Coal Train Blues

Counterfeit Cash, a Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash tribute band based in Portland, Oregon, has just released a new music video, “Coal Train Blues,” a cover of the Man in Black’s famous hit “Folsom Prison Blues.”

The revised lyrics tell about the health and environmental risks that coal exports pose to communities across the Pacific Northwest, including the beautiful Columbia River Gorge.




The Planet: Coal Train Blues

Friends of the Columbia Gorge

Economist Arrested At Coal Protest: This Has To Stop, Our Window To Act On Climate Change Closing

13 protestors  were arrested during a day-long protest in White Rock, B.C. today that blocked coal trains from reaching port. Among the protestors was leading environmental economist and Simon Fraser University Professor Mark Jaccard, who issued this statement earlier this week:

This Saturday, May 5, at dawn I’m joining other British Columbians in White Rock at the pier to stop Burlington Northern Santa Fe coal trains from reaching our ports. Like others, I’m willing to engage in civil disobedience and risk arrest on Saturday to emphasize how important it is that we take urgent action to stop the actions that cause climate change.

The window of opportunity for avoiding a high risk of runaway, irreversible climate change is closing quickly. Within this decade we will either have steered away from disaster, or have locked ourselves onto a dangerous course. Our governments continue to ignore the warnings of scientists and push forward with policies that will accelerate the burning of fossil fuels. Private interests — coal, rail, oil, pipeline companies and the rest — continue to push their profit driven agenda, heedless of the impact on the rest of us.

This has to stop. We can’t comfort ourselves by thinking “if it were really that bad, government would do something about it.” It is that bad, and what government is doing in response is entirely inadequate.

Putting myself in a situation where I may be accused of civil disobedience is not something I have ever done before. It is not something I ever expected to be doing or wanted to do. But the current willingness of especially our federal government to brazenly take actions that ensure we cannot meet scientifically and economically sound greenhouse gas reduction targets for Canada and the planet leaves me with no alternative. I now ask myself how our children, when they look back decades from now, will have expected us to have acted today. When I think about that, I conclude that every sensible and sincere person, who cares about this planet and can see through lies and delusion motivated by money, should be doing what I and others are now prepared to do.

I pledge, along with everyone else taking part on Saturday, that my actions will be peaceful, non-violent and respectful of others. There will be no property damage. We will conduct ourselves in a safe, open and transparent manner. We are putting ourselves on the line Saturday because our future is at risk and we have to stand up for it.

Here is a 2007 interview with Dr. Jaccard and Jeffrey Simpson after the publication of their book, Hot Air, which they co-authored with Nic Rivers:



More links:

Coal Protestors Arrested In White Rock

Jaccard: Pipeline Not The Only Problem

B.C. Economist Blocks Coal Trains In White Rock

Australia Steps Up Climate Fight, U.S. Republicans Step Back In Time

With the announcement yesterday of a new carbon tax proposal, Australia is set to become the world leader on addressing climate change. Right now, Australia leads the world in per-capita carbon pollution. The carbon tax, which has been described as “modest, riddled with exclusions, bribing voters and corporations“, is still the best national carbon plan in the world. It is expected to pass in both houses of parliament before the end of the year, but the Conservative opposition and the Australian coal industry seem determined to whip up public sentiment against the carbon tax (remember, Australia is where climate scientists have been receiving death threats and über-denier Monckton is invited back regularly ). Right now, polls indicate 60% of the population is opposed to carbon pricing, and Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Labor government is the most unpopular in 40 years. A lot is riding on the government’s ability to convince voters that it’s time to tackle climate change.

In the meantime, closer to home, U.S. Republicans, bowing to their tea party members, are set today to repeal legislation that promotes energy-efficient light bulbs, one that was signed into law by none other than President George W. Bush and is now embraced by industry. Sounds like the Mad Hatter’s tea party in Washington these days!

More Links:

Australia Carbon Tax Modest Beginning

Australia Steps Up Climate Fight, Unveils Sweeping Carbon Plan

Climate Scientists Angered By Denier’s Death Threat Campaign

Republicans Defend “Personal Liberty” in Fight To Ban Energy-Saving Lightbulbs

Carbon Fee and Dividend: Building a Green Economy

The Costs of Green Energy in Ontario

The following post was published in the Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal this past weekend, in response to a letter, “Green Zeal Too Costly”, which claimed that the provincial government’s move to shift Ontario towards more renewable energy forms was driving up prices for consumers. The author is Scott Harris from Thunder Bay, who is on the Board of Directors for Environment North. Thanks to Graham Saunders for sharing it.

Glen Day’s Feb. 26 letter, Green Zeal Too Costly, rightly criticizes government flip-flopping on energy supply in Ontario, but wrongly targets the move toward green energy as the cause of our energy woes.

I agree that green energy should have to prove itself as a viable energy source, but we have to look beyond our household energy bills , and consider the real costs of not going green.

For example, the Ontario Medical Association estimates that the total annual health costs associated with poor air quality in Ontario, to which the current electricity supply mix is a major contributor, is $9.9 billion per year. We know that the “current electricity supply-mix” culprit is fossil-fuel, pollution from which kills and sickens thousands of Ontarians each year, and drives up health care costs. We need to connect the dots here and recognize that getting rid of the fossil-fueled component of our electricity supply translates into better health and health-care cost savings.

Why are energy costs where they are?

Paul McKay, journalist and author of Atomic Accomplice: How Canada Deals in Deadly Deceit, documents convincingly how, since 1999, Ontario ratepayers have made $36.3 billion in cumulative payments toward a “stranded” nuclear energy debt, and how they will likely pay at least $60 billion in the next decade just to service and retire a further $27.6-billion nuclear-related debt, and get not a single extra kilowatt-hour delivered for these payments.

Given these facts, it’s hard to grasp that nuclear plants are currently being lauded by some as the way to eliminate fossil-fuel generation. Build a new reactor? Darlington, our last reactor, cost $14.3 billion to build, four times its original estimate. And so-called new-generation reactors are predicted to be as expensive as they were a generation ago.

“So we have a perverse optical illusion: more than half of Ontario’s energy comes from nuclear plants which appear far cheaper than they are, while new renewable projects appear far more expensive than their secretly-subsidized main rival,” says McKay. “In addition, our generation’s public utility will leave behind some 40,000 tonnes of nuclear wastes that will remain latently lethal for centuries, and a related fiscal time-bomb for entombing retired reactors, for which we are likely to be cursed.”

The promotional materials issued by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization as it tries to seduce our vulnerable, job-hungry, down-on-their-luck northern towns into becoming nuclear waste graveyards, promises “thousands of jobs . . . for many decades.” Try 25,000 decades as that is the length of time radioactive waste must be safeguarded. Add those very real transport and safe-storage costs to ours and our children’s children’s children’s etc., electricity bills!

Contrast that with a proposed $14-billion investment in pollution-free, fuel-free, waste-free, safe-storage-free green energy (two coffees and a doughnut per month) with real honest-to-goodness electrical energy to show for it.

Let’s get fossil and nuclear off the table ASAP. Coal’s legacy is one of pollution, dangerous acceleration of global warming, health and climate risk. Nuclear has a deplorable fiscal track-record, transportation and safe storage of nuclear waste is a daunting problem and nuclear reactors are vulnerable to accidents and acts of terrorism. (Good luck terrorizing a wind farm!)

In our own best interests, and on behalf of the voiceless and vulnerable yet unborn, I say let’s first of all conserve energy like our collective good health and wealth depend on it. Energy conservation is generally recognized as the most cost-effective way to help curb CO2 emissions and stabilize our household energy bills. (Premier McGuinty, keep those household energy retrofit rebates coming!) And let’s give green energy a chance.

Conservation and green energy in concert add up to a cleaner, more sustainable environment, with better health, a less expensive health care system and the potential to keep more green in our own pockets.

Ontario's microFIT program encourages renewable energy development


Dis-invest-a-lujah from the Church of Life After Shopping

From the Reverend Billy Talen, of the Church of Life After Shopping:

This “Dis-invest-a-lujah!” 3 min. film is breath-taking. It is radical common sense action. “Stop Shopping” faithful spy-cammed a conversation with a Chase banker, explained Mountaintop Removal to him, then withdrew their money. Some say this is trespassing, but is it? JP Morgan Chase accepted our bail-out. It ought to be a public institution. Earth-a-lujah!


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