Celebrate Coal (or, How I Just Tripled My Carbon Footprint)

by William Yeatman on November 20, 2008 · 6 comments

in Odds & Ends

Our individual carbon footprints are a function of consumption, which, in turn, is a derivative of individual wealth. Accordingly, my carbon footprint should be small, because I am poor. As an adult, I’ve never lived in a space larger than a room, and I don’t drive.

Despite my inconspicuous consumption, I have an enormous carbon footprint. Indeed my carbon footprint is so big that it rivals that of a mega-consumer like Leonardo de Caprio, or even a super-mega consumer like Al Gore.

How is that possible? My ex-wife and I buy ten thousand pounds of coal every fall for the Kyrgyz family with whom we lived while we served in the Peace Corps. Burning a ton of coal emits about 3 tons of carbon into the atmosphere, so we are responsible for 30 tons of green greenhouse gases! For environmentalists in rich countries, that’s a cause for alarm. For the Kamchibekova clan in Talas, Kyrgyzstan, it’s a reason to cheer.

Before, the Kamchibekova clan would burn dried sheep dung to stay warm during the brutal Kyrgyz winter. As you might have guessed, dehydrated sheep poo makes for a poor fuel. Global warming alarmists call coal “dirty,” but dung is the dirtiest. Besides being cleaner, coal also contains much more energy than an equivalent amount of dung, so it’s more efficient.

Environmentalists in rich countries excoriate coal as an evil. At this very moment, Greenpeace-niks are assembling a giant model of the earth in rural Poland, as a focal point for opposition to the expansion of coal in Poland and the world.

For hundreds of millions of the world’s poor, however, coal is cleaner and more energy efficient than the alternative. This is one of the many inconvenient truths that environmentalists ignore in their dogged pursuit of a static global ecosystem.

The enviros say they want to save the planet. But what about the people that live on the planet now?

Bismarck once said that the whole of the Balkans is not worth the bones of one Pomeranian grenadier. I riff on that when I say that the rainforests, or blue whales or any other green grail isn’t worth the bones of a single human being. Humans first.

christina eisert November 20, 2008 at 9:30 am

"saving" the earth necessarily implies saving the people onthe planet. No Earth = no people. Providing clean fuel for developing nations, like solar and wind, not only preserves people in the short term–it extends their lives and offers a future. It creates jobs, lessens health risks and, as an aside, preserves the planet we live on. Just a thought.

Kevin November 20, 2008 at 10:35 am

These people are awful. They caused the deaths of millions when they demonized DDT. If there was actually an alternative that worked, then fine. But environmentalist's campaigns hurt the poor of the world because they don't have other options when the environmentalists take them away. Christina, because there aren't any real options available, the jobs you say "green" energy creates are subsidized by people who actually produce something worthwhile. That means less profit which means fewer jobs.

Cori November 20, 2008 at 11:58 am

If the market were ready for those technologies, we'd already have them.Face it, the "green energy" that the left loves so much will be nothing but a pipe dream until real money (without subsidies or other market muckery) can be made from it.I don't doubt we'll be using nuclear power, fuel cells and solar power extensively in the future. But it won't happen until the market allows it to.

Cori November 20, 2008 at 12:30 pm

Funny you mention the DDT. Everyone remembers all the poor, defenseless raptors that were killed by the insecticide preventing their eggshells from forming properly.But nobody remembers the millions of humans who died of malaria when the poison was no longer able to be used to combat mosquitos.

halfspin December 28, 2008 at 6:41 pm

If the market were ready for the Kamchibekova clan to have coal, they'd already have it.

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