Coalminer Peabody Blows Dirty Smoke on Climate Science

Coalminer Peabody Blows Dirty Smoke on Climate Science
Bad business and climate disaster are bad for the rest of us, perhaps, but they are good business for Peabody. If carbon dioxide gas had an odour, it would smell like money to America’s largest privately held coal company. The Editorial Board of St Louis Today gets stuck into Peabody – which owns and operates eight coalmines in Australia – for trying to legally block US federal regulations that would limit emissions of greenhouse gases
From Peabody Australia’s website:
Peabody Energy Australia is one of Australia’s largest mining companies with 10 operations in Queensland and New South Wales. Peabody is actively pursuing growth plans with a view to being a long-term participant in the Australian coal industry.
Peabody Pacific operates 8 open-cut and underground coal mines in Queensland and New South Wales. The operations produce a broad range of metallurgical and thermal coals for a diverse range of domestic and international customers. Coal is exported through ports in the coastal cities of Mackay, Gladstone, Brisbane, Newcastle and Wollongong.
Peabody’s mission is to be a leading worldwide producer and supplier of sustainable energy solutions which power economic prosperity and result in a better quality of life.
Peabody supports the concept of sustainable development and in December 2005 joined Greenhouse Challenge Plus, which is part of the Australian Government’s comprehensive Climate Change Strategy. They are committed to reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of the operations, accelerating the uptake of energy efficiency, integrating greenhouse issues into business decision making and providing more consistent reporting of greenhouse gas emission levels. Already they have reduced greenhouse gas emissions, including major projects at Wilkie Creek and North Goonyella.

St Louis Today (21 February 2010):
Peabody blows smoke on climate science
By Editorial Board
If carbon dioxide gas had an odor, it would smell like money to America’s largest privately held coal company.
St. Louis-based Peabody Energy operates mines that produce 600,000 tons of coal per day. Burning it releases millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every week, which fuels global climate change.
Peabody sued this month to block federal regulations that would limit emissions of greenhouse gases. It claims an “endangerment finding” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is flawed and relies on discredited science.
Peabody’s claims are wrong. But if they are sustained, the EPA would have to start over in laying the groundwork for regulations on greenhouse gases.
Any delay in addressing global climate change would be good for Peabody. It wouldn’t be good for the rest of the people who live on the planet.
Unfortunately, arguments like Peabody’s are gaining traction. Texas and Virginia filed suit last week using the same basic claims.
Like Peabody, their arguments are based on the content of stolen e-mails between leading climate scientists, which were posted online last fall.
Denialists have been trying for years to discredit the science of climate change. Those failed efforts have been replaced by a campaign of intimidation and personal attacks.
Using words and phrases cherry-picked from the pilfered e-mails, denialists have tried to portray the scientists as manipulating data and skewing their work.
In fact, the science is robust, based on temperature observations, increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, documented changes in weather patterns and natural phenomenon.
Peabody’s federal appeal reads as if it were lifted from denialist blogs and websites — because it is. Many of the claims the company makes are misleading or untrue.
The suit alleges that scientists “engaged in a wide variety of improper and indeed unethical tactics to manipulate” scientific information.
As evidence, it quotes a 2004 e-mail in which a researcher talks about a pair of studies that dispute key aspects of climate change.
The researcher says he will “keep them out somehow” from an important report being prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But both papers were discussed in that key IPCC report.
Elsewhere, the suit quotes a researcher who talks about using a “trick” to compile information for a paper. Denialists have seized on the term as evidence that the data was manipulated.
In fact, a University of Pennsylvania inquiry board cleared the researcher of that charge earlier this month.
“The so-called trick was nothing more than a statistical method used to bring two or more different kinds of data sets together in a legitimate fashion,” the board wrote. It noted that the technique “has been reviewed by a broad array of peers in the field.”
Denialists lately have been quoting NASA scientist Andrew Lacis, who critiqued an IPCC report in 2005. They’ve used his words to cast doubts on the science of climate change.
But Mr. Lacis clarified his views in a New York Times blog earlier this month: “Failure to control atmospheric (carbon dioxide) is a bad way to run a business and a surefire ticket to climatic disaster.”
Bad business and climate disaster are bad for the rest of us, perhaps, but they are good business for Peabody. The federal court ultimately will decide which it will be.

Letter to St Louis Today (1 March 2010):

Peabody is right to challenge science in climate change reports

The editorial “Blowing smoke” (Feb. 22) improperly criticizes Peabody Energy for calling into question what has become an almost daily litany of retractions, apologies and embarrassing admissions about the poor quality of science contained in the U.N. International Panel on Climate Change report.

The same day as the editorial, we learned of yet another revelation: researchers withdrew a claim that sea levels are rising drastically. This followed a separate retraction of the claim that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035.

The editorial said that Peabody is cherry-picking facts. But the mounting questions around the IPCC report suggest an orchard of flawed science. The authors of the U.N. report said they were put “under pressure” to present a “nice tidy” picture of unprecedented 20th century warming. They suppressed information and relied on material from advocacy groups that led them to embarrassing mistakes.

Peabody believes that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should not outsource its obligation to apply rigorous science to policies that could reshape the U.S. economy. The agency needs to step back and begin a thorough review of the real state of science surrounding climate change. It needs to determine if we have man-made climate change or simply a man-made crisis.

We support continual emissions reductions toward the ultimate goal of near-zero emissions from coal. We believe in technology first, followed eventually by targets when the costs and regulatory regime are determined.

Peabody is joined by numerous states, business organizations and Congressional leaders advocating a common-sense approach. None of us should place blind faith in a flawed process that is sure to harm the economy, suppress investment and raise energy costs for every American.

Vic Svec — St. Louis Senior Vice President, Peabody Energy
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