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Out-of-State Pollution Profiteers Fail to Tell Coal's Full Story

Climate
Out-of-State Pollution Profiteers Fail to Tell Coal's Full Story

Ohio Environmental Council

On Dec. 15, the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) challenged assertions from coal industry representatives that painted an incomplete and misleading picture of Ohio's energy policies.

On Dec. 14, out-of-state coal industry advocates testified before the Ohio House Public Utilities Committee in the latest oversight hearing regarding Ohio's energy policies. Throughout the testimony, the coal industry spun an incomplete story of coal's impact on Ohio's economy, environment, and the health of our families and communities.

Industry representatives repeatedly touted coal as the cheapest and most abundant source of energy while failing to acknowledge recent research that pegs coals cost to Ohioans at an additional 17.8 cents per kilowatt hour due to the impacts it has on public health, air and land pollution, public subsidies and cleanup costs, and climate change. These additional costs, known as "externalities" are a burden that the coal industry passes on to Ohioans in the form of pollution.

"Look, for a long time, coal powered Ohio's economy," said Nolan Moser, director of air and energy programs for the OEC, "but today doctors are telling us that coal comes at a huge cost—coal is creating so much destructive health and other impacts that the data tells us it is actually Ohio's most expensive power source."

The coal industry also sought to portray their industry as one that is under constant threat due to environmental regulations. In an especially misguided attempt to divert attention from the harmful impacts of coal, industry representatives injected federal politics and ad hominem attacks into a state policy issue, criticizing President Barack Obama and attacking federal Clean Air Act rules while offering doomsday scenarios of expensive and unreliable electricity should coal be replaced with other resources and promising untold economic horrors if coal jobs leave the state.

Unfortunately for the coal industry, the facts don't back up their claims.

Currently, more than 85 percent of Ohio's electricity comes from coal—nearly three quarters of which is imported from other states, sending $1.49 billion a year outside of the state of Ohio to enrich other states' economies.

Perhaps this explains why even though coal provides Ohio with an overwhelming majority of its energy, the industry itself directly employs only 3,000 people according to the Ohio Coal Association, which is a small fraction of those in Ohio employed by clean energy industries.

Under Ohio's current energy policies, 12.5 percent of Ohio's energy will be generated from renewable sources by 2025 so contrary to coal industry claims—their industry will continue to provide Ohio with the majority of its electric power for some time to come.

"Despite coal industry cries of red tape and regulations, coal jobs have been shrinking because so many of Ohio's coal powered plants are old, inefficient and expensive to replace.

According to the testimony of the coal industry itself, building new coal plants will increase customer rates massively—their claims are completely inconsistent," noted Moser.

Coal industry representatives also frequently deride the renewable energy sector because it receives incentives and government support despite the fact that the coal industry, itself, was and is heavily subsidized by public dollars and rate payers.

"Let's be clear, when utility companies build coal plants, it's you, the customer that pays for it, not the company. So when these guys complain about subsidies, let's not forget that Ohioans are double taxed because of coal—first through the health and environmental costs, and then through the construction costs." said Moser.

For more information click here or email Nolan Moser at Nolan@theOEC.org

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The mission of the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) is to secure healthy air, land, and water for all who call Ohio home. The OEC is Ohio's leading advocate for fresh air, clean water, and sustainable land use. The OEC has a 40-year history of innovation, pragmatism, and success. Using legislative initiatives, legal action, scientific principles, and statewide partnerships, the OEC secures a healthier environment for Ohio's families and communities.

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The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

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But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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