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Since 1980, America’s air pollution has been steadily reverting back to clean air. And although we’re still 10th in a global list of clear skies (behind Canada, Australia, and several European countries), we may soon be booted from the top 10.
You see, fine particulate pollution is our biggest problem.
Called “PM2.5” for short, since the particles are less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, these particles are the result of power plant smoke, car exhaust, wildfires, and other incendiary events.
Think asthma and respiratory troubles.
However, since the Clean Air Act of 1970 and several subsequent federal laws, the Environmental Protection Agency has had the power to regulate pollution from standing and mobile entities — factories, gas stations, cars, planes, etc.
This allowed them to disallow levels of particle pollution beyond a designated level.
And during that time, air-pollution related deaths have fallen by 30%.
Which is great news! Not for the 110 million Americans whose hometown air is considered unhealthy by EPA standards. But certainly an improvement.
From 2015 to 2017, the particulate pollution count and ground-level ozone conditions have changed trend directions for the first time in nearly 40 years.
Some contributing factors? The increase in wildfires. The rise in global temperature. The rollback of former environmental procedures.
The Trump administration, for example, has repealed the Clean Power Plan of the Obama-era, and has rescinded the national standard for auto emissions.
Scientists warn that although air pollution cannot be blamed on climate change, the warming of the planet will certainly worsen air quality.
Eighth Coal Company Files for Bankruptcy in 2019
Murray Energy bites the dust this year, following seven other prominent coal companies to shut their factory doors this year — including bastions of the industry Cambrian Coal, Cloud Peak Energy, and Blackjewel.
Despite campaign claims about reviving the coal industry, the collective inability of these coal companies to make ends meet suggests the industry may not be salvageable.
Its former CEO, Robert E. Murray, is confident that filing for bankruptcy isn’t the end of Murray Energy, and that without its debt load, the company will be able to rebuild and rise from its coal fire ashes.
Despite Mr. Murray’s formerly confidential “wish list” sent to the Trump administration regarding his hopes for the revival of coal, and several environmental rollbacks that followed, it appears that the clean energy movement is gaining too much traction to ignore.
Coal only produced 28% of America’s power in 2018, and 25% so far this year. At one time, we depended on coal for 40% of our power.
And although Murray was able to secure $350 million in loans to keep their mines operating, the future of coal companies is hard to see through the smog.
When coal companies have gone through bankruptcies in the past, they’ve come back with less debt, but also less pension, less healthcare, and less responsibility to the families of their retirees.
And since renewable energy accounted for 11% of America’s consumption in 2018, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, it seems the winds are changing for coal and its ancient founders.
Eco Highlights — Not Terrible News for the Environment
- Algae, as it turns out, might be the next miracle material. Not only are great strides being made in the field of biofuel energy, but recently it’s been discovered that algae can be manipulated into a material that’s as firm as steel.
- Jane Fonda and Ted Dansen join the climate fight, getting arrested at a protest in Washington D.C. this past week. Neither regret it. Both plan to return.
- Greta Thunberg declines climate award from the Nordic Council because “climate movement does not need any more awards.” She then spanked Nordic countries publicly about their contribution to climate change.
- The Pembina Institute in Calgary has determined that with battery storage and energy efficiency, electricity can be generated from solar and wind just like it can from gas, and cheaper too!
Tune in next week and we’ll check on the latest in climate action, environmental legislation, and scientific innovation!