hope to for a hike on a local trail to get a feel for how special the ecology is in this area.

Food will be provided, cooked communally by participants, and a 5-10 dollar donation is recommended to cover food expenses.

Time will be spent on both Saturday and Sunday planning the next moves of VaCAN, including the planning of several coordinated days of action in the coming months, and perhaps the creation of a travelling petition, reaching ultimately to a mile long representation of Virginia’s disgust with fossil fuels.


Bank of America targeted in nationwide Day of Action

August 31st was full of successful actions. There a banner drop at
Virginia Tech, a helium balloon banner release in Houston, street
theater in New York City, and Fliering in a number of cities. Word has
it that Bank of America Corporate Offices released an urgent memo to
all their branches about the actions, complete with talking points and
all. Apparently, they’ve taken notice.

Photos

King Coal was at an NYC Bank of America to personally thank BoA customers. (from NYC indymedia)

A helium balloon banner in Houston, TX. (from Houston Indymedia)

Before the balloon banner took flight.

Other Coverage:

Harrisonburg
New York City
Houston


August 31: Day of Action on Bank of America


Is there a Bank of America in your hometown?

Join us on August 31st for a Day of Action against Bank of America.

From one person standing in the lobby handing out fliers to 80 people shutting down a bank office, every action is encouraged. 17 cities have signed up so far to let Bank of America know they don’t approve of Bank of America’s irresponsible lending practices.

Between 2005 and 2007, Bank of America facilitated nearly $1 billion in loans to Massey Energy and Arch Coal, two of the largest companies responsible for the destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining. This form of mining literally blasts the tops off of mountains to get at thin seems of coal that lay beneath. Mountaintop removal coal mining has permanently destroyed over 500 square miles of mountains and buried over 1,200 miles of streams in West Virginia alone.

Bank of America has also lent or facilitated in the lending of billions of dollars to Peabody Coal, which is responsible a great deal of past surface mining in Appalachia and is currently surface mining on native people’s land in the western US.

Bank of America has lent hundreds of millions of dollars to companies that run and are planning to build new power plants, such as Florida Power and Light, further contributing to Global Climate Disaster.


Bank of America will hear from us in these cities


More Information

Rainforest Action Network’s Dirty Money Campaign
Bank of America’s Financial Associations (pdf)
Handout on Bank of America’s investments (full sheet)
(half sheet)
Higher Temperatures/Lower Standards half-sheet flyer (courtesy of RAN) (PDF)
Stop Banking on Coal flyer version 1 (PDF)
Stop Banking on Coal flyer version 2 (PDF)


Southeast Convergence for Climate Action Shuts Down Asheville Bank of America

$4000 needed,
click here to donate

Bank of America: Stop Banking on Climate
Change

As a culmination of the
Southeast Convergence for Climate Action, activists took a bold direct
action against Bank of America over concerns regarding their investment
throughout the coal cycle and their promotion of climate injustice.
Although there was much speculation regarding a protest action at the
Progress Energy Skyland coal-fired power plant, protestors surprised
the downtown office of Bank of America.

Two
activists locked down inside the main lobby and other activists
blockaded the entrance to the downtown branch of Bank of America. The
protest included a large, lively group of concerned citizens dressed as
canaries and polar bears. Activists carried signs and banners that
read: “Bank of America Stop Funding Climate Change,” “Bank of America
Stop Mountaintop Removal,” “No Coal, No Nukes, No Kidding” “Bank of
America Climate Criminal.”

Bank of America has
lent hundreds of millions of dollars to companies that run and are
planning to build new power plants, such as Florida Power and Light.
Between 2005 and 2007, Bank of America facilitated nearly $1 billion in
loans to Massey Energy and Arch Coal, two of the largest companies
responsible for the destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal
mining. This form of mining literally blasts the tops off of mountains
to get at thin seems of coal that lay beneath. Mountaintop removal coal
mining has permanently destroyed over 500 square miles of mountains and
buried over 1,200 miles of streams in West Virginia alone.

The polar bears demand climate
justice!

As of 2005, Progress Energy
was the fifth largest purchaser of Massey Energy’s coal. Progress
Energy’s Skyland plant purchases and burns mountaintop removal coal.
Additionally, the Skyland plant is the largest point source of
pollution in Buncombe County.

The Southeast
Convergence for Climate Action promotes a just, rapid, nuclear-free
transition away from fossil fuels; promotes environmental justice by
supporting communities that are fighting dirty energy developments in
their backyards; and encourages direct actions as a means for
challenging corporate power and empowering movements to stop climate
change.

“I attended the convergence to build my
skills for organizing and taking action on climate change,” said Joey
Littleton, a convergence participant. “This is a great place to
network–there are activists from all over the southeast region with a
wide breadth of experience on environment and social justice issues. I
enjoyed the strategy sessions; I came here to get involved with the
movement to stop climate change.”

Polar Bears understand climate change.
Why doesn’t Bank of America?

The Southeast Convergence for Climate Action is happening
simultaneously with a Climate Convergence on the west coast focused on
fighting liquefied natural gas terminals, and in conjunction with the
UK Camp for Climate Action taking place at London’s Heathrow
airport.

“Globally and locally, change will
come from communities, not from benign politicians and corporations who
hope to profit off the climate crisis with feel-good ‘solutions’ that
do nothing to challenge a fundamentally unjust and unsustainable
system,” said Mary Olson, director of the Southeast office of Nuclear
Information and Resource Service and co-organizer of the convergence.


New info:

***5 arrested protesting Bank of America’s
investments in coal and climate change***
Asheville Police
Department uses electric shock on defenseless nonviolent
protestors.

As a culmination of the
Southeast Convergence for Climate Action, activists took a bold direct
action against Bank of America, demanding they stop investing in coal
and climate injustice. Although there was much speculation regarding a
protest action at the Progress Energy Skyland coal-fired power plant,
protestors surprised the downtown office of Bank of America. “We went
to Bank of America to show that power companies are not solely
responsible for fueling climate chaos,” explained Stephanie
Whitaker.

Activists lock down in Bank of America
Lobby.

Bank of America
has lent hundreds of millions of dollars to companies that run and are
planning to build new power plants, such as Florida Power and Light.
Between 2005 and 2007, Bank of America facilitated nearly $1 billion in
loans to Massey Energy and Arch Coal, two of the largest companies
responsible for the destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal
mining. This form of mining literally blasts the tops off of mountains
to get at thin seems of coal that lie beneath. Mountaintop removal coal
mining has permanently destroyed over 500 square miles of mountains and
buried over 1,200 miles of streams in West Virginia alone.

Two activists locked down inside the main lobby and
other activists blockaded the entrance to the downtown branch of Bank
of America. The protest included a large, lively group of concerned
citizens dressed as canaries and polar bears. Activists carried signs
and banners that read: “Bank of America: Climate Criminal”, “Bank of
America Stop Mountaintop Removal,” and “Climate Justice Now.” Some
members of the protest spoke to the engaged crowd about saving the
mountains of Appalachia and the sacrifice people in these hills are
forced to make for corporate profit and advocated a swift and just
transition to renewable energy.

Several
activists entered the bank, delivering coal to tellers and other
customers and exposing Bank of America’s involvement in climate change.
The activists inside used bicycle locks to prevent their removal from
the building until Bank of America agreed to stop funding coal.
Asheville Police Department responded by repeatedly using high voltage
electric shock devices, known as Tasers, on the defenseless protesters.
These devices have been implicated in a number of deaths around the
country. “For the APD to use electric shock, a common torture
technique, on peaceful protestors is a violation of human rights, and
we will be pursuing legal recourse,” said Jeff McKinley.

The Southeast Convergence for
Climate Action
happened simultaneously with a Climate
Convergence on the west coast focused on fighting liquefied natural gas
terminals, and in conjunction with the UK Camp for Climate Action
taking place at London’s Heathrow airport.


Additionally, the Southeast Convergence for Climate
Action made the following statement:

List of Demands

Recognizing that climate change
is already here, we hold corporations and governments accountable for
the effects on communities, people and the living earth. Therefore, we
demand:

  1. That Bank of America completely divest from the coal
    industry and other dirty, climate-changing energy companies.
  2. A 90% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by
    2050.
  3. An immediate halt to any plans for new nuclear and coal
    power plants and a complete redirection of research and development
    money toward conservation, efficiency and clean, renewable energy
    projects.
  4. An immediate end to mountaintop removal coal mining and
    other forms of strip mining.
  5. A just, rapid transition away from fossil fuels and nuclear
    power by 2020.
  6. A shift to community controlled, small-scale systems of
    energy production, transportation, and food production and
    distribution.
  7. An end to the privatization of the atmosphere through
    market-based mechanisms such as carbon trading.
  8. Climate Justice
    Now!

From: The Southeast Convergence for
Climate Action


Other press

Related Link: http://www.climateconvergence.org/southeast/


Photos


Virginians say “No” to a new coal-fired power plant in Wise County; Protests at Massey and Dominion

The day got started at Massey’s headquarters.

More than 35 people gathered in Richmond, VA to support the Wise County community group, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS) in their call for Dominion to abondon it’s plan to build another power plant in Wise County. The Power Plant will burn coal and waste coal and consume up to 800,000 gallons of fresh water from the Clinch river daily. The Power Plant will add an additional 400-800 coal trucks a day, or one coal truck running through the small town roads every 3.6 to 1.8 minutes.

The group of Virginia residents and Mountain Justice Summer participants says that despite the company’s pledge to use the latest technology to reduce emissions, the plant will still be destructive. “Clean coal? From its birth to its burning, there is no such thing as clean coal,” said Kathy Selvage of Wise County. “They are taking the tops off of our mountains to get the coal, and the plant will still be pumping out carbon dioxide, the gas most responsible for global warming, not to mention other pollutants such as arsenic and mercury.” Mrs. Selvage referred to mountaintop removal mining, which community groups such as SAMS, say is driving out local communities.

King Coal and Mother Massey give “gifts” during the baby shower for newly strip mined coal.

“We used to live in a thriving community,” said retired mine inspector Larry Bush, chairman of SAMS. “But as the strip mines started moving in it all started drying up. Whole towns have been consumed by the strip mines.” The protestors say that the new plant will use locally strip mined coal which will increase this destructive practice. Despite the need for local employment, the plant itself will only employ an estimated 75 specially-trained professionals and is unlikely to employ local workers.

To make the connection between strip mining and coal-fired plants, MJS and SAMS began their march at the headquarters of Massey Energy, a particularly destructive strip mining company. A “baby shower” for coal was held where the parents of the newly strip-mined coal, “King Coal” and “Mother Massey,” gave gifts such as blackened drinking water, flooding, and asthma from coal dust to community members. After their skit the group placed “baby coal” in a coffin and marched a little over half a mile to Dominion’s headquarters, where they held a funeral before coal was “put to rest” in a Dominion power plant.

Hannah from SAMS tells Dominion that Wise County does not want another dirty coal power plant.

The eulogy at the funeral was a discussion of airborne pollution, water that the plant would draw from the Clinch River, and possibilities for change. The last speaker at the funeral was a giant wind turbine, who lamented Virginia’s resistance to sustainable sources of energy. “Wise County shouldn’t be a sacrifice zone for cheap energy,” Mountain Justice Summer volunteer Joe Overton said, “Dominion should be spending their money to create jobs in sustainable energy. Wise County doesn’t have to choose between their children’s health and a few jobs.”

More Photos

Tell Dominion Power No New Coal Plants in Virginia

On June 25, people from all over the Appalachian region and from all over the Commonwealth of Virginia will be gathering in Richmond, Virginia, to tell Dominion not to build another coal-fired power plant in our state! In a cradle-to-grave march, activists will walk from the Massey Headquarters at 11:00 am at 4 N 4th Street in Richmond, Va to the Dominion Headquarters at 7th St & E. Cary St. The march will demonstrate the harmful effects of coal from the mining process to the burning for electricity.
 

Larry Gibson at a 2005 protest in Richmond.

Their currently proposed plant in Wise County, Va will generate 585-megawatts of power (thats a big plant!) and can burn everything from coal to waste coal to biomass. The plant will be built less than 5 miles from another, filthy power plant, and will draw water from one of the most valuable and diverse rivers in the country, the Clinch River.
 
We don’t want this power plant and we’re going to show Dominion how we feel about it! We will ask Dominion to take the funds for the plant to invest in conservation and renewable energies so we can keep another coal-fired power plant from being built.

Can you help us?

Come to Richmond, Monday, June 25 to rally in front of the company’s headquarters, play and hear good music, and have a creative performance to show Dominion we mean business, and not theirs!

Meet at 11:00 am at 4 N 4th Street to March to Dominion’s headquarters, or join us at noon at Dominion’s headquarters.
 
Check out the following links to find out more about the plant
http://www.appvoices.org/index.php?/air/new_power_plants/wise_county_plant/
www.samsva.org
 
For more information, rideshare, housing accomodations, or other questions/comments, please email Hannah at [email protected] or call (276) 565-1629 or (434) 960-2080.
See you there!
 
Organized by Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS), Mountain Justice Virginia, and others.


Monday, June 18: Stop Coal to Oil Boondoggle in Pikeville,KY.

ACTION – Stop Coal to Oil Boondoggle

Monday June 18 in Pikeville Kentucky

Directions | Kentucky Editorial | NY Times Article

Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning will be the keynote speaker next Monday at a free public conference focused on converting coal from our Appalachian mountains into a highly-subsidized liquid fuel for the US Air Force.

A view of the Sasol coal liquefaction plant in South Africa.

Why say NO to coal to liquid?

It takes a lot of energy to squeeze coal into a liquid. So much energy, in fact, it is appropriate to question if the process is even worth it–especially when you consider:

  • Turning coal into a liquid fuel uses any where from 2.5 to 7 barrels of water for every barrel of fuel!
  • Communities living near coal-to-liquid refineries in South Africa, where most of the existing plants are, complain of toxic pollution
  • Making, then burning liquid coal creates double the global warming gases as an equivalent amount of petroleum-based fuel, according to information given to the West Virginia Public Energy Authority!
  • The National Mining Association envisions doubling mining in order to supply the coal-to-liquid plants!
  • Each plant costs billions of dollars to build –and the coal industry wants your tax dollars to subsidize these boondoggles!
  • The fuel resulting from the massively expensive, massively polluting coal-to-liquid refineries envisioned by the National Mining Association would supply only about 10 percent of the fuel we use in America’s inefficient motor vehicles!

The conference will be held starting at 8:30 am Monday June 18 at the Landmark Inn Convention Center on US 119/23, Pikeville in eastern Kentucky. US 119/23 is the main highway through Pikeville (directions below).

Here is the link for the conference:
http://www.americasenergycapital.com/files/june18_meet.pdf

Admission is free to the first 250 who register:
http://www.americasenergycapital.com/files/june18_reg.pdf

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC) is organizing an action in front of the Landmark Inn Convention Center and concerned citizens from Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Virginia and all other states are invited to participate in this peaceful action outside, or attend the forum.

Please contact Kevin at [email protected] if you plan to attend

Directions

Landmark Inn
190 S Mayo Trl
Pikeville, KY 41501
606-432-2545

From West Virginia take US 119 heading south; go into Kentucky and stay on US 119 south after it joins with US Highway 23.

From Virginia take US 23 north through Pound Gap into Pikeville.

From Knoxville take Interstate 81 north to US 23 and go through Virginia into Kentucky to Pikeville.


Liquid coal a new version of snake oil

Don’t subsidize energy plans that would worsen global warming

EDITORIAL Posted on Sun, Jun. 03, 2007
http://www.kentucky.com/591/story/87181.html

What is it about coal that turns supposedly free-market conservatives such as Sen. Jim Bunning and Gov. Ernie Fletcher into tax-frittering purveyors of corporate welfare?

The question arises because the pressure’s on in Washington and Frankfort to rev up, at taxpayer expense, the 80-year-old technology for turning coal into fuel for cars, trucks and airplanes.

The liquid-coal boosters march under the appealing banner of energy independence. As Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal company, says, “Imagine a world where our country runs on energy from Middle America instead of the Middle East.”

Problem is, energy independence won’t do any good if we end up frying the planet. Even President Bush now admits that climate change is a potentially disastrous problem caused by carbon emissions from vehicles, power plants and industry.

The solutions to energy independence and global warming must go hand in hand. Liquid coal is not a solution; it’s an expensive distraction from dealing with both problems and reducing carbon output.

Under the best circumstances, running vehicles on coal would pump as much climate-changing gas into the atmosphere as fuels that come from oil, or up to 8 percent more, depending on the information source.

And that’s only if the carbon emitted by liquid coal production is captured and stored. Otherwise, squeezing gasoline from coal produces double the greenhouse gases. The technology for carbon sequestration is not available on a commercial scale. And, when it is, it will be needed first and foremost to control emissions from coal-fueled power plants, which provide Americans with more than half of their electricity.

Government should spur development of technologies for burning coal without filling the air with carbon and pollutants that damage human health. Government should demand more fuel-efficient vehicles, promote mass transit and support renewable technologies for transportation and power.

Instead, a bipartisan congressional group from coal states, including Bunning, R-Ky., wants taxpayers to sink billions into subsidizing a liquid-coal industry.

The New York Times reports that the inducements winding through committees include: loan guarantees for six to 10 coal-to-liquid plants, each likely to cost at least $3 billion; a tax credit of 51 cents for every gallon of coal-based fuel sold through 2020; automatic subsidies if oil prices drop below $40 a barrel; and permission for the Air Force to sign 25-year contracts for almost 11 billion gallons a year of jet fuel from coal.

Fletcher wants a special legislative session to enact a smaller-scale version in Kentucky, in hopes of snagging a coal refinery.

It reminds us of the synfuels fever that produced blueprints for coal refineries the length of the Ohio and Big Sandy rivers in Kentucky during the 1970s energy crisis.

A half-billion dollars was spent on these ventures, which produced a bunch of costly scrap, before President Ronald Reagan, patron saint of free-market conservatives, pulled the plug.

Instead of propping up a liquid-coal industry that market forces have long rejected, the government should harness the market to advance the twin goals of energy independence and reversing global warming.

Slap a tax on carbon and everyone from industry to consumers would quickly find innovative ways to shrink their carbon footprints and make a buck doing it.


Lawmakers Push for Big Subsidies for Coal Process

The New York Times
May 29, 2007

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/29/business/29coal.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

By EDMUND L. ANDREWS

WASHINGTON, May 28 ­ Even as Congressional leaders draft legislation to reduce greenhouse gases linked to global warming, a powerful roster of Democrats and Republicans is pushing to subsidize coal as the king of alternative fuels.

Prodded by intense lobbying from the coal industry, lawmakers from coal states are proposing that taxpayers guarantee billions of dollars in construction loans for coal-to-liquid production plants, guarantee minimum prices for the new fuel, and guarantee big government purchases for the next 25 years.

With both House and Senate Democrats hoping to pass “energy independence” bills by mid-July, coal supporters argue that coal-based fuels are more American than gasoline and potentially greener than ethanol.

“For so many, filthy coal is a dirty four-letter word,” said Representative Nick V. Rahall, Democrat of West Virginia and chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. “These individuals, I tell you, have their heads buried in the sand.”

Environmental groups are adamantly opposed, warning that coal-based diesel fuels would at best do little to slow global warming and at worst would produce almost twice as much of the greenhouse gases tied to global warming as petroleum.

Coal companies are hardly alone in asking taxpayers to underwrite alternative fuels in the name of energy independence and reduced global warming. But the scale of proposed subsidies for coal could exceed those for any alternative fuel, including corn-based ethanol.

Among the proposed inducements winding through House and Senate committees: loan guarantees for six to 10 major coal-to-liquid plants, each likely to cost at least $3 billion; a tax credit of 51 cents for every gallon of coal-based fuel sold through 2020; automatic subsidies if oil prices drop below $40 a barrel; and permission for the Air Force to sign 25-year contracts for almost a billion gallons a year of coal-based jet fuel.

Coal companies have spent millions of dollars lobbying on the issue, and have marshaled allies in organized labor, the Air Force and fuel-burning industries like the airlines. Peabody Energy, the world’s biggest coal company, urged in a recent advertising campaign that people “imagine a world where our country runs on energy from Middle America instead of the Middle East.”

Representative Rick Boucher, a Virginia Democrat whose district is dominated by coal mining, is writing key sections of the House energy bill. In the Senate, champions of coal-to-liquid fuels include Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat, Jim Bunning of Kentucky and Larry Craig of Wyoming, both Republicans.

President Bush has not weighed in on specific incentives, but he has often stressed the
importance of coal as an alternative to foreign oil. In calling for a 20 percent cut in projected gasoline consumption by 2017, he has carefully referred to the need for “alternative” fuels rather than “renewable” fuels. Administration officials say that was specifically to make room for coal.

The political momentum to subsidize coal fuels is in odd juxtaposition to simultaneous efforts by Democrats to draft global-warming bills that would place new restrictions on coal-fired electric power plants.

The move reflects a tension, which many lawmakers gloss over, between slowing global warming and reducing dependence on foreign oil.

Many analysts say the huge coal reserves of the United States could indeed provide a substitute for foreign oil.

The technology to convert coal into liquid fuel is well-established, and the fuel can be used in conventional diesel cars and trucks, as well as jet engines, boats and ships. Industry executives contend that the fuels can compete against gasoline if oil prices are about $50 a barrel or higher.

But coal-to-liquid fuels produce almost twice the volume of greenhouse gases as ordinary diesel. In addition to the carbon dioxide emitted while using the fuel, the production process creates almost a ton of carbon dioxide for every barrel of liquid fuel.

Coal industry executives insist their fuel can actually be cleaner than oil, because they would capture the gas produced as the liquid fuel is being made and store it underground. Some could be injected into oil fields to push oil to the surface.

Several aspiring coal-to-liquid companies say that they would reduce greenhouse emissions even further by using renewable fuels for part of the process. But none of that has been done at commercial volumes, and many analysts say the economic issues are far from settled.

“There are many uncertainties,” said James T. Bartis, a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, who testified last week before the Senate Energy Committee. “We don’t even know what the costs are yet.”

The clash between “energy independence” and global warming will break into the open next month. The Senate energy bill, being drafted by Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, would promote renewable fuels ­ but not coal-to-liquid fuels ­ and would require electric utilities to produce 15 percent of their power with renewable fuels by 2020.

But coal-state Republicans have vowed to resume their push for coal incentives when the bill reaches the Senate floor, and many Democrats are likely to support them. In the House, Democrats like Mr. Boucher and Mr. Rahall will be pushing in the same direction.

But some energy experts, as well as some lawmakers, worry that the scale of the coal-to-liquid incentives could lead to a repeat of a disastrous effort 30 years ago to underwrite a synthetic fuels industry from scratch.

When oil prices plunged in the 1980s, the government-owned Synthetic Fuels Corporation became a giant government albatross that lost billions and remains a symbol of misguided industrial policy more than 25 years later.

“This is the snake oil of energy alternatives,” said Peter Altman, a policy analyst at the National Environmental Trust, an environmental advocacy group. “The promises are just as lofty and the substance is just as absent as the first snake oil salesmen who plied their trade in the 1800s.”

Coal executives contend that the technology for converting coal to “ultraclean” diesel fuel for use in cars and trucks has been around for decades. Known as the Fischer-Tropsch process, the technology dates to the 1920s. It was used by Germany during World War II and by South Africa during the apartheid era, in both cases because the countries were blocked by international embargoes from buying oil.

SASOL, a South African chemical conglomerate, is the world’s largest producer of coal-based liquids and operates a plant that produces 150,000 barrels a day.

“Greener and cleaner ­ we can do it, and we will do it,” said John Baardson, president of Baard Energy, a firm in Vancouver, Wash., that is trying to build a $4 billion coal-to-liquid plant in Ohio.

But no company has built a commercial-scale plant that also captures carbon, and experts caution that many obstacles lie ahead.

“At best, you’re going to tread water on the carbon issue, and you’re probably going to do worse,” said Howard Herzog, a principal research engineer at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology and a co-author of “The Future of Coal,” a voluminous study published in March by M.I.T. “It goes against the whole grain of reducing carbon.”

The M.I.T. team expressed even more skepticism about the economic risks. It estimated that it would cost $70 billion to build enough plants to replace 10 percent of American gasoline consumption.

The study estimates that the construction costs for coal-to-liquid plants are almost four times higher than the costs for comparable petroleum refineries, and it argues that cost estimates for synthetic fuel plants in the past turned out to be “wildly optimistic.”

In a new report last week, the Energy Department estimated that a plant capable of making 50,000 barrels of liquefied coal a day ­ a tiny fraction of the nearly 9 million barrels in gasoline burned daily in the United States ­ would cost $4.5 billion.

But the Energy Department also estimated that such a plant could produce a 20 percent annual return if oil prices remain about $60 a barrel.

Coal executives say that they need government help primarily because oil prices are so volatile and the upfront construction costs are so high. “We’re not asking for everything. All we’re asking for is something,” said Hunt Ramsbottom, chief executive of Rentech Inc., which is trying to build two plants at mines owned by Peabody Energy.

But coal executives anticipate potentially huge profits. Gregory H. Boyce, chief executive of Peabody Energy, based in St. Louis, which has $5.3 billion in sales, told an industry conference nearly two years ago that the value of Peabody’s coal reserves would skyrocket almost tenfold, to $3.6 trillion, if it sold all its coal in the form of liquid fuels.

Coal industry lobbying has reached a fever pitch. The industry spent $6 million on federal lobbying in 2005 and 2006, three times what it spent each year from 2000 through 2004, according to calculations by Politicalmoneyline.com.

Peabody, which has quadrupled its annual lobbying budget to about $2 million since 2004, recently hired Richard A. Gephardt, the Missouri Democrat who was House majority leader from 1989 to 1995 and a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 and 2004, to help make its case in Congress.

One of the most vociferous champions of coal-to-liquid fuels is the Southern States Energy Board, a group organized by governors from 16 states. Last year, the group published a study, which cost $500,000, that concluded that coal-to-liquid fuel could and should replace almost one-third of imported oil by 2030.

As it happens, the coal industry supplied much of the financing for the study and subsequent marketing. Peabody Energy contributed about $150,000 and the National Mining Association added $50,000, officials at the Southern States Energy Board said.

The inducements under discussion would not only subsidize up to 10 coal-to-liquid plants, but also guarantee a minimum market through long-term contracts with the Air Force and minimum prices for at least some producers.

“There is financial uncertainty, which is inhibiting the flow of private capital into the construction of coal-to-liquid facilities,” said Mr. Boucher, who supports most of the proposals and is drafting portions of the energy bill.

In addition to construction loan guarantees, Mr. Boucher would protect the first six liquid plants from drops in energy prices. If oil prices fell below about $40 a barrel, the government would automatically grant loans to the first six plants that make coal-based fuels. If oil prices climbed to $80 a barrel, companies would have to pay a surcharge to the government.

But the most important guarantee, many coal producers said, is the prospect of signing 25-year purchase contracts with the Air Force.

The Air Force consumes about 2.6 billion gallons a year of jet fuel, and Air Force officials would like to switch as much as 780 million gallons a year to coal-based fuels. Air Force officials strongly support the idea of extremely long contracts, but others at the Defense Department worry that the military could be left holding the bag for years if oil prices dropped significantly.

For Mr. Boyce, chief executive of Peabody Energy, there is no reason to be timid.

“If America has the will to be one of the great energy centers of the world,” he told an industry conference last year, “we have the resources right under our feet.”

Copyright
2007 The New York Times Company