Massey Energy Company, the largest producer of Central Appalachian coal, is the company responsible for the deaths of 25 West Virginia miners. Despite boasting about their safety in 2009, the mine had been fined several times for the safety violations that went ignored and wound up not properly ventilating the methane gas from the mine, which resulted in an explosion.
Why would they ignore violations? Because of demand.
The demand for coal in the US is enormous because both individuals and businesses demand cheap electricity. If the US can switch to investing in more renewable resources and individuals make the choice to purchase green power, incidences like the mine explosion on Monday can be completely avoidable.
Carbon dioxide pollution in the US is 5.8 billion metric tons (2008). Of this 5.8 billion, coal accounts for 2.1 billion or 36.5 percent.
According to the Department of Energy, in 2009 the US produced 1 billion short tons of coal of which Massey produced 36.7 million tons bringing them a revenue of $2.3 billion and a net income of $104 million. The net income alone tells you why the US hasn’t made the switch.
Coal is a money making machine that is comparatively inexpensive, but has many hidden costs. Coal is extremely inefficient. When burned, some of the best power plants only achieve 30 of the energy potential of coal and the rest is usually wasted. It also releases toxic chemicals like mercury into the air, which directly effects the health of those living near the power plant. The environmental impact of mining for coal is detrimental to West Virginia. The mineral content of the springs in the area of the mines are so intense that it is a dead zone where no animals can live, but the biggest impact is the human element. 25 people have died as a result of the demand for cheap electricity.
So what can we do to avoid this in the future? It’s actually quite simple. Make the switch to green energy. In the DC area there are options for everyone that include wind or solar credits. Making the switch will increase the demand for these forms of energy, which will then cause companies to build more sustainable, renewable sources of energy and coal miners in West Virginia won’t have to to die anymore.
A few of the many companies from which you can buy 100% renewable resource credits at a reasonable price are:
Clean Currents offers 100% wind power for residential and businesses at the following rates for a 2 year contract (does not include distribution):
- Maryland BGE customers: 10.8 cents per kWh
- Maryland Pepco customers: 10.8 cents per kWh
- Maryland Allegheny Power customers: 8.9 cents per kWh
- DC Pepco customers: 10.8 cents per kWh
Dominion Power customers in Virginia can purchase 100% Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) directly from Dominion on their website.