Pacific Export Terminals: The Raging Environmental War on Coal

Originally published in The Washington Times.clip_image002

Guest post by Steve Goreham

Exports from the Pacific Northwest are an ongoing battleground in the environmental war on coal. Last week, the Sierra Club and three other groups announced that they would file suit against Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and six coal companies over shipments of coal in open-topped train cars. The announcement is an escalation in the three-year battle to stop new export terminals proposed for ports in Washington and Oregon. Underlying all the rhetoric is a concern that mankind is causing dangerous global warming.

In 2010, Peabody Energy, Cloud Peak Energy, and Australia-based Ambre Energy announced competing plans to build export terminals in the Pacific Northwest to ship coal to Asia, with Arch Coal joining the fray in 2011. Five new export terminals have been proposed. Coal would be shipped by rail from the Powder River Basin coal mines in Montana and Wyoming, loaded on ships at the proposed terminals, and transported across the Pacific Ocean to meet the growing demand for coal in China and Asia. Potential coal exports to Asia are estimated at between 50 and 100 million tons annually. Environmental groups and students have mounted a growing campaign to oppose construction of the terminals and the planned coal exports.

The Sierra Club and other opponents claim that rail transport of coal is responsible for “emitting coal into waterways in many locations across Washington” in the form of coal dust and that this violates the Clean Water Act. They fear that, if the export terminals are built, additional coal trains will add to the problem. “Coal is a toxic pollutant and this action today seeks to stop illegal pollution and keep our river free of dirty coal,” said Brett VandenHeuvel, Executive Director of Columbia Riverkeeper.

Shipping coal by rail and exporting coal is nothing new. In 2011, the US exported 89 million metric tons of coal, up 143 percent from 2002. Most of those exports went through the East Coast ports of Norfolk, New Orleans, and Baltimore to Europe, which is using more coal―not less. Most of this coal was delivered to ports by rail and water pollution has not been a major issue.

Neither is coal dust new. In 1900, coal provided 70 percent of US energy consumption. Factories, railroads, electrical utilities, and home furnaces were powered by coal. During the 1940s and 1950s, fallen snow in Chicago was blackened with coal dust after only a few days. Homeowners washed their walls once a year to remove accumulated coal dust. But thanks to cleaner-burning coal-fired plants and our nation’s shift to natural gas and petroleum, US emissions of coal dust today are at a 50-year low.

While environmentalists complain about coal dust, the real reason they hate coal is their acceptance of the ideology Climatism, the belief that man-made greenhouse gases are destroying Earth’s climate. In 2009 Dr. James Hansen stated, “The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains. Coal-fired power plants are factories of death.” Environmental groups believe burning coal will cause catastrophic climate change, so “coal dust” is used as an excuse to try to halt coal exports.

But there is no empirical evidence that human greenhouse gas emissions are causing dangerous global warming. Carbon dioxide is a trace gas. Only four of every 10,000 air molecules are carbon dioxide. Ninety-nine percent of Earth’s greenhouse effect is natural, caused by water vapor and natural greenhouse gas emissions from oceans and the biosphere. Global temperatures have not increased for more than ten years, despite a continued rise in atmospheric CO2, confounding the climate models. And despite the furor over Hurricane Sandy, history shows that storms, floods, and droughts today are neither more frequent nor more severe than in past centuries.

Yet, protests against coal in the Pacific Northwest continue to escalate. It seems that “yes we can” works except in the case of export terminals and pipelines.


Steve Goreham is Executive Director of the Climate Science Coalition of America and author of the new book The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism: Mankind and Climate Change Mania.

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April 10, 2013 6:23 pm

Hmmm seems like they are right on schedule if you ask me:) Destroy our economy… save the cheerleader? SIGH!!!

April 10, 2013 6:31 pm

Down here in Houston, we are hoping that the enviros prevail in the Pacific Northwest. Plans are already afoot to build a massive coal port on Pelican Island in Galveston Bay. The idea is that if the coal cannot be shipped west then it can be shipped South and East to Texas and then to China via the Gulf of Mexico and the soon to be completed expansion of the Panama Canal.

Richard D
April 10, 2013 6:31 pm

Fine, send everything through New Orleans or Houston, especially with the Panama Canal widening project due to be completed by 2015.

Robert in Calgary
April 10, 2013 6:36 pm
Dyspeptic Curmudgeon
April 10, 2013 6:36 pm

Well the Daubert hearing should be interesting to sy the least. Wonder if they will put up Hansen and Mann to ‘prove’ mann-made global warming is escalating and caused by CO2?
Ok on second thought I have my doubts that even Mann’s hubris reaches that far.
And iirc, something isvscheduled for tomorrownin Mann v Nat Review & Steyn et al. Mann may be gunshy by the time this reaches court!

James at 48
April 10, 2013 6:40 pm

The actual issue is aerosols and the Asian Brown Cloud, which of course impact both insolation and precip here in the West Coast. The more coal we ship the colder and wetter are our conditions.

Michael Tremblay
April 10, 2013 6:42 pm

” “Coal is a toxic pollutant and this action today seeks to stop illegal pollution and keep our river free of dirty coal,” said Brett VandenHeuvel, Executive Director of Columbia Riverkeeper.”
Does he know that anthracite coal is used in water purification plants to purify water so he can safely drink it, or that coal is used to filter the sewage he is producing so that it can safely be returned to the environment, or that activated carbon used in his tap’s water filter is just as likely to be made from that ‘dirty coal’ he is so actively campaigning against?

April 10, 2013 6:48 pm

As a state resident, living in Edmonds, I have filed an open records request with the University of Washington to obtain both data on all trains included in a study, and the methodology for such a study regarding a “train dust study” conducted by the U of Washington, Bothell.
For once, I wish to force an open and thorough means to independently evaluate such studies, which often, seem to morph into results that the green media of Seattle feel ‘better’ about reporting. I intend to make the news editors of both electronic and print media aware of my action shortly. The university office of public records has responded to my request, stating that the expected information will be made available on April 11th, 2013.
I have repeatedly asked the ‘watermellons’ of Edmonds to meet me at track side here, and show me coal dust. They then, disappear, after reading such requests. I have asked these same eco facists to make a factual comparison as to the damage ( cited ) by coal dust versus the damage caused by the over 1,500 point source pollution entities cited by EPA documents AND septic pollution caused by homes ringing the Puget sound, and once AGAIN, they disappear.
The current governor of Washington state is a huge champion of the failed agenda of CO2 caused global warming – I do not look to him to contribute in any way, to a fair and open evaluation of the transport of coal, by train, thru Washington state.

April 10, 2013 6:52 pm

well, i don’t know why my reply “vanished” so will try one more time …

April 10, 2013 6:59 pm

Every grownup should attend at least one Sierra Club meeting to understand the meaning of the term “arrested development”. Truly amazing that these granola powered, Birkenstock footed, Mein Kampf mini-me’s have any credibility.
You can love nature all you want….but despite all the hugging….every tree is one day away from debris. Human laws do not effect insects, tornadoes, lightning, droughts, disease or a host natural ends to mortal organisms. Carbon Dioxide is mandatory for all life….and there are far worse problems than carbon filled choo-choo trains. Why don’t these eco-purists go stand in front of the Chinese filled coal trains and stop the un-scrubbed Chinese generators ? Oh, that would delay their newest iPhones….never mind.

April 10, 2013 7:00 pm

I have submitted an open records request with the university of washington to obtain all data and methodology regarding a “coal train dust” study that, supposedly has been done, by the university of washington, bothell. The open records department of the university has responded that this information will be made available to me on April 11, 2013.
I want to insure that, if this study comes to light locally, in the media, that it’s results will be reported correctly and completely – rather than selectively, regardless of the results. The green media of Seattle have a very selective way of reporting climate and related news here. I intend to put the news directors and editors on notice.
The current governor of this state is a champion of the failed agenda of CO2 caused global warming. I don’t see him contributing anything that is “fair and open” with regard to the transport of coal thru Washington.
When you ask the ‘water melons’ of Edmonds, WA to actually locate and point out coal dust along the tracks thru this city, they disappear.

April 10, 2013 7:27 pm

These people don’t realize that they are down wind from China and that they’d be better off if China burned the cleanest coal available. Instead, they want China to burn dirtier coal?

Neil Jordan
April 10, 2013 7:40 pm

The war against coal causes some collateral damage:
GE to Cut Back Trains
Pennsylvania Plant to Lose 950 Jobs, as Some Go to Texas
General Electric Co. GE +2.25% plans to cut 950 jobs at its unionized locomotive plant in Pennsylvania and shift one-sixth of the employment to a newer facility in Texas, citing weaker North American locomotive demand due to falling coal prices.
Apr 10, 2013, 7:07am EDT
GE locomotive plant plans to cut 950 jobs in Erie

April 10, 2013 7:59 pm

Canvas covers? Relatively cheap and reusable. Cheaper than lawyers?
My dad, during the depression followed coal trains, along with other kids, picking up coal that had “fallen” from the cars.

April 10, 2013 7:59 pm

It is grossly unfair that the U.S. has more protesters per capita than any other country, especially China. To remedy this injustice, we need to immediately begin the redistribution of protesters to other countries. Just one protester per shipload of exports is all I ask. (Sending more than one would be nice except for the increased risk of breeding more of these vermin.)

April 10, 2013 8:03 pm

Gotta agree with Jardinero1, but for a different reason. I work in the oil and gas biz, and every move that hurts coal just ups the demand for oil and gas that much higher and raises the demand, and thus raises the prices which are putting our industry back into boom time. I don’t support doing this, but it’s hard to feel too badly about the fact that a group of fools who don’t like me or the people I work worth are buttering my bread for me every day.
I wonder what they would say if they knew how happy they were making us oil and gas people?

April 10, 2013 8:08 pm

It was always inevitable I suppose, but it is becoming increasingly clear how this will prompted by specific actions, that the real legacy of the AGW hysteria and associated political and business agendas will be the destruction of what used to be known as conservation groups, now transmuted into representatives of Environmentalism as a creed.
It seems inevitable that this will lead to a general abandonment of any commitment to conservation principles at all. Environmentalism is in that sense a parasitic creed, fixed on humanity, which very much expresses the relationship its adherents real – directly dependent or symbiotic – relationship with the natural world which is zero.
Conservation killed by relentless exploitation of the efforts and structures of others by the ultimate consumer class

April 10, 2013 8:25 pm

The coal is dampened before transport in open cars.
Washington should not close its coal plants, so I would rather keep those open than anything else in the world, although we are swimming in hydro. At a meeting recently I was informed that hydro is not catagorized as ‘renewable.’ We have to sell our surplus power from hydro, and also pay for slush funds and worthless wind turbines. What a racket.
“[Former] Washington State Governor Chris Gregoire signed legislation today to close its remaining two coal plants, and will replace them with renewable energy. One plant will close in 2020, the other in 2025.
In the meantime, the legislation requires TransAlta to install additional air pollution control technology in 2013 to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions at its 1600 MW plant. Transalta is also required to contribute $30 million into a community investment fund, which will finance economic development and energy efficiency projects, and $25 million into an energy technology transition fund to support innovative energy technologies and companies in the state.”
“Slush funds” are an Obama tactic too. You know how slush is, it evaporates.

Lawrie Ayres
April 10, 2013 8:28 pm

What we all need are politicians with a spine. The great unwashed outnumber the eco-loons yet pollies gravitate to the greenies to garner votes. It really is time for the silent majority, most of whom work and pay taxes , to make their voices heard. After all without the working taxpayer the ecos would have no teat to suckle. As Margaret Thatcher said ” socialism works until they run out of other people’s money”. Enviros survive on the sweat of someone else’s brow. Bit like flies.

Jeff L
April 10, 2013 8:39 pm

“Environmental groups believe burning coal will cause catastrophic climate change, so “coal dust” is used as an excuse to try to halt coal exports.”
Making up noble sounding causes vs being up front with their true objectives is standard operating procedure for all environmentalists. Why? Because if they were up front & honest about their true objectives, they would never get any support except from a few like minded folks. Their hope is to wear down the opposition using these excuses. As long as the coal companies are persistent, they will win the battle, it will just take more time & money.
I have seen this even at a local level where a group of environmental minded folks tried to prevent a local trail system from being built. The trail system had huge community support but they tried to block it using all sorts of arcane excuses but never once had enough guts to actually say they were against the trail system. It was pathetic, but in the end, the majority prevailed & the trail system was built.

April 10, 2013 9:12 pm

The winds of post-tropical storm known as “Sandy” dropped well below the hurricane level before landfall. NOAA has adjusted its reporting methods because of “Sandy”
The damage from Sandy was mostly storm surge on a location with high population and little experience preparing for tropical storms.

April 10, 2013 9:21 pm
April 10, 2013 9:25 pm

Differentiating organisms that are bad (e.g. that cause infection) with those that are good (e.g. bacteria that live in the gut and provide a service) is the key, if society doesn’t manage this is it will get infected, or fade away and die.

April 10, 2013 9:32 pm

Here’s an earlier WUWT thread, from July 2012, on protests against coal dust:

April 10, 2013 9:52 pm

Interesting – yet another attack on the economies of scale. The intention is to make coal unprofitable to ship since it would be impossible to show any actual harm done in court. If an activist wishes to ban a product they advocate regulations that make the produce unprofitable. Don’t ban guns, for example – make ammunition unaffordable. Make guns unaffordable too by requiring crazy high liability insurance. Years ago in Washington state the loonies were protesting against the white “nuclear death trains”. We’re no stranger to death trains 🙂
This trend is becoming both obvious and interesting.

April 10, 2013 9:56 pm

I am not sure I understand this, if they dont like mountaintop mining we should discuss that, but to end all coal is just wrong. Obama himself was for a huge coal plant in his home state of Illinois before he was President.
Coal is the best option for electricity, and save the natural gas for other uses, but dont export it please!

April 10, 2013 10:14 pm

Well, I’m all for stopping the coal export terminals and trains.
It’s crazy to send that energy to China, to be used against us and our economy, when we can keep it here and use it ourselves. So yeah, go ahead, lie about the dust, make “stuff” up, scream, holler, sacrifice your reputation for the cause, whatever. Just keep that American Coal here in America for Americans…
Only 1/2 /sarc;… Rather like a stopped clock, they are doing the right thing, but for the wrong reasons… It happens every so often, I guess….

April 10, 2013 10:45 pm

Part of your problem is that in the US you think your coal exports are significant. Australia exports about 5 times as much, and Indonesia almost the same. And it’s good quality stuff.
One port alone, Newcastle, loads about 240 million tonnes a year, so your 100 million tonnes total is pretty minor stuff by comparison.
Tell ’em that.

April 10, 2013 10:50 pm

If Sierra Club are so concerned about the open-top coal cars, why don’t they contribute covers for them? They have lotsa money.
Nah – they don’t want solutions – they just want to throw a wrench into the works. Luddites.

April 10, 2013 10:54 pm

@ thingodonta says:
April 10, 2013 at 9:25 pm
A very neat way of making a useful distinction. How to evaluate that, and what to do with those that have infected the host known as humanity, is the real challenge ahead.

April 10, 2013 11:05 pm

Modern Environmentalists = Climate Morons.

Steve Lohr
April 10, 2013 11:21 pm

Just for the record. If you want to know the truth. There is no coal dust falling out of the open car tops to any detectable level. Just go to the cities of Alliance and North Platte Nebraska for the proof. These places see staggering numbers of coal trains pass right through their cities. My wife counted 7 fully loaded trains through Alliance in the span of an hour. I first observed the frequency 6 years ago and I have no reason to believe this doesn’t go on 24/7 year on year. If there was coal dust falling out of the cars it would be piled in huge windrows. It is not. There is none. Nothing. It doesn’t exist, is unworthy of discussion, and should be dismissed as nothing but childish blabber.

April 10, 2013 11:27 pm

jc says:
“How to evaluate that, and what to do with those that have infected the host known as humanity, is the real challenge ahead.”
In my opinion the real power for change lies within academia. Knowledge is power. Youth is attracted to knowledge and to causes. In my opinion academia has been grossly irresponsible in the whole environment matter /and climate change in the last 20-30 years, but I don’t think its intractable.
Part of the way to address the issue is to e.g. enforce proper standards and ensure procedures are followed, and tighten up journals and general academic culture. It’s been done before, the early 20th century was awash with social Darwinism and Marxism within academia, these were defeated ultimately by basic, hard won values, and proper procedures, amongst other ways.

Martin Katchen
April 10, 2013 11:31 pm

I’m sure that there is some way to cover over coal trains. The Russians have had to mine coal in some places that combusts spontaneously if exposed to air during transport. Surely they developed some way to cover over coal cars so that air dosen’t get in and dust dosen’t escape. Especially since BN is going to have to build thousands more coal cars to transport all that increased coal anyway.Apparently this is the major issue:
(from a Spokane Examiner article 12/06/12)
Pat Russell reported seeing coal chunks fall from coal cares waiting for trains to pass. BNSF engineer Steve Hart confirmed that polymer sprays keep the down dust. However, when the coal shifts in transit the seal is breaks causing coal chunks and dust to be released.”
So the issue is that the precautions that Burlington Northern takes to prevent coal dust from being released in transit can be inadequate if the load shifts. And this, plus the traffic tie-ups at grade crossings from 28 coal trains per day plus general freight trains are a real problem for Spokane, with no attempt to mitigate the problem and few new jobs for Spokane (maybe a few more locomotive engineers based in Spokane). So Spokane (and probably the Tri cities may have some legitimate beefs going against BNSF.
However, there’s a guy named Mark Pettibone founder of a company called Clearrails LLC that apparently has a mechanical cover for coal cars that will eliminate this problem. It’s just a matter (which will be much to environmentalist’s chagrin) of getting railroads on board to install these covers.

Dudley Horscroft
April 10, 2013 11:53 pm

In Middlesbrough, the local housewives were jubilant when they heard that the local steam engines were to be phased out to be replaced by nice clean diesels. Not so pleased when they found that the nice clean soot from steam engines on their washing, which would fall off when beaten, was replaced by nasty sticky oily soot from the diesels, which would not come off easily.
Coal dust falls quickly to the ground, in the trains it settles to the bottom of the cars. The only area where it was a problem was in the Powder River Basin lines themselves, where coal dust which had not got inside the cars fell on the tracks, and after a few years blocked the drainage, resulting in a very expensive clean up – see “Trains” magazine’s articles re this. After a few miles there was no dust left to fall on the tracks, so no further need to fix. And the lines west are a lot further along. No problem!

April 10, 2013 11:58 pm

Coal is a toxic pollutant
In the same way that limestone, granite and quartz etc are also toxic pollutants. Ban ’em, I say. Ban ’em all!

April 11, 2013 12:52 am

A point of information.
Several commentators have suggested covers (e.g. of canvas) to prevent dust leaving the coal trucks. This would replace a non-problem with a real problem.
The uncovered coal trucks don’t lose dust but would be converted to potential fire risk if fitted with the suggested covers.
Loss of coal dust is loss of coal. Sellers of coal don’t want to lose any dust because it reduces their profits. Hence, coal stocks in stock piles or in transport trucks are sprayed with water (i.e. are “watered”) to avoid this problem.
Coal stocks would be watered whether or not watering prevented loss of coal dust because the stocks may spontaneously combust (i.e. catch fire) unless kept wet.

April 11, 2013 1:10 am

Most of those exports went through the East Coast ports of Norfolk, New Orleans, and Baltimore to Europe, which is using more coal―not less.

What an interesting coincidence. Just yesterday Haunting The Library wrote about the increased use of coal in the EU. And it’s not just the EU but China and the rest of the world.

Guardian – 20 November 2012
More than 1,000 new coal plants planned worldwide, figures show
World Resources Institute identifies 1,200 coal plants in planning across 59 countries, with about three-quarters in China and India
The huge planned expansion comes despite warnings from politicians, scientists and campaigners………..

April 11, 2013 1:23 am

You know if these loons get their ultimate way then people will start chopping down trees. We have seen this with biofuels and massive deforestation in Indonesia to make way for ozone emitting palm oil trees. People in Germany are stealing wood from forests due to high energy prices. Keep it up greens, that’s the ticket. They think all their proposed solutions are simple. If they were we wouldn’t need them to tell us.

“A recent life-cycle assessment suggested that it could take up to 220 years for a plantation to become carbon neutral (W. M. J. Achten and L. V. Verchot Ecol. Soc. 16, 14; 2011).”
“With energy costs escalating, more Germans are turning to wood burning stoves for heat. That, though, has also led to a rise in tree theft in the country’s forests. Woodsmen have become more watchful.”

April 11, 2013 1:46 am

If coal is a “toxic pollutant” then burning it actually cleans up the environment.

April 11, 2013 1:48 am

UK Sceptic says:
April 10, 2013 at 11:58 pm
“Coal is a toxic pollutant
In the same way that limestone, granite and quartz etc are also toxic pollutants. Ban ‘em, I say. Ban ‘em all!”
Very true. Especially granite; it’s not only toxic but also radioactive.

Steve B
April 11, 2013 1:52 am

Gnome says:
April 10, 2013 at 10:45 pm
Part of your problem is that in the US you think your coal exports are significant. Australia exports about 5 times as much, and Indonesia almost the same. And it’s good quality stuff.
One port alone, Newcastle, loads about 240 million tonnes a year, so your 100 million tonnes total is pretty minor stuff by comparison.
Tell ‘em that.
And next week they are having a Senate Inquiry into coal dust here in Newcastle next week.

Gary Pearse
April 11, 2013 2:05 am

It’s too bad that the large majority of people, who are hurt by these few anti-human saboteurs aren’t out there with a counter protest. Why do the hateful people have a monopoly on this activity? Why do we bend so easily? I think activism is going to have to be promoted to the larger society who suffer the fall out from all this abuse. Please don’t tell me this is democracy in action.

April 11, 2013 2:25 am

The Left Coast is Waaay Wackoville. Folks, your obsolete. China and India are the big dogs now.
And they are going to get a lot bigger!! With or without you.

Chuck Nolan
April 11, 2013 2:29 am

James at 48 says:
April 10, 2013 at 6:40 pm
The actual issue is aerosols and the Asian Brown Cloud, which of course impact both insolation and precip here in the West Coast. The more coal we ship the colder and wetter are our conditions.
“The more coal we ship the colder and wetter are our conditions.”
Ha ha, now that’s funny. We are talking Northwestern US, yes?
Show the evidence for this assertion, please.
Finally we can stop worrying about CAGW.
It’s CAGCooling, now.
Does global cooling still cause the Arctic to melt and drown all the poley bears or has that problem disappeared without mention?
Is there anything else they need to fix or change now that we finally have the science settled (again, still, some more?)
Wetter, colder, more floods, more snow, more tornadoes, more hurricanes, dryer, hotter, more fires, more droughts, no snow and dead baby animals everywhere all over the earth.
Oh, and least we forget all the millions of missing climate refugees.
Are there enough bases covered? Is there nothing that nasty little molecule cannot do?
This all sounds a bit weird. How ’bout we knock off the silliness.
Not having energy is not an option.

John Marshall
April 11, 2013 2:40 am

What a stupid bunch of hypocritical ignorant eco-terrorists these people are. I bet they keep warm in winter using fossil fuels, swim in their own private heated pools in the summer.

April 11, 2013 4:13 am

I like my coal trains to be powered by coal too.

Robert of Ottawa
April 11, 2013 4:23 am

The enviromentalist (sic) groups should have their charitable status removed. They perform no charity.

Willam Abbott
April 11, 2013 4:42 am

keep us posted on your UofW FOIA. very interesting. there’s not much dust left to blow off after the first 1,000 miles.

lurker passing through, laughing
April 11, 2013 4:58 am

The environmental movement’s war against humanity continues.
Environmentalist extremists are at least as heartless as the Inquisition, the IRA or Al Qaeda. Like environmentalists, those groups also hated and acted out against those who dared to disagree with them.

George Tetley
April 11, 2013 5:18 am

the NRA needs to open season on environmental terrorists, ( good idea to stop the new legislation) after all that’s what the assault rifles were invented for.

Box of Rocks
April 11, 2013 5:22 am

Actually the BNSF website does have a section dealing with coal dust from coal trains. Seems that they now require the tops of the cars be sprayed so a crust can form and thus prevent wind born dust emissions.
I just think that is totally stupid to waste energy shipping coal to China so they can use it to make cheap goods to ship back to the US.
What a waste of energy.

Frank K.
April 11, 2013 5:46 am

The “Sierra Club” brand has been damaged goods for a long time due to their extremism. I consider them the equivalent of the KKK for the “environment”…

michael hart
April 11, 2013 6:20 am

Willam Abbott says:
April 11, 2013 at 4:42 am
keep us posted on your UofW FOIA. very interesting. there’s not much dust left to blow off after the first 1,000 miles.

Most of the trains I ever saw in the Seattle area seemed to be going at a snail’s pace that wouldn’t blow any dust off them anyway.

April 11, 2013 6:28 am

Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. Still the number one concern of most Americans.

April 11, 2013 6:37 am

Not all coal is considered “dirty” containing real harmful pollutants. Western coals are considered to burn clean because they contain less of these pollutants than Eastern coals. I don’t think they have any evidence that coal dust is polluting any rivers. The idea that CO2 is a pollutant is the big mistake.

john snively
April 11, 2013 6:51 am

I think the Sierra Club needs to picket and demonstrate outside the home of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway’s owner – Warren Buffett, or Berkshire Hathaway’s Board Member – Bill Gates. What’s good for the Koch brothers should be good for Buffett and Gates.

stan stendera
April 11, 2013 7:58 am

for AA: You made my day! Wonderful steam train vidios.
It is interesting that there is renewed interest in steam as a power for trains. Someone in the US is building a coal powder powered steam engine.
Many wonder how to make Amtrac a profitable endevor. Maybe if they powered all their trains with steam, give the great interest in steam excursions, they might be on the right road. Just a thought.
Thank you again for the vidios. I’m now going back to look at some more.

stan stendera
April 11, 2013 8:07 am

for jc above. You seem to think that the corruption of the conservation groups by the eco-terriorists{sp] will lead to the death of conservation. Nothing could be further from the truth. I submit that the average WUWT regular is more interested in true conservation then the Sierra club, whose founder says they have been corrupted..

April 11, 2013 8:46 am

@ stan stendera says:
April 11, 2013 at 8:07 am
“…the average WUWT regular is more interested in true conservation then the Sierra club, whose founder says they have been corrupted.”
If that refers to the people who actually call the shots at the Sierra Club or I would say virtually all such organizations, I don’t doubt for a minute that that is true. It is very likely true when applied to most recent members or adherents, at least, as well.
I am not in any way saying that an indifference to conservation is a good thing.
I am saying that if and when those organizations and people who have inhabited the carcass of this outlook are discredited, then what they claim to have been their base will very likely be rejected to. This is a commonplace when such swings occur.
How much traction will a proposal that we should do this that or the other “for nature” get, when this has been relentlessly exploited in a way that effectively makes humans a secondary or non-existent consideration, and has been pushed by people who don’t care whether others outside their circle live or die?
That will be none. People will be hostile to the very idea.

April 11, 2013 8:53 am

covering the cars creates many problems, some very serious.
it creates afire hazard from the dust and hides fires from being seen as well as hampers any mitigation.
it also requires a lot of work to move them, most gondolas dump on a rotary and are not centerline dumped. ironically because its cleaner.
coal loads are profiled too in order to enable consistent handling.
as far as tying up traffic…well the railroad has right of way (ownership usually) and allows roads to cross over them. they can, and have, stopped that before.

stan stendera
April 11, 2013 9:06 am

jc, that is not true. In spite of the activities of, as you correctly point out, the leaders of the enviormental [?] organizations there exists among Man the desire for the beauty and wonder of our natural world. That will not change.

April 11, 2013 9:21 am

@ thingodonta says:
April 10, 2013 at 11:27 pm
This is a much larger issue than can be properly addressed here.
I agree that at the start and finish it is ideas, their formulation and maintainence, that propel these things, and that current “academic” circles are at their epicenter.
Rather than reform, of the institutions and current practices at least, they should simply be abolished.
Independently of the “Climate Science” degradation, a realization that the current structures don’t work is dawning.
In a world where 40,000 people can attend a “lecture” via the internet, there is no justification for the status quo. This is even before looking at the explosion over 40 or 50 years of bogus disciplines and activities, the hacks that populate the halls, the fact that the number of students who are genuinely suited to research or scholarly pursuits is a fraction of current attendees, the retarding effect on secondary schooling that this shift has compelled, and the effect of the mediocre being the dominant grouping in staffing higher education and the most vocal.
By abolition, I mean closing down. All of them. Those institutions that can justify it can reinvent themselves – or rather to large degree, revert – to a model that can actually serve the purpose. The balance should simply cease to exist.
Given existing technology, this could be implemented fully over just a few years, starting now.
The only impediment will be the entrenched interest of those who can have no useful function outside of this. That will be a very sizable proportion.
Obviously a very brief, apparently brutal, and unsubstantiated proposition. All of the above can ultimately be shown in substantial part to be accurate, and I think it will form a significant part of a whole – forced – reevaluation of systems and institutions across the board in a way not seen for perhaps centuries. Or maybe ever.

April 11, 2013 9:54 am

@ stan stendera says:
April 11, 2013 at 9:06 am
I sincerely hope that it isn’t true. But, outside what can be called domestic appreciation of parks and gardens there is no certainty at all. Even those are not currently a priority in most parts of the world, and with large parts of the population in any country.
As to the beauty and wonder of the natural world being perennial, that is actually not true. It is well established, and shown in art and literature, that appreciation for “nature” as a thing independently from man and his use of it, has developed in effect in direct proportion to mans capacity not to be dictated to by its vagaries, in sustainance and disease.
Previously, it was something to be feared, defeated or mollified.
That is, Environmentalism is actually primaevalism and is hell- bent on instilling fear of and obesceince before nature into the previously civilized. These are the conditions they have created.
To the degree that they have created such a trepidation, there will be the urge to express control over this force that can dictate mans existence or not.
So I think it can be expected that a wet-land reverts to being a swamp and is drained.

Steve Hill from Ky
April 11, 2013 9:56 am

If I lived in the North West, I’d be concerned about the next major quake and not something like this.

stan stendera
April 11, 2013 10:13 am

Jc: We are not really in disagreement. However if man has no inate appreciatian for Nature why did cavemen paint on the walls of deep caves the likenesses of the animals in their enviorment?

stan stendera
April 11, 2013 10:14 am

Getting your comments posted immediatly is FUN!

April 11, 2013 10:30 am

@ stan stendera says:
April 11, 2013 at 10:13 am
I am not up on the musings about why this might be so.
My guess is, that it was because they could. Having found natural pigments, and having dexterity and time to kill in the cave, or wanting a specific mark on places to assert their significance, they would reasonably quickly (for cavemen) have worked out that the marks they could make could be shaped, and the most obvious things for the shapes to imitate were the things around them.
I don’t think it shows in any way, an “appreciation” of nature, although there will be 10,000 earnest manufacturers of cultural product who will swear blind it means they had insight into the nature of Gaia, transgender potentiality, market volatility, or whatever else can be marshaled.
For the caveman, these animals were food.

April 11, 2013 11:10 am

“Coal-fired power plants are factories of death.” Thought provoking article.

April 11, 2013 11:28 am

I get the feeling that once the US has pretty much abandoned coal, the environmentalists for the most part are going to drop their concern with coal and look the other way as it’s shipped to developing countries.

Mike Fox
April 11, 2013 11:35 am

Thank you for the steam video, AA. Made my morning!
This country started to go down hill when steam left the rails. 😉

Steve Lohr
April 11, 2013 12:02 pm

Ths thread has touched on the issue of who is a conservationist and who has been corrupted. I think the attached link will be interesting to some readers. Exploitation of ignorance is probably more inate than an aesthetic for nature, which frankly does not exist in the modern sense for a subsistance economy. T. Roosevelt wrote the attached article to address missinformation, but his view was that of a scientist and one who appreciated the use of natural resources as well. His conservation ethic, I believe, was a selfish nostalga for the taming of nature. It contains the paradox that all hunters must deal with, i.e. the killing for enjoyment of something that they genuinely love. For a being with a predatory nature, no prey is down right depressing. Therefore, it must be conserved. Our modern nature lovers are not motivated by love of nature. They hate the nature of mankind.

Mac the Knife
April 11, 2013 12:46 pm

From the horses’ …er, mouth:

April 11, 2013 2:35 pm

Update on Thursday, April 11 2013
Here is the response to my initial public records request :
Prepared for release: April 11, 2013
Re: Public Records Request PR-2013-xxxxxx (COMPLETE)
This email is provided in response to your public records request for copy of all collected raw data for ( coal – my insertion ) Train Study.
Upon review, the Office of Public Records and Open Public Meetings has found the records wholly exempt from inspection and copying and has made the appropriate exemptions per the following Public Records Act provision(s):
The University finds the student records responsive to your request exempt from inspection and copying. In so doing, the University cites the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) which is incorporated into the state’s Public Disclosure Laws by virtue of RCW 42.56.070. In prohibiting schools and institutions of higher education from releasing educational records the federal statute defines educational records as follows: “those records, files, documents, and other material which – (i) contain information directly relating to a student, (ii) are maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a person acting for such agency or institution.” 20 U.S.C. 1232g(a)(4)(A); 34 CFR Part 99.

In my request, I did ask for the students FIRST name where a student may have been collecting data. I did this so as to judge how many different individuals were doing collection.
I have just this afternoon advised the university :
The important word here is the word directly and my position is that there is nothing that directly relates to the student. If the university wishes to delete from my original request, the students first name I would not object and amend my original request to so reflect.
The university ( your office ) has two choices, first, to take this response as an appeal with the office that you work in or second, to advise the university legal staff that I will file a complaint. If the university responds per my first choice, advise me as soon as possible. If the university selects the second choice simply advise me that your office states again, that my request is closed.
In the greater context, know that my PR request asked for data on trains where such was collected and data on the instruments used and their calibration data.
People, there is no more playing civil, this is a war ( CO2 causes climate change, and all related charges ) and needs to be fought as such.

stan stendera
April 11, 2013 2:57 pm

jc: These people painting in caves did not have alot of lesiure time. They were in a subsisence society. They bearly had time to find sufficient food, yet they went deep into caves to paint animals, left animal artifacts in the surviving grave sites, and seem to have had the beginning of a pantheistic religion.
We both hope I’m right and conserviation survives and prospers.

April 11, 2013 7:19 pm

Here’s the ‘laughable’ continuation regarding my open records request to the university of washington – and their ‘coal train dust’ study. I have just sent the following email to the university public records office:
Ms Lechtanski, you deny my request for data ( other materials ) and yet the university seems quite willing to let ‘others’ publicize this students’ same ?
I do so look forward to you and the university explaining all of this in Federal court. Have a great weekend.
” Thompson prepares to record air quality readings from an approaching freight train in Shoreline, Wash. Thompson is a student at the University of Washington, Bothell, working with professor Dan Jaffe to research coal dust and other air quality impacts expected from proposals to export coal from ports in the Pacific Northwest. Photo by Nick Juliano. ”
Nick Juliano, E&E ** reporter
Greenwire: Friday, October 12, 2012

** E&E is the leading source for comprehensive, daily coverage of environmental and energy politics and policy.

I’m starting to smell a rat here.

April 11, 2013 10:04 pm

@ Steve Lohr says:
April 11, 2013 at 12:02 pm
Interesting link. It does give a snapshot of the variability of responses that have existed when viewing “nature”. And how prevalent the fantastical has been, and can be, in the absence of a direct relationship which demands a recognition of “reality”.
This has, in some of the examples given, been attached to imagined or possible “beasts”, which given the direct pragmatic association with known beasts and unavoidable “truths” of nature makes sense as a direction and limitation on belief in the “unknown”.
The modern Environmentalist does not have that relationship and therefore those limitations. They are free to imagine the fantastical exists comprehensively throughout the natural world. Which is what they do. Any meaning that might arise from this cannot, like the believer in unicorns, or spirits in a particular animal, be integrated into a complex social relationship with the material world, which might form part of a quasi-religious outlook.
The Environmentalist is left merely prostrate in this the face of this. Any religious aspect to it expresses itself in a numbing of responses, rather than a heightening as in the case for the unicorn believer, because tangible natural reality of any sort MUST be subordinate to the Greater Unknown that is the Diety.
Such a being can only exist on the efforts of others or would otherwise perish.
Your finishing comments:
“Our modern nature lovers are not motivated by love of nature. They hate the nature of mankind.”
illustrate this in a way.
What is truly bizarre about these people is the position that humans are not “natural”. They are so remote from nature that they cannot actually place themselves in it. And this is possibly the only accurate element to their creed. They are denatured.

April 11, 2013 10:11 pm

@ stan stendera says:
April 11, 2013 at 2:57 pm
Yes, I hope you are right.
But you, me, or a million others hoping will not override any general mindset, whatever that turns out to be.

April 11, 2013 11:48 pm

April 11, 2013 at 2:35 pm
“…this is a war…”
It is.
The first and most important thing is for people to stop pretending that this is a “conversation” between reasonable people. Its not.
It is about a particular class or classes of people who intend imposing to the greatest degree they can, their will on the majority. It is presented – and even thought of by them (or some) – as being motivated by general humanistic principles but it is not.
It is about creating an ascendancy. It is primaeval in nature.

April 12, 2013 3:50 am

Dang! This is one of those times I wish Santa was real and that he’d put a lump of coal in all the appropriate stockings. One can dream…

lurker passing through, laughing
April 12, 2013 5:20 am

It is rather odd to find out that somehow Warren Buffet, whose own trains carry coal and oil is not getting protests. And how Bill Gates a resident of Washington and who sits on Buffet’s Board, is immune from protests as well. But democrats are not held accountable by lefties, are they?

April 12, 2013 5:53 am

urker passing through, laughing says:
April 12, 2013 at 5:20 am
It does make it rather difficult when these or others (Gore: 10 x power use) are “exempt” to pretend that “global warming” is not at heart a strategic political issue.

Steve T
April 12, 2013 6:25 am

Gary Pearse says:
April 11, 2013 at 2:05 am
It’s too bad that the large majority of people, who are hurt by these few anti-human saboteurs aren’t out there with a counter protest. Why do the hateful people have a monopoly on this activity? Why do we bend so easily? I think activism is going to have to be promoted to the larger society who suffer the fall out from all this abuse. Please don’t tell me this is democracy in action.
No, I don’t think this has anything to do with democracy.
It’s much more likely to do with having to work all hours to earn a living to support a family, rather than scrounging, having an allowance or receiving NGO handouts.
Having no responsibilities makes one care less about possible outcomes of ones own (dubious/illegal/or plain daft) actions.
Steve T

April 12, 2013 10:10 am

The coal dust issue also came up in the East. Many trains of coal are treated with water based chemicals that put a ‘crust’ on the top of the coal. These chemical ‘crusts’ eliminate virtually all coal dust blowing off the top of the train cars. The encrusting agents, once dried, do not change the color of the coal. These encrusting agents typically are polymers, often off-spec material originally intended to be used in latex paints.

April 12, 2013 11:48 am

Even with modern technological improvements on coal-fired power plans, Coal is dirty and expensive to clean whereas natural gas is so much cleaner and more efficient to burn. It’s even helping to reduce the amount of carbon pumped into the atmosphere as the United States carbon reduction is currently at 1990 levels because of our increased use of natural gas in producing electricity.

Mike W
April 14, 2013 5:51 pm

To the extent there is a real dust problem, the answer is — Rhino Snot. Look it up, it works.

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