The really inconvenient truth: real price of our energy

I've blogged before about the need for a new energy calculus. Not just market and whosesale costs to the user of the energy.
Written by Harry Fuller, Contributor on

I've blogged before about the need for a new energy calculus. Not just market and whosesale costs to the user of the energy. Economics and business have a notoriously short-sighted, narrow-minded set of considerations. Haven't we just re-learned that ancient lesson from the hedge funder corruption and the phoney mortgage miasma? Nothing human is self-regulating, whether four year olds or CEOs.

We humans could start calculating the real, total costs of our endeavors to the planet and all of us, living and expected. For energy sources it's not just fossil fuels. What's the long-term cost of dealing with nuclear waste? Of making solar panels? The destruction of wildlife and possible weather change wrought by big wind farms. We could stop pretending that nature gives us a free lunch on any source of energy. Even a donkey turning a waterwheel has an environmental cost. The food, the resulting manure, the dust raised by the donkey's hooves, etc. Can we really pretend that today's high rates of cancer, infertility, diabetes and asthma--to pick a few--really have nothing to do with the chemicals in our lives, our water, our food?

Way back in the 19th Century we learned the cost of coal included killer smog in London and black lung inside the miners' chests. Yet we continue to lie to ourselves about energy. We now even see big money trying to market the idea there is "clean coal." Congress likes that because some major political donors love it. Of course, what is meant is capturing the CO2 and hiding it somewhere or recycling it. Nobody really can believe that mining, moving and burning coal is "clean." And we need not go into detail on the coal ash residue, do we?

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We've learned much about the actual effects of our resource extraction and use in the past decades. Now we need to stop pretending it's 1950. When I was a kid in rural Midwest we burned our household trash, including plastics, spray cans and used paint materials. We were spreading heavy metals and nasty organic chemicals like mad. We sprayed our milk cows with DDT, then milked them. I drank a lot of that stuff. No wonder I'm such a pathetic human being today, huh? The point is: we know better now. Buried or burned is not gone, only forgotten. There's an Oklahoma town suffering from zinc smelting that happened decades ago. A Kansas lead mining town may just be too toxic to live in. A federal buyout there is backed by some of the country's most conservative U.S. Senators. Times Beach, Missouri, was killed by dioxin in oil used to control dust. It died in the 1980s. We still do heedless things today and the "market system" pretends it has no economic meaning. Let's try growing up. This is our planet and nobody else will clean it up for us. Here's just the latest in the endless series of environmental crimes against the planet perpetrated by big energy companies. This one is called "dump it on the poor." Highly nuclear France seems to be careless with some of their spent nuclear fuel. Surprised? Send it to Russia where nobody imagines there are enforced environmental controls, right? And it now looks like the American EPA is going to start looking at West Virginia coal mining as more than a source of profit and jobs. The coal companies and their Senate pals will hate that.

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