I love irony, but this example is costly. Coal power plants are the top source of man-made pollutants that contribute to climate change. Now, the impacts of climate change will make it more difficult to ship coal.
The long drought across the Midwest is causing an extended period of exceptionally low levels along the Mississippi River. Barge operators are worried that river traffic will continue to slow or come to a stop. Much of the barge traffic along the Mississippi and its tributaries is transporting coal.
Any shipment delays or increased costs will make it more difficult for coal to compete with the low price of natural gas, and of course, the cost of delivering more wind to existing wind farms is zero.
A superstitious person could interpret this as the Mississippi protecting itself. Burning more coal will result in even worse droughts in the future. The river is taking smarter action than the fossil fuel politicians.
This is one more example of how the coal industry acts as an economic cannibal. The act of mining and burning coal destroys other forms of economic development; in this case, barge traffic. It’s a larger-scale version of strip-mining land until it can’t be used for any other purpose.
What about agriculture?
The drought is doing even more damage to agriculture, which is being hit twice. First, during the growing season, and now again since grain is shipped by barge. That’s why it’s so disappointing to see some ag groups like the Farm Bureau frequently attack any attempt to deal with climate change. Spreading nutty EPA conspiracy theories in farm publications doesn’t help.
Groups like the Farm Bureau should seriously reconsider whether their political alliance with the oil and coal industry is worth the harm it will cause to the next generation of farmers. For example, I’m not sure why the Illinois Farm Bureau thinks drilling in ANWR is so important for their members, but I am sure that turning farmers into the puppets of oil and coal industry lobbyists isn’t going to keep Illinois agriculture alive 50 years from now. This drought is a taste of things to come.
© 2012 Willinois. This article is reproduced by permission of the author. All rights reserved.