The first promise I made to myself when I agreed to have an online column in the illustrious Blargus, was that I would write my own articles and not respond to other columnists, no matter how much they angered me. Admittedly, I thought I would have to resist responding to Mytheos, but that was before I read Jonah Blumstein’s latest response article. Aside from referring to my “reflexive liberalism” (I promise you, I am not a liberal), Jonah’s article amazed me in its ability to make absurd assertions and miss the point of my article entirely.

Jonah’s thesis, as much as one was detectable, was that clean coal exists. Blumstein’s clean coal is different from the clean coal that the coal industry talks about. He does not refer to the process that cleans some chemicals out of coal emissions, which also creates toxic coal sludge. Jonah’s clean coal is western coal, which contains less sulfur. He believes that a conspiracy between the United Mine Workers Union and Senator Robert Byrd has forced coal power plants to buy and burn high sulfur coal from Appalachia. Whether or not this conspiracy exists is utterly irrelevant. Low-sulfur coal is not clean, it just has less sulfur. Jonah failed to address the three major points of my column: coal mining is extremely and inherently destructive, any coal burning will release huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and we do not have time to waste waiting for fantasy technologies to fix these two major problems. Jonah’s low-sulfur coal is not lower in mercury or lead and, obviously, is not lower in carbon. Just to make sure no one believes Jonah’s western coal is a sensible alternative, let us explore one of the largest western coal mines in Black Mesa, Arizona.

Since 1968, Peabody Coal has been exploiting Hopi and Navajo land in northern Arizona. The Black Mesa coal mine is one of the largest strip mines in the United States and has been the subject of indigenous anger and resistance since its inception. Due to Peabody’s mining more than 12,000 Navajo have been removed from their land, the largest removal of native people since the 1880s. Additionally, Peabody coal has been responsible for draining more than half of the Navajo Aquifer in the extremely dry region. In an average year of the mine’s operation Peabody was responsible for more than half of the water taken from the aquifer.

Mining at Black Mesa stopped in 2005 because the Mohave Generating Station in Nevada, which bought all of the Black Mesa coal, shut down because it violated the Clean Air Act. The plant emitted 40,000 tons of sulfur dioxide per year from Jonah’s low-sulfur western coal. However, last December the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) allowed Peabody to restart mining, and continue destroying Navajo and Hopi communities until 2026 or the water runs out, whichever comes first. (Side note: The OSM is an absurd bureaucracy that gives out awards for the best strip mine reclamation. Reclamation is a euphemism for planting grass after destroying an ecosystem to mine coal.) All this oppression for Jonah’s low-sulfur coal!

Regardless of its sulfur content, or the fantasies of Jonah Blumstein, coal will never be a clean energy source. Coal mining, like all fossil fuel exploitation, destroys local environments, oppresses local (often indigenous) people, and contributes to climate change. Our fossil-fuel economy is based on the exploitation of land and people from Appalachia, Arizona, Alberta, Ecuador, and many more. Exploiting new sources of coal in the West would simply expand the destruction of Appalachia to the rest of the country. It clearly would do nothing to slow climate change or stop environmental destruction.

The only way to stop the exploitation of these communities and to stop the worse effects of climate change is to leave fossil fuels in the ground.

About Andrew Dermont

Andrew Dermont organized the overhaul of the Argus website. He is now the Blargus Editor and oversees the publication of all online-specific content.
  • hillbilly

    West Virginia has some of the lowest sulphur coal on the planet. There is no conspiracy to strong arm high sulfur coal onto power plants. If the 16 coal-producing states dont band together, they will die off seperately.

  • Interested Reader

    A question I hope you address in an article Jon, what is the alternative to coal from an economic perspective? Many of these states rely on this practice for their economies, and the disappearance of coal mines have often devastated towns. What other industries would be viable in those areas of the country?

  • Mike

    Interested reader: Concentrated solar power, wind energy, and geothermal are all viable alternatives on the Navajo Nation from an economic perspective.

  • Jon Booth

    mike listed some good ideas. but i think another very important point is that the coal mines are not as economically beneficial as they once were. theyre so highly mechanized now that they provide few jobs.

    also, it doesnt really matter if they provide jobs now if they end up poisoning the environment and using up all the water. lets try to think at least a little bit long term here.

  • gobama92

    my milkshake brought Jon Booth to the yard

    where he proceeded to fertilize the soil and start a garden that grows with the power of his most abundant reflexively liberal propaganda

    my family and I will be feasting for generations.

  • Marty

    Good article. It’s important to remind people that coal is not only dirty because of the health effects of burning and waste. In addition to devastating the ecosystems of Appalachia, Big Coal is continuing the tradition of GENOCIDE against native people at Four Corners and the mountain cultures of Appalachia!

  • caboj

    This, again, is angry liberal propaganda. Liberals like this “Jonathan Booth” (if that’s a real name) want to keep up ties with islamo-fascist terror regimes like Iran and Saudi Arabia, rather than allowing the United States to invest in it’s own energy resources. If it weren’t for organizations like Peabody Coal, “Jonathan Booth” wouldn’t be able to write on his computer, in his ivory tower, condemning everything that makes America a great place to be.

  • Pete

    1st of all that is his real name, he isn’t hiding behind a fake name like you are “caboj.”

    2nd of all, using the term “islamo-fascist” is racist.

    3rd of all, clearly Caboj doesn’t care about Native Americans in the slightest or they would have addressed that point… so we may assume that he is a white racist.

    go throw ur klan hood you chump


  • Jon Booth

    i think caboj was joking. :)

  • F. Perlman

    No one should ever have to go down in a mine, much less work in one.
    As the old red Cisco Houston tells us ” It’s dark as a dungeon and damp as the dew
    Where the dangers are double and the pleasures are few
    Where the rain never falls and the sun never shines
    It’s dark as a dungeon way down in the mines.”

    Solar panels require mining and are by no means a sustainable alternative. The same goes for wind. Let’s all get ready to power-down. It won’t be that bad, I promise, just ask your ancestors.

  • anonymous

    well said perlman. its foolish to think that some miraculous sustainable energy source is exists which will solve all of our environmental and economic woes. we have to accept the reality that our society cannot go on consuming at the rate that it currently does and still have a livable earth.

    and jon- props as always

  • Mytheos Holt

    Caboj, if you are serious, I understand your frustration, but you are not being helpful. If you are joking, then I must reproach you for forgetting to mention the giant crypto-theocracy which I and my fellow conservatives are currently planning to instate, even with no power. If you’re going to put in cliches about the Right, at least be comprehensive!

  • caboj

    Conservative revolution!

    jk, jk,
    conservatism is a bunch of racist garbage.
    jon booth, right on. As always.
    Come see me soon.

  • Rory McIlmoil, Rock Creek, WV

    Just to help fuel your argument, western coal has no less sulfur than central appalachian coal. west virginia is characterized by a dividing line separating low sulfur coal in the south from high sulfur coal in the north. central appalachian coal is preferred because it is both low in sulfur and contains a 33% higher energy content than western coal. you have to burn 4 tons of western coal to get the same energy as you would from 3 tons of appalachian coal. also, the eastern part of the nation uses more coal than the western part, and plants dont like to have to pay for the long transport of coal from montana and wyoming. burning western coal therefore also contributes more to CO2 emissions per unit of energy produced, and produces more ash.

    no matter where the coal comes from though, the USGS and National Academy of Sciences and the Energy Watch Group have all found that the energy content of the coal we are extracting and burning peaked in 1998, meaning that since then, we are having to burn more coal each year per unit of energy produced, and we are on a consistent decline in that regard (no ups and downs, just a straight decline in energy content). we are even now burning lignite for electricity!!! thats like a mix of coal and mud.

    what this also means is that we are producing more ash and sulfur and mercury per unit of energy produced. we are blasting more mountains, drawing more water, polluting more water and air and destroying more communities per unit of energy produced.

    it is time to get off of coal. period. its stupid, its costly, and its running out.

  • nat king coal


  • nat king cool

    nat king cole rulezzzzzz

  • wtf

    Who is this coal jackhole?

  • Ayn Rand

    Who is John Galt?

  • John Galt

    Who isn’t?

  • Tenured Radical

    not me!

  • Anonymous

    Can ???? Turks tell how