Impacts of burning coal make it harder to burn more coal: Drought hits barge traffic

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. Continue reading Impacts of burning coal make it harder to burn more coal: Drought hits barge traffic

Anti-science members of Congress see their Mississippi River districts hit by climate disaster. Will they admit there's a problem?

Catastrophic flooding stories have become more routine for anyone living in the Mississippi River valley. The latest one is setting up a battle between Cairo Illinois and Missouri farmlands. The St. Louis Beacon summarizes the conflict well.

This week, the corps has been considering what it has avoided doing for 74 years: busting a gap in the Birds Point levee to flood as much as 130,000 acres and relieve some of the flooding expected when the swollen Ohio River crests near Cairo, Ill., this weekend and surges into the Mississippi at the rivers’ confluence.

They haven’t been forced to do this in seventy-four years. Rainfall and flooding in the area is matching and breaking old records. But that’s a story we’re used to hearing every year now, isn’t it? It may not always be the same region but a “historic” flood disaster is now part of the annual weather report.

This is a point when scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others get to say “I told you so.” More frequent flooding and catastrophic weather events are exactly what they warned us about.

The areas being impacted right now are represented in Congress by modern day Neville Chamberlains who are doing their best to ensure that we don’t confront the problem. John Shimkus is touring Illinois flood sites. Yet, as chair of the House Environment and Economy Subcommittee he has become one of the nation’s most visible deniers of the science behind climate change. Will he see the connection?

The Missouri side of the river is represented in Congress by Jo Ann Emerson. Earlier in April she bragged about supporting a bill that would bar the US from funding scientific study on climate change by the IPCC. That’s the same group which warned that heavy, unpredictable rains would lead to delayed planting seasons and more frequent flooding in the Midwest. Maybe she should have paid more attention to their last report. Her press release stated: “I don’t feel the U.S. taxpayer should be asked to shoulder this burden in addition to the economic damage their policy recommendations would inflict on us.” Continue reading Anti-science members of Congress see their Mississippi River districts hit by climate disaster. Will they admit there’s a problem?