Coal makes a comeback: breathing doesn’t

It’s been said that Steve Bannon has no ideology other than to break things up, to smash any conventions with which we have all grown comfortable. If the assessment is true, then he could hardly have dreamed of an accomplice as fatuously willing as Scott Pruitt.

Today is Back to Coal Day in our United States, the day when the restrictions on pollution from coal are being rescinded and we can all once again breathe in the soot and grime of that most polluting of fuels. And for that we can thank Mr. Pruitt.

To recognize this leap backwards, let’s go back to 1952 and London, to something history books refer to as London’s Killer Fog. For five days in December of that year, a sickening yellow misty substance enveloped the city as factory smokestacks spewed out thousands of tons of soot from burning coal. Diesel buses had recently replaced electric trams, a fact that aggravated the situation; and an unusual temperature inversion acted like a lid and kept the sulfurous smog, a column of air some thirty miles wide, sitting over London. A greasy black ooze coated the sidewalks making walking treacherous, and movie theaters closed: even inside buildings it was impossible to see. People trudged home from work, arriving to find their faces and nostrils coated with a sooty black residue. In what may turn out to be a prophetic quip, one newspaper claimed that the citizenry of London all looked like coal-miners.

Fog
London’ Killer Fog, 1952 (photo courtesy of Getty Images)

The death toll rose to 4000, but most estimates place it at closer to 10,000 since the following summer brought with it an unusual number of deaths from bronchitis and pneumonia. Birds and farm animal died in large numbers also. Undertakers ran out of coffins; florists out of bouquets. Death rares soared.

The following year Parliament passed the Clean Air Act, which, among other mandates, restricted the burning of coal in urban areas. In addition, homeowners who converted from coal to alternative heating systems received grants to offset the cost.

In the 64 years since, almost all environmental movement has been away from coal and toward cleaner energy: natural gas, wind, solar, et al.

Until now. Until a mentally imbalanced president (at the behest of his misanthropic pal Steve) appointed Scott Pruitt to blow up the EPA. We’ve embarked on the long, skulking trip backwards.

Steve Bannon is playing with house money: he never expected Trump to win the White House and would have been content to promote his anarchy from Breitbart. But the ignorant American voters who could not discern the difference between a candidate they didn’t like and a draft-dodging, tax-cheating, race-baiting, sexually abusive inveterate liar, moved Bannon’s schedule up a bit. Thanks, “base.”

Pruitt is the tip of the iceberg—and let’s use that phrase while we can. Soon enough, as Trump, Bannon, and Pruitt continue to shape the destiny of earth, iceberg will be an obsolete word, a quaint term children will learn about in school—and that their grandparents will corroborate.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s