Republican attack on the environment

Coal Ash Wednesday: Pandemic recovery is boosting coal burning

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2021 is shaping up to be a really bad year for global emissions:

The pandemic abruptly slowed the global march of coal. But demand for the world’s dirtiest fuel is forecast to soar this year, gravely undermining the chances of staving off the worst effects of global warming.

Burning coal is the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions, and, after a pandemic-year retreat, demand for coal is set to rise by 4.5 percent this year, mainly to meet soaring electricity demand, according to data published Tuesday by the International Energy Agency, just two days before a White House-hosted virtual summit aimed at rallying global climate action.

Any time you have an economic setback, the "easy way forward" is the first to get chosen. Coal deposits are still abundant, even after a few centuries of sustained mining, and they are relatively easy to access. In other words, it will take a continued (global) effort to promote alternatives, or the human race will always revert to that "easy" approach when economic pressure comes to bear. We have made much progress in the right direction:

The biomass bait-and-switch: From scraps to whole trees

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This was both predictable and preventable:

Several Enviva mills were soon processing material from logging sites and sawmills throughout the region. Environmental groups say they have documented truckloads of logs and whole trees, not just leftovers, entering pellet mills. Publicly available images show logs stacked at mills, and a reporter outside a pellet mill entrance saw trucks of logs entering.

Pellet makers’ pledges to rely on waste wood “painted them into a corner,” said Robert Abt, a forest economist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, because the wood-products industry already used its supplies relatively efficiently, leaving little waste.

Around 2009 or so I got into a protracted (online) debate with an NC State grad student about burning biomass as a replacement for coal. I could not get him to admit that, eventually, the industry would grow to the point it would need to consume whole trees instead of detritus. Which he stubbornly claimed would be "more than enough" to satisfy demands. But aside from the deforestation issues, the environmental justice impact of these plants is horrendous:

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