Sunday, February 25, 2018

guest photographer! three kids and a creek!

post #375, 2/25/18
       Today's photos are too much fun to pass up! We've been having rain, rain and more rain here, which means lots of water in the creek. My post last week showed creeks from here and there; this week my post is from one creek yesterday --- the home creek. The photographer was my daughter Rebecca.  She says that on the way down toward the waterfalls they kind of thought they could keep their feet dry, but on the way back they gave up on that idea since it wasn't working at all well anyway. Very spunky kids, and very wet.

     THE WAY DOWN, amazed by all that rushing water, trying to stay dry: 

GIVING UP ON STAYING DRY, turning back from the hanging tree and heading home:


 BACK AT THE BARN, emptying the boots, checking on the cats:

soggy barn, soggy kids, wonderful afternoon
       Rebecca made a short video as well, but I haven't figured out how to link it here. I think we are lucky to have these photos since there was a lot going on at the same time to watch out for.  Thank you, R, for being your adventurous self, with a good eye as well!!  
       Note: I'm a bit anxious that this creek exploring is happening in February, which is supposed to be our winter, so it seems an appropriate time to mention that with science telling us this is climate change in action, we need to continue paying attention and speaking up even more on behalf of our kids and the generations to come all over the world.

Also, remember you can click on one of the photos and they all line up at the bottom of your screen and can then be seen in a larger size, one by one.  Enjoy!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

this week's concerns, along with streaming the natural way

post #374
       The following paragraph is all about what I often try to make sense of but don't usually put on my blog. Feel free to skip over it if you have had enough of your own concerns about the world! I'm simply not willing this week to be silent after so many travesties, piled up on one another, during a single week:

        Some week. A crusading, progressive Pulitzer winning (in 2017) newspaper in West Virginia -- The Charlston Gazette-Mail -- has had to declare bankruptcy, and a very pro-coal impersonal newspaper chain is preparing to take it over. There was the shootings in a Florida High School where 17 died, and where, since then, the students have spoken out forcefully about the travesty of their state's complete disregard to basic gun registration and background checks. We will hear more from them. (Why do we not treat guns as carefully as we do cars?)  Thirteen Russians were indited for trying to mess with American elections, sowing discord, and yet this is not evidence enough for our elected president to show any concern about their activities the last few years -- and what might be in store in the future. (What is he trying to ignore and hide?)  The DACA young people are now left completely hanging because a bunch of grown-ups can't think big enough to overcome a few people's fixation on an ineffectual wall. (I'm old enough to remember the Berlin Wall and its ultimate defeat. Can't we learn anything from history?) Also I can't forget that there's talk about a one day military parade where the cost of putting it on would be over 3 million dollars. And it would not improve our nation's problem solving capabilities one bit. Or our image to the world. We can be proud of our military without resorting to propaganda. What about 3 million to spend on community colleges scholarships. Or what about helping our citizens in Puerto Rico rebuild a working electrical grid after a devestating natural disaster.  What about setting up a sane system to provide oversight for who buys what gun and not selling assault rifles in the first place. Just saying. How much backbone and resolve do we have as a nation?
           note: here is the link to the WV newspaper article.

        Following what I shared last week about coal, I had originally planned to share today about the process of getting the stream saver rule established -- years and years of work -- and then it became one of the first attempts to negate an Obama legacy by being closed down. I intended to share some of my stream photos over the years, since clear water is so important to life on earth -- and so beautiful.  But now, today, a compromise -- just the photos without the full story, since I have already spent my allotted time on this post for today... Here they are:

A shadow in the rain, of a bridge being torn down, making way for a new bridge: 

spring on Carter Ford in Elliott County, Kentucky:

 Elliott County, Kentucky, creek, one during a dry spell and the other looking more like usual:

Two from Harlan County, Kentucky, creek, at Pine Mountain Settlement School: 

other times of the year: 



spring showers bring rushing water, with a joining:

 This last photo is a version of one of my better known images, of our creek in springtime:

         OK, this is my idea of streaming, and I do it as often as I can... let it go, let it flow, honor the place these streams play in the daily well-being of humans, animals and plants.  Take care for them. As I have written other times, we all live down stream. 
        It makes me happy to be able to share these photos today. Thanks.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Seriously, a post about coal in Appalachia and America

post #373
         I discovered a well written, well thought out post this week about coal and Appalachia. It absolutely has to be shared. So, dear readers, this week, for a change, I'm not leaving this article to a link. 
         I'm also sharing a single mountaintop mining removal photo of mine, that I made while in the front right seat of a 4 seater plane during one of the tours organized by Kentuckians for the Commonwealth for writers and artists, initiated with Wendell Berry. The idea was to follow up by using our communication skills to hold this mining practice in a brighter light.
        The airplane window was being held open for me by Mary Ann Taylor-Hall and Ed McClanahan in the two back seats. For me, the experience of viewing a mountaintop removal site felt up close and personal -- the unbelievable made comprehensible. The site is located near Hazard, Kentucky. There are many hundred more sites in the Appalachian Mountains which touch on 13 states.

photo by Ann W. Olson, with pilot and back seat help, 2004
Note: I would be the first to say that the following article appears geeky and hard to read, but the fact that I myself could read it and find it interesting and fair and informative indicates it must not be as geeky as it looks. Believe me. Or maybe I am just a sucker for really well-crafted writing.

Front Porch Blog

5 graphs explain coal in Trump’s first year

The Black Thunder coal mine owned by Arch Coal, near Wright, Wyoming in the Powder River Basin. Photo by EcoFlight

This report is the result of a collaboration between Appalachian Voices and the Western Organization of Resource Councils to assess the effect of Trump Administration policies on economic growth in coal-producing regions.       (Blogger Ann's noteHere is the article link if you would prefer it.)

By Colin Lauderdale & Erin Savage

     One year into the Trump administration, the coal industry that the president promised to revive has shown some muted signs of life. Nationwide, coal production ticked up last year for the first time since 2014, and the sector added 1,035 jobs — an increase of 1.9%. (A Reuters analysis using preliminary data from the Mine Safety and Health Administration put the number at 771 new coal jobs in 2017.) The administration claims this uptick as evidence that their anti-regulatory agenda is having its desired effect.
     Unfortunately for Trump and the coal industry, though, 2017 appears to be an outlier in which coal overperformed. The coal industry’s fortunes are tied to market demand, not regulatory actions, and the same factors that have depressed coal demand for the past decade — cheap and abundant natural gas, air quality concerns, and depleted reserves — are as present now as when Trump took office.
Many of the administration’s policy actions in 2017 were aimed at bringing coal jobs back to mining communities. In the name of restoring these jobs, the administration repealed the Stream Protection Rule, initiated repeal of the Clean Power Plan, rescinded a moratorium on new federal coal leases, discontinued a programmatic review of the federal coal leasing system, repealed a rule closing loopholes in federal coal royalties, empaneled a committee of fossil fuel advocates to steer federal mineral royalty policy, announced U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, and canceled a National Academy of Sciences study of the health impacts of Mountaintop Removal mining.

Photo of mountaintop removal mining by Kent Mason
Mountaintop removal mine in West Virginia. Photo by Kent Mason

     Energy Secretary Rick Perry also brought a rulemaking to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that would have subsidized aging coal-fired power plants with ratepayer dollars, but the commissioners voted down the plan unanimously.
     These policy decisions have major implications for clean water, breathable air, public health, taxpayer fairness, fair electricity markets, and everyone impacted by global climate change. In addition, the data suggests that these policy actions aren’t likely to reverse the macroeconomic trends that have been working to depress coal’s value and market share.
    These five graphs illustrate what happened with coal in 2017 and why the long-term trends in the industry are unlikely to reverse.

1. Production and employment went up, barely

Figure 1. U.S. coal production (million short tons) and employment (thousand workers) 2002-2017. Source: MSHA Part 50, MSHA Open Government Data
     2017 bucked a long-term trend in coal production as coal mining companies sold more tons of coal and employed more miners than the previous year. Both increases were marginal, especially considering that both metrics are about one-third lower today than one decade ago.
     The modest recovery in coal production did not lead to a commensurate recovery in employment. Although coal companies mined and sold about 6% more coal in 2017 (an additional 40.4 million tons) than the year before, they only hired back about 2% of their workforce (1,035 jobs).

2. Mines with fewer workers accounted for biggest production increases

Figure 2. Regional production 2002-2017 (million short tons). Regions represented include the Eastern Interior (E. Interior), Central Appalachian (CAPP), Northern Appalachian (NAPP), and Powder River Basin (PRB) coal-producing regions. Data is preliminary for quarter 4, 2017 and production could increase slightly. Source: MSHA Part 50, MSHA Open Government Data

Almost half the coal mined in the U.S. comes from the Powder River Basin (PRB) of Wyoming and Montana, where large surface mines and thick coal seams allow companies to produce coal with fewer workers than mines in Appalachia and the Illinois Basin. This explains why net gains in employment in 2017 did not keep pace with net gains in production. Despite accounting for 51.9% of the increase in U.S. coal production from the year before, the PRB actually lost about 60 jobs in 2017.

3. Consumption decreased (again)

Figure 3. U.S. coal consumption 2002-2017 (million short tons). 2017 consumption estimated by Rhodium Group analysis. Source: EIA, Rhodium Group.

     Despite increases in both production and employment, the long-term trend of decreasing domestic demand for coal continued in the first year of the Trump Administration. Last year was the fourth consecutive year of falling domestic demand and marked a 37% decline from a decade ago. The continued decline comes from the rolling wave of retirements of coal-fired power plants, coal-to-gas switching at utilities across the country, increasing generation from non-hydro renewables, and a complete lack of new coal-fired electricity generation in the U.S.
     This trend is likely to continue. According to the Energy Information Administration, 14 gigawatts of coal-fired electricity generating capacity are scheduled to come offline in 2018, with no new coal generation to replace it. The Energy Department’s short-term energy outlook predicts that 2018 will be the first year in modern history in which coal provides less than 30% of the nation’s electricity.

4. Exports made up the difference

Figure 4. U.S. Coal Exports 2002-2017 (million short tons). Source: EIA

     If mines produced more coal in 2017, but Americans used less of it, where did the excess go? The answer is overseas. Last year saw a spike in coal exports, from 60.3 million short tons to 95 million. In the first ten months of 2017, exports were up 70% over the same period in 2016.
The spike was driven by rising international prices for metallurgical coal (used for steel production rather than electricity) that accompanied strong international economic growth last year. Metallurgical coal shipments accounted for 43% of coal exports in the first half of 2017, with most of the economic benefit accruing to West Virginia producers.
     Exports of steam coal for electricity also increased due to seemingly temporary factors in the Pacific Rim. The Asian market for coal swelled as China, the world’s largest coal consumer, increased imports while decreasing domestic production due to safety inspections and closure of inefficient Chinese mines. U.S. producers were able to grab a portion of this market after Cyclone Debbie shut down coal mines and railways in Australia, effectively halting Australian exports that usually crowd out American coal in the region.

5. Coal companies stopped pursuing 1.97 billion tons of new federal coal leases

Figure 5. Current status of federal coal leases pending before Trump took office. Leases are considered “paused” when a company has (i) requested that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) stop processing the lease, (ii) failed to provide additional information or payment required for BLM to process the lease, or (iii) not responded to BLM inquiries about continuing to process the lease. Source: Bureau of Land Management, LR2000

     Early in 2017, the Trump Administration terminated two policies implemented by the Obama Administration in January 2016: a top-to-bottom review of the financial and climate implications of the federal coal leasing program, and a temporary moratorium on new major federal coal lease sales. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke ended both the review and the moratorium with a Secretarial Order last March, declaring that both had prevented the coal industry from flourishing.
     Coal owned by the federal government accounts for over 40% of U.S. production. There was almost 2.9 billion tons of federal coal pending when Trump took office. Since then, only three federal coal lease sales have occurred, accounting for about 60 million tons, or 2.4% of the tonnage pending. All three leases would have been allowed under both of the terminated Obama-era policies.
Almost 70% (1.97 billion tons) of the tonnage pending has been withdrawn or put on hold by the companies that asked BLM to sell the coal in the first place. These actions are a clear indication that the coal industry, at least, doesn’t believe that the minor uptick in production in 2017 is the beginning of a rebound in coal’s long-term prospects.
      In addition, last year saw one new 640-acre request for a federal coal lease in North Dakota, as well as relinquishment of a 5,226-acre parcel previously leased in Wyoming.


     Although we share the president’s intention to bring economic prosperity to coal-producing regions, we believe his strategy of de-regulating coal mining and burning is unlikely to produce the forward-looking economic prosperity that coal regions need. The economic headwinds facing the coal industry are the result of competition from less expensive energy sources, depleted coal reserves that are more expensive to mine, growing consumer and business demand for cleaner sources of energy, and a carbon-constrained world. Until the administration is able to solve these problems, doubling down on the economic potential of the coal industry is a poor policy for promoting economic growth.
     Coal communities deserve policies that take advantage of the coal regions’ existing assets; ensure the strongest possible standards for reclamation bonds; focus on creating new, sustainable, and diverse local economies; recognize mine reclamation as an economic opportunity; and preserve the benefits and respect that coal miners and their families have earned over generations of hard work powering our country.

Colin Lauderdale is the Washington, DC Representative for the Western Organization of Resource Councils.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

February favorites

post # 372
        I haven't finished my photo favorites from 2017 yet, so that's where I'm going today. I'm skipping spring, for now, and instead going right to February last year. But since there wasn't much snow then, compared to this year, I plan to end today's post with a few photos from this morning....
         First off, four from the pond. I made these particular photos in conjunction with the semester photo class I began a year ago. In the first photo, I was trying to show wind. (This summer I had all that broom sage cut back. It indicates that the ground is not totally healthy, but in addition it got to be pretty depressing to see it all around me all winter instead of some vegetation variations, and the colors of snow.

The house and pond area:

cattails, winter mode, beloved by red-wing blackbirds in the early spring

the waterfall area:

winter green I

winter green II, and 2 family members

winter green III
 a different kind of winter morning, seen from inside the house:

     This winter, in December, a never-seen-before-by-me sunset scene,

    and a few views from this morning:

my trusty, empty barn

A complete change of subject:

        This afternoon I have also watched an excellent documentary on KET about John Lewis, Civil Rights Icon from Alabama, who has kept a lifetime focus on how to Keep Our Eyes on the Prize.  His mantra, from his mother, has been FIND A WAY TO GET IN THE WAY.  His life story reveals the extreme dedication required of our citizens to provide desperately needed social change, and I am awed by the loyalty to principle that continues to be so necessary.  I wish I had known earlier in my life that I could be a photographer to honor history being made -- to remind us how now we are the ones who must continue to make history.