Thursday, October 13, 2011

Coal's true cost is not cheap

Another analysis that shows coal's true cost is not cheap. We are paying for the "other" costs of using coal, and it's not covered by the per ton cost of coal that's reflected in the "low" cost of coal electricity. We pay it, with health problems, illness and death, not the coal companies. This is from conservative economists and is published in the American Economic Review. Take a look. Free markets can fix this problem. This is the true price of coal.

True Cost of Coal Power - Muller, Mendelsohn, and Nordhaus

Posted on 7 October 2011 by dana1981

Skeptical Science previously examined the fact that the market price of coal power is artificially low because we do not directly pay for all of its impacts, particularly on air quality and climate change.  People who feel these effects do pay them indirectly (i.e. through increased health care costs), but since their costs are not reflected in the market price of coal power, economists call them "externalities," and view them as a major failing of the free market.  As Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman put it,
"consumers are paying much too low a price for coal-generated electricity, because the price they pay does not take account of the very large external costs associated with generation. If consumers did have to pay the full cost, they would use much less electricity from coal — maybe none, but that would depend on the alternatives.
At one level, this is all textbook economics. Externalities like pollution are one of the classic forms of market failure, and Econ 101 says that this failure should be remedied through pollution taxes or tradable emissions permits that get the price right."
In short, if the people paying for coal power aren't aware of its full costs, then they can't take those costs into account when making decisions regarding how much to consume.  A new paper published in American Economic Review (a very prominent economics journal) from well-known (and somewhat conservative) economists Nicholas Muller, Robert Mendelsohn, and William Norhaus (MMN11) seeks to quantify these externalities.  Krugman provides his analysis of the paper in the link above, and our analysis follows.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

There is no such thing as Work-Life Balance

Best advice ever (from

This is from a Manager Tools posting:

Go Home (from

At our conferences, we ask everyone to introduce themselves in part by drawing a picture that represents their life. (Don't scoff - Mike and I did until we realized how effective this was.) LOTS of people draw tornados, or see-saws, or something crazy or out of control. They then tell us they're looking for "balance" between work and family.
There is none. No balance, ever. Everyone else is NOT doing it better than you, and you're NOT the only one feeling stressed and worried about everything, and feeling like you're almost failing at both.
That's right - there's no "balance." If you're trying to achieve balance, you're going to fail. Balance isn't the answer. I often share with them that the best they can hope for is "dynamic tension."
But, there IS a way to be at peace about the work and family struggle. (Because that's what folks seeking 'balance' secretly crave - to be at peace about it.)
Here's what to do: GO HOME. Stop trying to be make two things balance that ought NOT to be in "balance." These aren't two equals.... FAMILY IS MORE IMPORTANT.
So go home. Decide now, right now, that you are going to actually LIVE your life the way you SAY you want to. (Or hush about it).
Start planning your days so that you leave at 6 pm, say. Just go home. And when you're there... BE there. Sure, maybe a little email after the kids go to bed, but that's all.
We know senior SENIOR people who go home at 6. And spend time with their families. And when they're on vacation, they check in maybe once a day, but if they miss it, it's not the end of the world. yeah, if their boss calls, they answer. But they don't stay plugged in.
This is an important subject, so I'm going to send another note next time, continuing this thread.
But for now, trust me, you CAN go home.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Moving Planet rally in Boston 9/24/11

This past Saturday 9/24, Nick and I represented our church, South Church in Andover MA, at the Moving Planet rally in Boston. More than 1000 people turned out to rally for environmental stewardship, clean energy, and for moving beyond fossil fuels. The weather turned out fine, if very humid. It was a great day for a rally with a lively and friendly crowd

South Church was there with other UCC churches and other religious and community groups from around NE.  I had a chance to say hello to UCC minister Rebee Girash from Arlington. I got to hear Episcopal Bishop Bud Cederholm speak.  A great group of high school students from Boston Latin energized the crowd with their ideas, passion and cool costumes. Look for the "green people", Buzz Lightyear and traditionally dressed colonials in the pictures below. There was music from live bands and a bicycle-powered sound system. The event was hosted by Steve Curwood from NPR's Living On Earth radio show.

This rally was just one of more than 2000 Moving Planet rallies that day in 175 countries around the world. is getting people motivated and connected! The purpose was to get out there, to be seen and to let our voices be heard - and also to connect and build a movement. It's time to move beyond fossil fuels. Our government in the US and governments around the world need to get the message!
Here's the Boston group photo, plus other photos from the event:

A great day, and a sign of even bigger things to come.

Think green,

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Massachusetts Interfaith Power and Light fight Tar Sands Pipeline at White House

One of the good signs is that religious groups are now spreading the message about climate change action. Interfaith Power and Light, an inter-denominational church organization, has joined with environmentalist Bill McKibben at the Tar Sands protest at the White House. Here's the picture of Bill's arrest. See my excerpt below from the Interfaith Power and Light account. Powerful news.

President Obama will decide in September whether to approve the proposed 1,700 mile Keystone XL Pipeline from the massive tar sands in Alberta across the mid section of the U.S. to Texas oil refineries. Barrel for barrel, tar sands oil spews three times more greenhouse gases than conventional oil. Dr. James Hansen, NASA climate scientist, states: "... exploitation of tar sands would make it implausible to stabilize climate and avoid disastrous global climate impacts – if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over."
Environmental activist and author Bill McKibben wrote on Friday Aug. 19th that 2,000 people had signed up to get arrested in front of the White House to protest the pipeline.

McKibben and the Rev. Dr. Jim Antal, Minister and President of the Mass. Conference of the United Church of Christ were among 65 people arrested Saturday as part of the action. Andy Burt, a founding member of Maine Interfaith Power & Light was arrested Sunday morning, and Fran Ludwig, of Massachusetts Interfaith Power & Light's Executive Committee was arrested on Monday.

Let President Obama know your views on the Keystone XL pipeline:

Here's the link to the full account:

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Two views of the real costs of coal

I saw these two articles about the real costs of coal. If you think coal is a cheaper way to generate electricity, look at these:

#1) This looks at the hidden costs of coal on the American people's health and on the economy:

It turns out that coal is NOT a cheaper way to generate electricity, just cheaper for the coal mining companies to sell and for the electric utilities to burn.  The rest of us pay for it with lung ailments and cancer, with ruined mountains, streams and lakes - and now worst of all, with CO2 that stays in the atmosphere and destabilizes our climate for centuries. If those costs are included (and this chart doesn't include the costs of climate change), coal is more expensive than any renewable energy choice. So coal companies walk away with billions in profits while selling a dangerous product, and we pay all the hidden costs!

#2) Here's a picture of the number of deaths per watt of electricity generated for coal, oil and nuclear. Take a look at the picture and make your own judgment:
Here is the original post referenced on - it has an observation about how human nature judges nuclear as "dangerous" (and I'm not saying it's not), and coal as "safe". Again, make your own judgment:

PS Here's the view of the full data set (and a link to the data itself):

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My climate change bumper stickers

I was trying to come up with a climate change bumper sticker. I wanted to find a punchy way to express what I think - and to get other people to think - on a bumper sticker. Here are two that I came up with that go together. What do you think?  If you're wondering how this will work, and why it's simpler and makes better sense than any other proposal, go to If you'd like them for your car, let me know and I'll send them to you. It's time to get the message out!