“How the Coal Industry Flattened the Mountains of Appalachia”

The New York Times editorial board, commenting on a recently-released Duke University study:

The report holds little hope of returning to the verdant Appalachian past, where underground mining at least left the lofty horizon and snug hamlets undisturbed. As the industry decapitated mountains to get at the lucrative coal seams below the surface, it reassured residents that there would be adequate restoration. The resulting tabletops of hedges and grass are derided by residents in nearby hollows. “Lipstick on a corpse,” says Ken Hechler, a tireless environmentalist and public servant in West Virginia.

Two thoughts:

  1. Mining companies should never have been permitted to alter the landscape so irrevocably. If you can’t afford to restore the mine site completely—with its exact contours, substrata, and rich topsoil—then you can’t afford to mine there at all.
  2. Within a few decades, we’ll look back on the mountaintop removal era with disgust and national shame. We’ll remember the practice in much the same way that we remember, say, forced lobotomy programs or the decimation of America’s old-growth forests.

‘Where Electric Vehicles Actually Cause More Pollution Than Gas Cars’

Eric Jaffe, writing for CityLab:

A view from the tailpipe gives EVs [electric vehicles] a clear edge: no emissions, no pollution, no problem. Shift the view to that of a smokestack, though, and we get a much different picture. The EV that caused no environmental damage on the road during the day still needs to be charged at night. This requires a great deal of electricity generated by a power plant somewhere, and if that power plant runs on coal, it’s not hard to imagine it spewing more emissions from a smokestack than a comparable gas car coughed up from a tailpipe.

We live in the remote West Virginia mountains, an hour’s drive from the nearest hospital or Wal-Mart. It’s a beautiful locale, but you don’t have to search long to find the scars of coal. Our local river has run acidic for nearly a century, thanks to unsustainable mining practices. On clear afternoons, the nearby coal plant’s sulfurous smoke plumes loom on the horizon.

That power plant generates electricity for more densely-populated areas east of here. Virginia drivers who blithely buzz to work in their Nissan Leafs may assume that their plug-in cars protect the environment. In reality, electric vehicles effectively outsource urban pollution to rural areas. As EVs replace gas-guzzlers, suburban smog may dissipate, but—at least in the coal-dependent eastern U.S.—rural skies grow ashen and rural rivers turn poisonous.

But, hey, “Out of sight, out of mind,” right?