By Carrie Mihalcik / current.com
How much does a ton of coal cost? Go ahead take a guess.
If you said this is a trick question then you're right. The price of coal is different all over the world. In China, the world's largest coal consumer, the cost of a ton of coal averaged to $97.28 in 2011. Over the past few months in the U.S., the price of coal has ranged from $8.15 to $60.90.
The reason for the low cost of coal in the U.S. is low demand. The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects electricity produced by coal power plants to drop by 14 percent in 2012. Utilities are switching to cheaper natural gas and the Environmental Protection Agency has started to crack down on old, polluting coal plants.
Here's the second question: How much did Peabody Energy, the world's largest coal company, pay the Bureau of Land Management to mine 5-square-miles of public land in Wyoming's Powder River Basin?
Just $1.11 per mineable ton. And that's after its first offer of just $0.90 was rejected.
Greenpeace's Joe Smyth reports that this isn't the first low bid the BLM has accepted:
The BLM's role is critical because unlike other regions such as Appalachia, Powder River Basin coal is mostly owned by the federal government, and BLM is supposed to ensure that coal development there “is in the best interests of the Nation.” But without proper oversight, the BLM has been offering this federal coal to companies like Peabody, Arch Coal, and Cloud Peak Energy for bargain rates. Over the last 30 years, this has amounted to a $28.9 billion subsidy to the coal mining industry.
Including a southern portion of the Powder River Basin that Peabody leased in 2006, the company now controls 3.3 billion tons of coal on U.S. taxpayer property. Peabody has already said they plan to supply Asia's rising demand for coal. So once the land has been mined, the coal will be exported, resulting in huge profits for Peabody and a staggering amount of CO2 emissions for the climate.
For the third and final question, I turn once again to Smyth: "How exactly is it in the 'best interests of the nation' to sell coal that belongs to U.S. taxpayers at a discount so Peabody can strip mine and ship it to Asia?"
Another hidden cost of fracking: Wisconsin's rolling hills
Hydraulic fracturing has received a lot of negative attention lately. Vermont even passed the nation's first ban on the controversial drilling technique this month, a largely symbolic act since there is believed to be little or no natural gas under the state. One negative that has been largely over looked though is silica sand mining. Silica sand, a key component to the fracking process, is being mined from Wisconsin's sandstone hills at an alarming rate. There are approximately 60 sand mines currently operating, with 20 more in the works, according to a report by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. These mines extract at least 12 million tons of sand each year. In addition to destroying the region's natural water filtration system there are also serious health concerns about long-term exposure to dust from the mines.
Apple (finally) goes green
Apple announced that its Maiden, N.C., data center will run entirely on renewable energy by the end of 2012. Greenpeace has been targeting the company for more than a year, demanding that it use clean energy. Sixty percent the Maiden data center will be produced onsite by a solar array. The rest of its energy will come from local renewable energy sources. Apple also says it plans to use renewable energy to power data centers in Newark, Calif., and Prineville, Ore.
Billboard wars (part 3)
The Heartland Institute's controversial billboard ads, that linked climate science to mass murders, continue to backfire on the conservative think tank. Climate Reality Project is taking over the billboards ahead of the Heartland Institute's annual conference with ads that read: "Who to believe on climate? Heartland … or EVERY National Scientific Academy in the world?" Climate Reality Project had some competition for the space. Forecast the Facts hoped to run an ad criticizing Pfizer for its support of the Heartland Institute on the same billboard, but Clear Channel Chicago would not run the ad because of "legal issues."