Monday, August 5, 2013

Duke University Environmental Dean Says Coal and Oil Both Cause More Pollution Than Gas

 Bill Chameides is the Dean of Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment and he says:

"Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel we’ve got. BTU to BTU, we get more pollution from coal than from petroleum and way more than from natural gas. Most of the pollution goes up in smoke, so to speak. It’s emitted as gas (carbon dioxide, mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides) or as fine particles that find their way up through the smokestack and into the atmosphere."

Chameides has previously written about the impacts from gas development.  And he is not, nor am I, suggesting that gas production has no impacts.  It does and must be strongly regulated to reduce its impacts on air, land, and water.

Yet, Chameides knows that the comparative impacts of coal, oil, and gas on land, air, and water are not equal.  Those seeking truth cannot ignore these energy facts.


  1. So if you know that and Chameides knows that, why isn't either of you saying that? We are bombarded all day long, everywhere we go-on the sides of city buses, television ads, radio spots and billboards-all claiming that "This vehicle runs on clean burning natural gas" or "Natural gas burns cleaner than coal".

    1000 square miles of solar would supply enough electricity to power the needs of the entire country. 1000 square miles may be a lot of area, but it's 10% of the total land mass currently used by the energy companies for just natural gas. And, it doesn't have to be 1000 square miles of more land, it can be all over rooftops-and we have millions of acres of that already. These are the facts that those seeking the truth cannot ignore.

    There's absolutely nothing clean about natural gas. Nothing. It may burn clean, but the part neither you or Chameides mentions is the fact that the extraction process not only makes it worse than coal, it permanently ruins property, property values and a bridge to nowhere good. These are the facts those seeking the truth cannot ignore.

    Critics of solar-mostly regulators, bought off politicians and recipients of mailbox money claim that solar is simply too new to be a viable source of energy. Remind me again what is powering dozens of satellites that circle the globe and have been since 1958?

    When was the last time someone was killed by a solar panel exploding? Or when a train carrying thousands of solar panels and equipment derailed, causing the emergency evacuation of an entire town? How about the last debate as to whether or not solar power was the source of the water contamination? How many solar companies get sued by property owners for ruining their property value or threatening their children's health? How many hundreds of families have their drinking water supplied in exchange for a non-disclosure agreement by a solar company?

  2. I have written frequently about the environmental impacts of gas drilling and the imperative for strong regulation and taxation. Recently I wrote about methane leakage rates and about flaring. See I have constantly said Cabot caused methane pollution of 18 water wells in Dimock, despite its constant denials.

    But that does not mean that those impacts are worse than coal or oil. Gas has impacts but they are less to water and air than coal or oil. Thousands of Pennsylvanians have had their homes undermined by longwall machines and have had major structural damage to their homes. More than 5,000 miles of Pennsylvania's streams have been destroyed by acid mine drainage...nothing else comes close to that single impact from coal...mercury from coal falls into waters and makes fish toxic. One out of 6 American win has elevated levels of mercury as a result of eating fish contaminated with mercury from coal. Huge numbers of mountains have been blown up to get at the coal. Thousands of miles of streams have been buried by coal spoil, destroyed forever. Coal ash leaches into groundwater. Soot from burning coal and diesel causes 34,000 premature deaths per year in the US and 2 million globally. Oil causes massive daily damage to water. The BP oil spill, Exxon Valdez are just the big ones. Pipeline raptures in Arkansas, Michigan, and all over the country. Leaking underground oil tanks. Backyard disposal of oil. On and on. None of this means that the impacts from gas are not real. They are and must be reduced. But it is just false to say that the impacts from gas are greater than coal or oil. As to solar, nobody has done more for solar in PA than me. NOBODY. I created the PA Sunshine program that built 6,000 solar projects. I won the passage of the 2004 AEPS that included the solar requirement. I won passage of Act 1. I can go on and on. But will end by saying this blog constantly promotes solar, wind, energy efficiency.