What will happen when the coal runs out?

BLM photo

BLM photo

Proponents of the Desert Rock Energy Project continue to claim that this latest energy development project will do wonders for the Nation by bringing in much-needed jobs and money to a region that has a substantially high unemployment rate along with a substantially low median income. In previous statements, even President Shirley has mentioned that this project is "wholeheartedly supported" by the Navajo Nation, yet, a small group of challengers (Dooda Desert Rock) along with a number of grassroots supporters, clearly do not support these efforts and continue to defy this latest attempt by the Navajo Nation government to allow outsiders to pillage and plunder their ancestral homelands in the name of potential monetary profits.

In a statement published in last week's Observer, Albert Shirley of the Diné Power Authority claimed that Desert Rock has been "hijacked" into the crux of national politics, further perpetuating the idea that local and national environmental groups have created and cultivated "climate change hysteria." Yet, in doing so, he admits - while dismissing global warming - that the nation does have to resolve the issue of carbon dioxide, sulfur and other potentially harmful emissions generated by power plants through scientific means.

He stated that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was "required" to find that carbon dioxide emissions were harmful to human health and issued an "endangerment finding" that lacked adequate examples of how human health is negatively impacted. One only needs to look up "Lake Nyos, Cameroon" on the Internet to read up on how natural carbon dioxide emissions - in a "worst case" scenario - could be potentially harmful to human health.

Methods such as "clean coal" technology have been discussed before, but people have already figured out that the concept of clean coal is about as real as the Easter Bunny and that it's not simply a matter of running a truckload of coal through a car wash and presto, you have "clean" coal. So now, a brilliant "smoke and mirrors" concept known as "carbon capture sequestration" (CCS) has been introduced to the vernacular.

CCS is methodically explained by Shirley as "the best technology to control emissions." He explains that "two 750 MW Ultra Supercritical boiler units, along with a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system, fluidized gas desulfurization (FGD) units, wet scrubbers and wet stakes for mercury control" will be utilized to capture power plant emissions. HUH?

Frankly, nobody has the time to sit around and try to figure out all the fancy-shmancy terminology related to CCS or look up definitions to all these "$20 words." In light of everything that has been going on in these recent battles between proponents of coal-based power and advocates of renewable energy initiatives, one very obvious and glaring question has been left unanswered: What will happen when the coal runs out?

Just about everyone should know that coal is a non-renewable fossil fuel, which simply means that because of huge power-hungry metropolitan cities such as Phoenix, Ariz.; Los Angeles, Calif.; and Las Vegas, Nev. (just to name a few), we are digging up coal and burning it faster than it can be created, so eventually, the coal will run out. Any basic science class will teach you that today's coal reserves took millions of years to form, so naturally, it will take millions of years for coal to regenerate - provided the Earth survives long enough.

In the meantime, clean energy proponents are simply trying to make people see that there's a much better kind of "green;" not the green of the millions of dollars of promised coal royalties, but the green of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, which don't utilize pristine drinking water from underground aquifers or expel harmful contaminants into our air and water.

I will agree with Mr. Shirley on one thing though - it's not merely a choice of environment over economic development; it's a choice of true tribal sovereignty and independence from the coal industry and a careful, conscious choice not to let future generations of Navajo and Hopi leaders be held hostage by the coal industry.

Again, what will happen when the coal runs out?

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