The Skywriter

Climate Blogs Exposed: Coal Ash Spill, Beating the Holiday Blues & Greening the Holidays


Climate Blogs Exposed: Coal Ash Spill, Beating the Holiday Blues & Greening the Holidays

The climate blogs were filled this week with reports on the widespread damage in Tennessee when a dike broke releasing a catastrophic surge of coal ash into the surrounding waterways. Although this news failed to steal most of the mainstream media headlines, it's actually turning out to be a bigger mess than the authorities initially predicted. Dave Roberts from Grist notes:


Initially authorities said there were 2.6 million cubic yards of ash in the pond, and 1.7 million spilled. Now they're saying 5.4 million cubic yards have spilled -- more than double the original estimate of the total in the pond. Fills you with trust in the authorities, doesn't it?


Everyone should already know this, but it's worth pointing out anyway: no method of burning coal eliminates the problem of coal ash. There is no "clean coal" that doesn't produce millions of tons of toxic sludge, just as there is not yet any form of coal that doesn't send millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Has the pro clean coal PR bubble bursted? Although we've seen a lot of press concerning the Tennessee disaster this week in the blogosphere, it's not just coming from green groups. In fact, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) and Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC) have launched a new "Blogging Brigade" to try and preserve the image of clean coal. According to Think Progress' Wonk Room, this week, an email from the clean coal groups was released inviting people to join the "Blogger Brigade"-- a group working to preserve the image of coal in America. The email said:


You can get into the debate. If you are interested in becoming an active member of ABEC’s Blogger Brigade just send me an e-mail to and let me know you’re interested. One of our team members will give you a call and walk you through the process. It’s really easy – and for those of you who don’t already Blog, it is fun! You can join the online debate that’s already going on and you and others can remain anonymous (if you want to) at the same time! We’ll even set up a little competition to see how many Blog entries each person can make.

Notwithstanding the strange capitalization of “Blog,” this is the latest in a series of netcentric efforts from the coal public relations people. They’ve launched a Facebook page, Twitter feed, and have littered blogs with comments defending coal.

Trying to beat your holiday blues? Think that individual action is too small to make a difference? Well think again! The truth is, the only way one person cannot make a difference is through inaction. Check out No Impact Man's post on World Changing and keep up the great work!


A continuing debate erupts within the environmental movement about the relative merits of individual versus collective action. Back in 2007, on the subject of individual action, The New York Times columnist Tom Friedman wrote, "You can change lights. You can change cars. But if you don't change leaders, your actions are nothing more than an expression of, as Dick Cheney would say, "personal virtue."


I heard criticisms like Friedman's constantly throughout a one-year project in environmental living that I took on under the moniker No Impact Man. What difference can one person make? Having had a lot of critics who forced me to look at the issue, I've come to some conclusions.

Firstly, there is one circumstance under which one person absolutely cannot make a difference: if that one person doesn't try. And if we don't try, who among us knows whether we have foregone the chance to influence the people around us? Which one of us knows for sure that, by applying our talents and efforts to what we believe in, whether we might become a Martin Luther King Jr. or a Bobby Kennedy or an Al Gore or a Betty Friedan or a Nelson Mandela?

Is global warming preventing you from decorating your house like Clark Griswold from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation?


Are you looking for a way to deck the halls sustainably? Well the solutions are here with LED menoras and holiday lights. Now you can decorate your house without killing the planet at the same time--these lights are even predicted to save you money in the long run! Climate progress reports:


Manufacturers and retailers across the country report sales that are surprisingly brisk even during an economic downturn. For example, light-bulb maker OSRAM Sylvania said it doubled its LED sales since last year to between 15 million and 20 million LED units.


LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, can be three times more expensive than traditional incandescent lights but they use 90 percent less energy, produce less heat and last longer.

Let us know if we forgot any interesting stories in the comments below. Happy New Year to all!

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