Robert Bryce, of the Manhattan Institute, follows up his pro-coal 2011 propaganda in the NYTimes (see my earlier rebuttal here) with an op-ed in the LAtimes. Here is my complete comment (which happens to be 576 characters too-long to have been posted in full):
This is not the first time Mr. Bryce has provided misleading propaganda for the carbon industry (or maybe he should just be labeled an anti-solar lobbyist) – so shame on the LATimes for publishing his piece. His June 2011 op-ed in the NYTs was also filled with similarly misleading statistics that are clearly slanted to cast a more favorable light on coal (the statistics chosen when discussing this topic must compare life cycle costs/total costs/energy return on energy invested/energy per unit of CO2, not just the direct costs).
The biggest (pun intended) flaw in his argument is downplaying the physical footprint of coal: ‘the mine covers just 80 square miles, while domestic wind projects alone cover about 9,400 square miles.’ This is comparing apples with an turd.
That coal mine may ‘just’ be 80 square miles, but only citing the mine’s area as the total footprint of coal willfully ignores the facilities and infrastructure off-site, the hundreds of square miles covered by coal ash lagoons, the massive quantity of water needed to clean the coal and produce the steam (the energy sector uses more water than agriculture does in the US), and the global impact of emissions from burning the coal including the CO2, SOx, NOx, mercury, and acid rain that continue to devastate ecosystems around the world.
Yes, the wind industry may currently have 9,400 square miles of wind farms, but cumulative footprint of the turbines, crane pads, and road are just fractions of the entire project area. There is nothing about a wind farm that destroys the ecological or economic productivity of the landscape – mine reclamation has never managed to restore the lost ecological vitality after coal (or tar sands) extraction. Then there is the energy return on energy invested – you can only extract coal once – while wind and solar are perpetual energy sources. LAGI has lots more comparison of energy footprints if you want to further dig into this topic.
Coal is NOT essential for progress, but certainly it is essential to the preventable climate change caused catastrophic disruption of our global civilization.