Monday, January 12, 2015

"You load 16 tons, and what do you get?

Another day older and deeper in debt."  Some of you might have heard the old song "16 Tons" by Tennessee Ernie Ford about a poor coal miner.

When I read about our smokestacks and tailpipes hosing us everyday and night with climate changing CO2 (carbon dioxide), tons of it, the numbers are always so damn big.  No wonder so many don't pay attention, we don't understand it, I guess lots of us slept, or lusted, our way through the delicious Miss Nipplemyer's 8th grade science class.

So, in the words of my Italian friend, OK now I splain you!  Fuel has carbon in it, pretty much has to.  When burned, each carbon atom in fuel combines with 2 oxygen atoms, making CO2, The atomic weight of this CO2 is 44, or 3.6667 times the weight of carbon.  We started weighing 12, and burning it raised it to 44.  Is that easy or what?  Oh Miss Nipplemyer, now I understand, let your passion fires burn and it turns into something even bigger.

Different kinds of fuels contain different amounts of carbon as a percent of their weight. This is why you get numbers like this:
1 gallon of gasoline at 6.6 lbs = 19.6 lbs of CO2 when burned
1 gallon of diesel = 22.38 lbs of COwhen burned
1 short ton (2,000) of coal = 3,740+ lbs CO (carbon content in coal varies)

That old song tells it perfectly, every ton of coal we load into the sky, the further we go out of kelter on our environmental account book and doing little to correct it's damage, a little more stress on the soul. The video of Mr. Ford turns the song into something fun, but this is a song of poverty, entrapment by corporations and transference of violence within the community.

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