Discussions and articles about energy supply choices often overlook the impact of economic competition on the way that the choices are made and opinion posistions are established.
Government organizations play a role because of the way that they get involved in promoting certain kinds of industries or because of the way that they gain tax revenues from those industries.
Here is one example of how this happens. The state of Illinois has an agency called the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). One of the offices under that agency is called the Office of Coal Development (OCD). One of the programs run by that office is called the Illinois Clean Coal Institute (ICCI). The ICCI maintains a web page as part of its outreach efforts. Here is a quote from their coal info page.
Q: Are there other competitors of Midwestern coal in the marketplace?
A: Yes. Nuclear energy constitutes the major alternative to coal in the future for the utility industry. This opinion prevails in spite of continuing controversy over safety and other issues in the development of nuclear power. In fact, no new plants have been brought on line in the last 10 years. Ongoing concerns with nuclear waste, the uncertainty of absolute safety controls and vivid reminders of past nuclear plant accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl all have contributed to the slower than anticipated growth of the industry.
I translate that statement into a warning to the Illinois coal industry to watch out for nuclear power because it is a formidable competitor. I also recognize that it includes some rhetorical ammunition for anyone that wants to keep that “anticipated growth” slower than it should be.
Those “vivid reminders” refer to relatively minor accidents occuring 26 and 19 years ago respectively. When I compare TMI and Chernobyl to the events that happen in the coal industry with rather frightening frequency, I wonder how anyone can fail to see the contrast in collective memory and how anyone with a critical thinking attitude can fail to wonder why.
Why are we constantly reminded about TMI and Chernobyl when no one ever mentions coal mine disasters with significantly more fatalities even a week after they are over?
July 11, 2005 1205 AM – My RSS news reader just pointed me to a very short BBC article about yet another mine disaster in China. There are 80 people reported to be trapped in the mine and the article mentions that more than 1000 people have already died in Chinese coal mines so far this year. Watch the news to see if you even find a story about the 80 people or if it disappears as a “dog bites man” story that is discarded because it is so commonplace.
Reuters has the story on its wires – apparently at least 22 people have been reported killed while only 6 have reportedly be rescued. There were 87 people in the mine when the explosion happened. China mine blast kills 22, traps scores.