Letter to the editor | Don’t be fooled by cold weather

March 4, 2014 

In his on Saturday column (“Address energy policy needs to benefit all”), Nicholas Loris suggested that coal mining and production result in “an unnoticeable environmental impact.”

Really? What about the massive spill of coal ash in North Carolina coating “70 miles of the Dan River in toxic sludge” or the contamination of Charleston, W.Va.’s water by a dangerous coal cleaner?

Unnoticeable impact? What of the mercury that comes out of smokestacks from coal-fired power plants or the “mountaintop removal” mining technique that destroys whole ecosystems?

Perhaps Loris is referring to the fact that burning coal contributes significantly to climate change, thinking readers are fooled by our cold January.

Yes, we’ve had a cold winter, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that this was the fourth-warmest January, the third-warmest December and the warmest November worldwide in the past 134 years.

Climate change may be unnoticeable to Loris, and it’s harder to see than toxic coal sludge in a river, but it’s there. As long as we keep burning coal, it will only get worse.

The one area where I agree with Loris is that coal and other fossil fuels benefit from hundreds of tax breaks and government subsidies. If Loris really believes in the free market, then let’s institute a carbon tax that reflects the social costs of these dirty fuels and stop federal and state handouts that prop them up.

The money could be used for tax relief to ease the impact on the poor, and we will leave a cleaner, healthier future for our children.

Jonathan Brockopp, State College

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