Modern coal mining is essential for the future

Coal —  is it, as some claim, destroying our land and health? Or is coal going to continue to be the future of energy for years to come, as others claim?

Kathryn Gardner

Kathryn Gardner

As the president of UK’s Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration and a mining engineering senior, I feel it is important for people to understand the modern mining industry.

The coal industry has had dark days in the past, tainting public opinion of the industry as a whole, yet many do not realize those days have passed.

Regarding safety and environmental stewardship, mining companies have set high standards for themselves, often above and beyond minimum requirements stated in regulations.

Mining, while in progress, is ugly, as are all construction projects. However, modern reclamation practices continually strive to improve the end product. Groups such as the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative extensively research new methods of improving previously mined land.

Reclaimed mine sites in Appalachia are prime for development, creating locations for housing, airports, hospitals, nursing homes and recreational areas. Elk have been re-introduced onto reclaimed sites with outstanding success.

Many claim the coal mining industry is corrupt without understanding the extensive regulatory requirements to even start a mine. Regulatory agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and Kentucky Department of Natural Resources, do not allow companies to ignore laws.

Mining as a whole is one of the most heavily regulated industries in all areas, from environmental impacts to the safety of miners.

Coal is disputed from mining to its use in power plants. Beyond electricity, most do not realize coal is mined for other reasons.

Our steel industry relies on metallurgical-grade coal. As for steam coal, many claim its use in power plants around UK put students at risk and are pushing for other forms of energy. These forms of energy have their place and are growing in importance as new technologies continue to improve efficiency and lower cost.

Sources of energy such as geothermal, solar, hydroelectric and wind have a growing place in the future of energy, as well as nuclear power, though they cannot completely replace fossil fuels.

According to the International Energy Agency, the world demand for coal is only going to grow in the next 20 years; some say it may even double.

The future of energy includes coal; there is no question about that. Rather than block new coal- fired power plants completely, the government and the EPA should embrace these new plants.

Technology such as carbon capture and storage is less expensive than nuclear, wind or natural gas, and has fewer emissions than older coal fired plants.

According to a National Coal Council study, requested by the Department of Energy, replacing the outdated power plants would not only reduce carbon emissions in accordance with President Barack Obama’s plans, but would also create up to 800,000 permanent jobs.

Currently, according to the International Energy Agency, petroleum is the No. 1 contributor to greenhouse gas emissions at 42 percent, with coal placing second. Modernizing power plants would only help these numbers.

Coal is a controversial subject on and around UK’s campus. However, the modern mining and electric industries are taking steps to improve practices for what is going to be an essential component of the global economy for the foreseeable future.

Kathryn Gardner is a mining engineering senior. Email

mentioned it in the comments section of your letter to the editor, but figured i’d mention it here as well. Double check your comments you’ve posted under your letter to the editor. If you posted with a comment containing a lot of links it gets flagged as spam and has to be approved by moderators before it becomes available to the public in the comments section. Generally, it has “waiting for moderator approval” in italics at the top of your comment.

Didn’t want ya thinking I was ignoring you.

Annonymous- Yes, I’ve started to learn a few things about Jordan. I’m assuming that is who you are referring to when you refer to the Kernel’s most active troll. Jordan comes off real strong until you start to present him with information….lots of information. If you take a look at the comments to my recent letter-to-the-editor about UK’s coal-fired heating plants, you’ll see I’ve provided Jordan with at least 6 or 7 of my sources + an invitation to refute every statistic and every report and every article. I got nothing in return. Nothing. Well, I did get some additional snarkiness….but what else is new.

Dear coal miner- You are right. I am not from Eastern Kentucky. I’m not from Kentucky either. That is why I probably don’t understand this midguided “pride” for an industry that has done nothing but get rich off the backs of the poor of Eastern Kentucky. I don’t understand this midguided loyalty to an industry that has raped and robbed the natural environment and surrounding impoverished community only to move on to another impoversished community to do the same. I don’t understand such stubborness when it comes to turning a blind eye to an industry that seeks profit first and cares nothing about those that slave, yes slave, for them. I don’t understand a love for an industry that purposefully targets the poor because those are the most gullible amongst us.

And, coal miner, my opinion does matter. The movement against coal has a momentum that far outweighs any momentum created by a sad group of people who take pride in an industry that has destroyed them, sickened them, taken their mountains away, infected them with Black Lung, continues to underpay them, and fights against their efforts to seek assistance when they can no longer work. I am sad for you and slightly embarrassed. Is this what is meant by Kentucky pride? If so, you can have it. I like to live in reality land.

Angela, the funny thing about your ranting and raving about coal is that, your opinion doesn’t matter. Coal is a NECESSITY to make electricity. Electricity is the most important service that we as Americans make sure that everyone has and can afford. When I read your long drawn out Obama inspired garbage. You are obviously not from Eastern Kentucky or you would not be bashing coal. I am, coal is the only reason that I am able to attend school. How many “Green” companies do you think there are that have real jobs. I’m still waiting to see how much money was diverted from Obama’s Solyndra FAIL into the pockets of slick liberal democrats, that cost taxpayers 500 MILLION DOLLARS. I bet you voted for that joker too.

Annonymous: I’d say that’s about par for the course. At least Angela was willing to make some points and attempt to defend her position-granted, she didn’t do so well when her points were critiqued and flaws highlighted, but I doubt that she or many like her often hear any type of informed criticisms towards their position.

To me it seems you’re taking the position of ignoring or at least refusing to participate in an active conversation/debate on your own comments etc.

Since there are only two ways to get people to do/allow something, reason and force, since reason isn’t the avenue you’re going to pursue to advance your position, the only alternative is force.

what a waste.

Another fringe benefit of nuclear power: no more hippies and boring square guys arguing about coal on the internet…

Lol, I take it you haven’t been reading about the scientist withdrawing their names from the lauded UN’s IPCC report, nor the IPCC having to remove their “peer reviewed” research that was anything but. Articles out of hiking magazines written by a climber and his personal observations, or a WWF opinion article about deforestation and destruction of rainforest. Not scientific articles, though the IPCC cited them as such. Just two examples, more if you’d like me to pull them for you.
University of East Anglia ( one of the top cited institutions supporting global warming) working to exclude critical pieces of global warming, “losing” their original data, finding “tricks” to exclude the little things like the medieval warming period, or trying to “hide the decline” of the little ice age of the 70’s.
Wasn’t the hottest year on record something like ten years ago? And been in decline since? And though global warming experts predicted the poor British children would never see a white Christmas again, they had record snows this past winter? Which is why it went from “global warming”, to “climate change” to now some peddling “climate chaos”…lol.

If you’d like to push the end of coal use “to stop global warming”, then we could argue about that I suppose. 90%+ of my comments have dealt with pointing out the flaws and holes in the “scientific” argument that coal has such a negative impact on the health of Americans.

For a while it looked as though this were a thoughtful discussion, but alas, along wanders in this sentence: “absent the scam of global warming and pointless government interventionism, there is enough coal to provide cheap, plentiful energy to our economy for decades yet tomcome.”

Once more:

^ the moment most people stop reading.

A lot of free time? Nah, it’s just an argument I’ve had numerous times, and sadly, though not always, the end reaction is the one you just gave us. That despite the evidence to the contrary, you can not even consider the possibility that your position is not the correct one.
Instead of facing up to that fact, instead of taking a hard look at your world view, you again bury your head in the sand, somehow attempting to justify your position by writing off any contrary argument by belittling or just out right ignoring it.

Hiding behind a shield of “science”, that time and again has been shown to be full of holes if not out right made of cloth when scientist do what scientist are supposed to do-question everything and look for the truth. Wrapped up in your own world view of the rightness of your position despite its obvious folly, the willingness of yourself and others like you to be taken advantage of is always so sad. It’s not anger, frustration, but sadness that I feel.

You said before that nothing anyone says will convince you otherwise, but these responses were written as much for anyone else reading as for yourself. Contrary to what you hope, more and more people are waking up to the farce that is global warming (as evidenced in the polls) and the drag on the economy the EPA’s over reach and ridiculous restrictions are having on job creation. I feel the tide is turning, that at the state and national level there is a groundswell of movement back to sustainable development and away from environmental zealism.

Wow, you must have a lot of free time Jordan.

Like I said, go outside, get some fresh air, pick up some trash that our fellow Kentuckians love to throw on the roads and in the rivers, bird watch, hike, adopt a shelter dog. Do something useful and good for this planet. There are so many better things to do than perpetuate this propaganda. I’m not buying it. Indeed, fewer and fewer people are buying it. It’s really just you and the folks with the bumper stickers. I think that’s why you sound so desperate in your postings. You’re flailing instead of discussing. Why am I not refuting each and every one of your points and “facts”? I simply do not have the time or the inclination to do so. I’m on the winning side here. Science speaks for me. Modernism speaks for me. The trend is moving my direction. Most people now know coal is antiquated, dirty, and irresponsible. Most people now realize our environment needs help. Solar and geothermal are gaining ground. I’m perfectly content with that progress. I don’t need to prove anything here. I’m simply voicing my opinion on a very disappointing and naive article from a youngster that takes a few steps back instead of moving forward.

I’m the tool? wow, despite showing you the obvious holes in the same studies and organizations you cite for your reasons for being so anti-coal, instead of taking the opportunity to advance your own argument, you merely brush off the serious questions and flaws in your stance as uninformed “rhetoric” put into public discourse by the evil, big business, fox-news, anti-green coal movement.

The only embracing by “solar”, “wind” and other “alternatives” by the public and energy market is coming at the behest of a very big government carrot-in the form of billions in taxpayer dollars, and an even bigger stick of legal action in regards to not meeting government mandates.
You support of natural gas except… gesh (see explanation further down). And where natural gas has been more accessible and cheaper than coal to use, it has had no problems taking over more share of the energy market. But actually forcing energy companies to convert to natural gas, at the expense of cheaper coal will result in higher prices to their customers, yet another drag on economic recovery and hurting the people most susceptible to energy prices-the poor. All based on bad science and the faulty argument that somehow converting from coal is going to have a meaningful impact on the health of Kentucky and American citizens is a farce. As I’ve demonstrated with a small sampling of articles and inconvenient facts that you’ve termed “uniformed rhetoric” while yet not caring to show where any of that “rhetoric” is faulty….

As for Shakespeare, I read what was required in high school and my college courses, but I’ve always tended towards history. Ceasar’s Commentaries, the writings of Homer, and more modern works like John Adams by D. McCullough.

Also, cause you’re probably not aware of this, getting your news from, who knows, the daily show, bill maher or god forbid, one of your professors-but there hasn’t been any ground water contamination tied to fracking, of oil or natural gas.
Pavillion fracking case is a good example.

While charging the drillers in question with contaminating groundwater, the EPA suppressed information in a manner that would compel any court of law to dismiss the case and issue a serious reprimand, if not bring charges of contempt, against the prosecution. Surely, the EPA was aware, or should have been aware, of the fact that well water in Pavillion has been “contaminated” with polluting chemicals for half a century. This natural “pollution” is not the consequence of fracking, as the EPA charges, but of natural contamination.

Not only did the EPA report suppress this evidence — evidence that argues strongly against contamination on the part of drilling company — but it failed to address further scientific evidence that would rule out contamination. Not only were Pavillion’s water wells already polluted decades before drilling began, but the pollution that the EPA says entered the system from drilling involved chemicals NEVER used in fracking. (They are, however, used in the construction of water wells of the kind that might be found in Pavillion, not in oil and gas wells.) And yet the EPA persisted with its charges, knowing that the very chemical it discovered in well water could not have entered the wells in the manner suggested.

Not only that, but the EPA sank deep test wells, far beyond the depth of actual oil and gas drilling in Pavillion, apparently in an effort to drill until some form of naturally occurring pollution was discovered so that the drillers could then be charged with causing it. It seems that the EPA drilled into deep natural gas reservoirs well beneath the fracking zone, then charged that the well water was being polluted not by those deep reservoirs, but by the shallower fracking actually taking place.

Most expect the Pavillioin fracking case will eventually be dismissed, as was an earlier case near Dish, Texas, which was found to have no basis in fact by the state authorities in charge of regulating fracking. (

You know, I could be wrong, this being a text conversation and all, but when you condescend to share your wisdom from on high with us “tools”, you have a tendency to look like a complete fool when it’s shown over and over again that your “wisdom” is what turned out to be “uniformed rhetoric” ;-)

What I was trying to say, since you clearly have not read Shakespeare’s Hamlet, is that the passion with which you attack the anti-coal, pro-environment movement is very transparent and reveals that you most likely support the anti-coal movement on some level much more than you are against it. Unfortunately, I fear you are just another tool who stubbornly holds tight to the latest rhetoric in tv land because that is the easy route. Plus, you can’t forget about those cool bumper stickers.

The solutions to the problems we are “debating” are already in place. Natural gas, while quite problematic in terms of harming our water quality, is at least a cleaner burn. Solar. Geothermal. These are viable, real alternative to coal that, for good cause, are being embraced by the public and private sector.

Jordan, enough is enough. I’d advise that you spend a bit more time in the great outdoors and less time with Fox News and your computer. I’d love to say see you on the hiking trails, but for some reason I don’t think that’s very relevant to your current life.

You’re right, it’s probably a waste of time with you, you’ve already stated your close mindedness to any viewpoints, opinions and factual criticisms that don’t fit the world view that you’ve built for yourself.
Frankly, I hold out hope that others will be interested in actual discussion and finding meaningful solutions to real problems. As an example, I’d say the $537 million or so wasted on Solyndra could have made a dent in some of them somewhere.

Not really surprised by your response of ignoring the points in my previous post (see point #2 above)about the problems with the studies you cite and contrary evidence to the effects of coal etc.

If you read the reports on the after effects of mining, they all talk about how 90%(410 surveyed, 366 lack economic development) lack any economic activity (think the Walmart built on reclaimed land in Hazard, their airport etc), but when you read their reports, almost ALL show that their is reforestation, pastureland etc in place and expanding. Example, in KY we now have approx 10,000 Elk, largely due to their introduction on reclaimed mine sites that are excellent for providing grazing. As for “lush” forests, in a few generations, those areas will again resemble what they were before the coal was mined, albeit, at bit lower elevation.

Moving in to personal attacks and anecdotal evidence while ignoring the plant emissions and health effects like we were talking about-mercury poisoning, autism, other toxins and instead you are now talking about black lung, a legitimate disease tied to coal mining (actual miners working in the mines and with the coal….shocking)

Black lung is a real disease and is estimated to be the cause of death for 1,000 former miners a year (emphasis on former, so, are these younger miners, or miners who worked before newer safety regs and updated equipment like what we use in modern mines?) Also, black lung can only readily be confirmed by samples of lung tissue that contain silica particles and other traits associated with black lung. As far as I’ve read, that only is attainable upon autopsy. Question, how many miners are currently dying from black lung who are modern (young) coal miners?

As for my opposition to environmentalism, modern day environmentalism has little to do with science, conserving the environment and nature, and more to do about manipulating public opinion to advance an agenda that allows a few to benefit at the cost of the many. You called it a conspiracy, but the literal billions spent on ethanol (which we’ve known for 10 years would never replace or even compete with gasoline in costs, environmental impact or efficiency)as well as solar panels (solyndra and lightsquared are the most recent example) wind “farms” (wind farms kill hundreds of thousands of birds and bats each year, including Eagles) as well as groups, corporations and politicians benefiting financially from gov’t interventionism instead of out competing in the free market seem clear enough examples for anyone. “Follow the money” is as simple and profound statement today as when it was first expressed.

Now, again instead of confronting me and debating my points about the science, the studies, the politics involved, you try to pigeonhole me as a nature hating, conspiracy nut. Wonderful debate technique.

I’m an avid outdoorsman, and probably more of a conservationist (environmentalist as a term as become itself, to polluted with politics and bad science) than you or anyone you know. :-) I’ve been involved in with wet land project with ducks unlimited, donated my sweat (and a few fingernails) in building/restoring trails and clearing habitat in the Daniel Boone Nat’l Forest and other smaller areas like Bridges to the Past (highly recommend in the spring for the small waterfall), local creek and river clean up here in Central KY, and doing what any good boyscout (current or former) should do, leaving a campsite, hiking trail or river cleaner than when you found it. I’ve been through the smokies camping and fishing extensively, a few times to the Rockies. lol, I’ll stop now, but the list goes on.

Your complete detachment from the ability to use critical thinking skills speaks volumes.

Oh Jordan, you are just so foolish and naive to think the after- effects of mountaintop removal mining will ever, at any point in time, transition into a “lush” forest. And I would love to know your definition of a “lush” or healthy forest and the last time you were actually in a forest for that matter.

Also, my profession puts me right in the middle of knowing first-hand what occurs to the lungs of underground coal miners. Do you know anything about black lung disease outside of your knee jerk reaction that it’s a farce and part of some tree-hugger, environmentalist wacko conspiracy?

And what makes you so staunchly against the green movement? Do you ever get outside?! Do you ever take a break from your tv-watching and video games and hike? If so, how could you not wish to protect the wildlife and the trees and the mountains that exist in our state and region but are quickly failing because humans selfishly believe this planet is for us to do with as we see fit? When was the last time you witnessed the near-complete eradication of the Eastern Hemlocks in the Appalachian Mountains because of air pollution and foreign pests? When was the last time you experienced copious amounts of coal-fired power plant smog contaminating the mountain air? When was the last time you encountered deforestation on a staggering scale while hiking the A.T.?

Your complete detachment from the natural world speaks volumes.

If this is what is coming out of UK, I fear the very worst for the future of Kentucky’s natural world.

Here’s a link to an article that focuses on real stories and the real lives harmed by mountaintop removal mining.

Your side of this debate is nothing but shameless exploitation of the land and people for profit, and nothing you could write here will convince me otherwise.

1) take out the word “coal”, change a few other words to things like the “green movement”, “environmentalist” and their rhetoric, big money and lobbyist etc and I would agree with you completely.
2) his term is rather expressive, but not much use in advancing the arguement favorably, then again, in my experience, those who have bought into the “green” movement, well, it had a lot of similarities to a religion, and getting someone to acknowledge the holes in their religion is usually a waste of time.
3)Dr. Roger O. McClellan, a former CASAC member, has stated that “there is no compelling reason based on the EPA CASACs advice that the Ozone NAAQS be set in the range of 60 to 70 ppb” But the EPA says that their regulations will save 11,000 lives a year and prevent 130,000 ashtma attacks. Yet their own inspector general says the “peer reviewed” studies they base their claims and regulations on don’t even stand up to the EPA’s own standards for qualifying as peer reviewed.
Also, trial lawyers being what they are, if there was any proof to these claims, why wouldn’t they be standing in line to collect the billions in damages from the coal companies in class action lawsuits?
The Chinese city of Xi’an has some of the worst air quality in the world. Yet its air is significantly safer than the air in U.S. cities, according to a new study.

If you have trouble believing that, then you ought to have trouble believing Obama Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claims that U.S. ambient air quality is killing tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people per year. (Washington Times, January 6 2011: EPA’s statistics not science but nonsense)

4) I only asked what was the influence of china coal plants on the ambient level of air quality levels in this country. How much do they contribute? Shouldn’t we know this so that we know how much more we need to cut of our own coal emissions to reach the EPA’s guidelines of “safe”?

5) The day I rely on an environmental activist and the “facts” she gives is the day that Al Gore gives up jetting around the world in his private jets, reduces the energy usage of his home from the average energy usage of 10 homes that it is now, sells his stakes in the various “green” companies that make him millions with each new government regulation put in place, corrects the proven fallacies (as shown in a UK court) of his propagandist movie, starts driving a smaller car instead of the massive limos, then I MAY be open to actually taking something they’re saying seriously.

6) buying supporters? wow, the green movement has bought supporters for years at the tune of billions! billions given to the failed ethanol industry, billions to the wind farm farce, and billions to the solar panel industries-all which would be defunct w/out such direct gov’t subsidies, and many of which “happen” to be big political donors.

Mountain top mining sure is hideous to look at. But you’re self-centered view of “your” viewpoint is very telling. You’re upset for your view at that moment, when 30 years from now, that same view will be the beginning of a lush forest, or perhaps an open field for wildlife grazing. Whatever the original land owner stipulated he wanted when he sold or leased the rights to the mining company. In the meantime, it provided local jobs, as well as regional jobs and supplied an energy used to drive our economy, allowing the creation of yet more jobs…

as for the health risks associated with coal, it’s been shown time and again that there’s no statistical evidence that working in a coal mine, living near a coal mine or plant makes you any more likely to contract any disease or cancer than the general population.
Take your autism link for instance, all they did was take the compiled date already existing from schools regarding autism in students and distance from coal plants. and look for a correlation. even the study says ““This is not a definitive study,..” and has it’s holes.
First, you should know that the present study is a followup to a widely-criticized study that Dr. Palmer published in 20061. That study purported to show the same thing but was viewed as uninterpretable for a variety of reasons, with its most glaring flaw being that it failed to control for urbanicity of the populations being studied. Particularly harsh was Thomas A. Lewandowski:

Lastly, the authors found that the most important determining factor for autism prevalence in their study was whether the child lived in an urban, suburban, or rural area. For example, residence in an urban school district resulted in a 473% higher rate of autism compared to rural districts. Similar findings have been reported by others (e.g., Deb and Prasad, 1994). The urbanization effect is nearly 8 times stronger than the effect suggested for mercury but is given relatively little discussion and is not even noted in the abstract. Since levels of many pollutants (including mercury) would be strongly correlated with urbanization/industrialization, this also leads one to question the mercury-autism association the authors report. More detail on the impact of residence would have been helpful. Was one particular urban area (e.g., Dallas, Houston, San Antonio) responsible for the effect? Did the authors explore how data for other chemicals correlated with autism incidence? Certainly a host of environmental and social variables associated with urbanization could be investigated as possible factors in autism. Alternatively, an increased tendency for diagnosis in urban localities could explain at least part of the increased incidence.

“The first thing I noted upon reading the introduction was that Dr. Palmer approvingly cites the infamous “baby hair mercury study” (Holmes et al), and from that I knew right away where he is probably coming from. That particular paper, a favorite of the mercury militia wing of the antivaccinationist movement, was a load of poorly designed garbage bordering on, if not actually, pseudoscience. He also approvingly and uncritically cites the even worse Bradstreet et al study claiming to show that autistic children excrete more mercury in the urine. If you want to get an idea just how bad this study is, consider that it was co-authored with Mark and David Geier. (Say no more.) Where on earth were the peer-reviewers? ”

perhaps Angela you should continue with more research, this time from those not part of the environmental wacko movement.

First, I think Friends of Coal should be commended for a job well done at UK. It has successfully infiltrated and influenced the student body and administration with its rhetoric, big money, and “cool” black bumper stickers and license plates. Second, John, it is inappropriate for you to accuse anybody expressing an opinion on this forum as “bitching.” Such a statement lacks substance and shows an utter lack of maturity. Third, to Jordan who states “Those evil coal plants produce less than 1% of the toxins in the air compared to what occurs naturally,” you should really check your facts. That statement is absurd and contradicted by, of all things, science. Fourth, regarding China’s consumption of coal, are we really going to attempt to dilute one country’s irresponsibility by pointing out another’s? Five, the day I rely on a mining engineering student for the “facts” on this issue is the day I bump my head and forget that the mining engineering student is simply promoting and supporting the very industry she is wholly dependent upon for a future job. Six, to Kassy, I am very well versed on both sides of this debate. I have studied it and researched it for years. I have a great advantage, too, as my opinions are not tainted by the fact that I chose a profession that forces me to rely on an antiquated and environmentally and socially irresponsible industry that is forced to buy its supporters now because the negative facts against coal and the coal mining industry are quickly outpacing even coal’s own steady demise.

My interest in this debate started years ago with some very simple and innocent observations- i.e. mountaintop removal mining sure is hideous to look at and environmentally irresponsible; coal miners don’t speak very highly of their jobs or the companies they work for and often become very ill; many people living next to a coal mine or within a few miles of a coal-fired power plant really don’t like it; etc. I observed these things and, from there, conducted the research.

Ok, so back to the side that doesn’t involve bumper sticker propaganda…below is the web address to an article regarding autism and proximity to coal-fired power plants. It’s an interesting read, particulary for parents with small children.

Kathryn, thank you reminding me that, yes, I am in Kentucky, in the heart of coal country, and in a state that seemingly takes pride in staying chronically and stubbornly behind more modern times. I would urge every student at UK to try, just try, to be a bit more forward-thinking in this debate and others so that at some point Kentucky can rise above its current reputation.

Angela if you don’t like coal, don’t use electricity plain and simple. I find it so hypocritical that you would comment on this using a computer that runs on electricity which is fueled by coal. Equip you house with solar panels and a wind turbine if you want but until then stop bitching about coal.

Angela: coal will go the way of the horse and buggy in it’s own time. That’s the beauty of the free market, as a resource becomes more scarce, the price rises, and alternatives and the hunt for alternatives become more lucrative.
However, absent the scam of global warming and pointless government interventionism, there is enough coal to provide cheap, plentiful energy to our economy for decades yet tomcome.

As for all those evil coal toxins….with the new EPA guidelines, you’d be exposed to higher levels of toxins by hiking in Yellowstone National Park that what would be allowable by coal plants. Doesn’t that seem a bit much? What influence on air quality does the coal fired power plants in Asia, with that little “jet stream”‘thing, have on our air quality? China was bring online a new coal generator ever other week in 2010, maybe 2011 as well. Just a thought to ponder while saving mother earth.

I’ve been in active coal mines, had the giant coal carriers lumbering past, wheels as tall as me. At the time, I saw jobs, materials that would fuel manufacturing, or provide lighting for a surgery at a hospital, heat to keep a poor widower alive through the winter….and twenty years later, that same mine will be the grazing grounds for a herd of elk. A lake to do some bluegill fishing, or a quiet spot for a secluded picnic before stargazing.

You know, your accusation that the author was a shill, a mere mouth piece for “friends of coal” is so off putting, insulting really. Anyone who disagrees with your position is what? A sell out, a tool? When you don’t have a leg to stand on with your arguments, emotional appeals and insidious accusations is all you have left I suppose.

Those evil coal plants produce less than 1% of the toxins in the air compared to what occurs naturally. Often a single day of volcanic eruption from a major volcano produces more emissions that all of that released by man since the start of the industrial revolution. I’d wager the push to increase the price of coal is to help justify the billions of tax payer money into the “green” energy sector, companies like Solyndra or Lightsquared, that all happen to be hefty political donors…

Even the EPA’s own inspector general said the “studies” used by the EPA to justify their claim for further emission reductions didn’t meet the guidelines they themselves set to qualify as “peer reviewed” science. It’s not about science, or health or energy, but politics. What gets me more votes? A few coal miners in an electorally meaningless few states? Or the big “green” environmental movement…

I think it interesting that so many people have opinions on the topic of energy production when they really only have experience in its use. Kathryn’s article was a well cited piece and I am glad that mining engineering students have the ability to inform the student body from their education and personal experience. There are definitely too many political parties out there making coal an issue instead of explaining to those outside of the industry exactly what is being done to appease their complaints and lessen coal’s environmental footprint on the world. This lack of a bridge in communication, I believe, is the most difficult issue we face, not the technology. The technology is being advanced by engineers and research already. To power your laptops. Your iPhone’s. Your electronic book reader (which saves on paper, but is powered by coal when you charge it.) Energy efficiency and conservation is the best way to make an impact, not forming an opinion when you are not fully informed on both sides of the story.

Also, assuming that an educated person is incapable of forming their own opinion when they have cited facts from several official sources and major in the subject is naive. But then, so is assuming that a person doesn’t like nature just because she sees coal as realistic part of our future.

Kassy Lum
M.S. Mechanical Engineering Candidate
Power & Energy Institute of Kentucky

Kathryn- Your article is naive and smacks of Friends of Coal influence. Coal is antiquated, unsafe, and on its way out, despite anyone’s argument to the contrary. And here’s the most important thing- it’s running out. Coal is literally on its way out because it is running out. The argument for or against coal is quickly becoming academic at best because of dwindling resources.

Kathryn, I would encourage you to hang out next to UK’s two coal-fired heating plants on campus for a few hours or even a few days. If you don’t know where they are, I’ll tell you. One is ironically next to UK’s hospital; the other is one S. Upper Street. Spend a little time observing the smog that is generated by these heating plants, do some research on what toxins are released from burning coal (I’ll get you started- mercury, lead, arsenic, etc.), and then tell me if you honestly support the burning of coal.

Oh, and then really look into the way coal companies in the year 2012 treat their employees, and tell me if that’s an industry you wish to support. It’s not like the “good ol’ days” when the coal company’s actually cared for their workers and provided them with a decent job.

And then finally, do some hiking and camping in an undisturbed forest and really experience the peace and wonder that comes from being in nature. Then go to Eastern Kentucky and look at the devastation out there, particularly the mountaintop removal, caused by these coal companies you so blindly support. You may be singing a different tune then.

What concerns me is that UK actually has several coal fired generators on campus! On campus! We need to get into the 21st century and stop using this antiquated technology. A nuclear generator would be a clean, efficient power source that would easily supply the entire university with power, allowing us to do away with the nasty coal generators. Even Iran is looking into this technology! Instead of “Live Blue,” maybe our new slogan should be “Kentucky: We’re Even Behind Iran Now!”

A possible fringe benefit of this development could be mutations from mild radiation exposure to the student body. Anthony Davis is good at blocking shots as it is, but could you imagine if he had THREE arms instead of just two???

Matthew your statement is not only false but ignorant. To say you can not recreate or restore ecosystems makes it obvious that you have no understanding of reclamation. How many state parks in Kentucky, West Virgina, Florida, Wyoming, and countless other states were created by man and serve as homes to thousand species of animals. If your statement is true how can a lake or pond be created and species that lived in a stream before now flourish in this structure. What about aquariums, zoos, and other wildlife habitats. My question for you are you against all distruction by man such as city development and other mining or just COAL!

…you can’t “reclaim”, restore, or recreate an ecosystem. Human concerns should not take precedence over everything else.

Kathryn ~
Well stated! I’m encouraged that someone from your generation has such a great grasp of the complexities and realities of our nation’s energy needs. We’ll be in good hands going forward with others like you at the helm.
Cheers ~