Let the Elephant in the room …

As a builder/environmentalist, the presidential debate was depressing.  I don’t say this because Obama lacked luster or because Romney appeared energetic, though that didn’t help.  There was not even one mention of climate change as if this is not a domestic issue or doesn’t effect our economic and security much less our environment.  And in a year with record temperatures, drought and arctic ice melt.

There was of course talk about energy.  The most depressing line of the night was not Romney’s “I like coal.”  That should have been the most depressing line but there was no Obama come back.  Now to be honest I can’t imagine the situation personally. Standing before millions and having to think on my feet is not a longed for situation. But that was such a huge opening.  The most depressing line of the night was the one not spoken.


Really Mitt, you like coal? Is it the mercury that it emits accounting for 65% of the mercury now in the environment?  Once present in the atmosphere it cannot be destroyed but accumulates in fish and other wildlife.  It is extremely toxic to humans as well as other animals.

Or maybe Mitt likes the coal ash that is a by-product of burning coal and has to be contained and disposed of. When not contained, like the TVA Kingston plant, it can spill and spread lead and thallium, which can cause birth defects and nervous and reproductive system disorders.

Maybe what Mitt likes is the blowing up of mountains to get to the coal and the toxic slurry that ends up in the adjoining valleys and waterways.

Excuse my sarcastic venting. Really I am sure what Mitt likes about coal is the political support it gives him as well as the energy it produces to power his businesses and homes. It is a domestic source of energy.

Obama could have responded that we can warm and power our homes through a lot of other domestic energy sources that are cleaner and have much less damaging side effects. Energy efficiency being the most job intensive and cleanest of all followed by wind, solar, geothermal, co-generation, ocean wave technology, certain hydro and some evolving biofuels like our local Blue Ridge Biofuels.

But the elephant that couldn’t get in the room was climate change.  Coal is  the largest contributor of human-made CO2 in the atmosphere.  We cannot solve climate change and burn coal at the same time.

Our buildings account for over 40% of CO2 emissions and consume 76% of the electricity we generate, coal is around 44% of the fuel for that electricity.  We need to keep moving toward zero energy buildings if we are going to stop climate change from dramatically disrupting the environmental system that lets us live here.  How long would a President Romney delay addressing human made climate change? Any amount of time is too long.