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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Coal Mine in Your Back Yard: Online Map Fun!

CoalDiver.org provides a diverting tool for visualizing how much land a coal mine chews up. The site, developed by our friends at Plains Justice, features "How Big Is It?", a mapping app where you can see the geographical footprint of a coal mine in the Powder River Basin in the Wyoming's Thunder Basin National Grassland and overlay it on any of your favorite destinations. My results this morning (click pic to embiggen!):

Comparison of Powder River Basic coal mine with Lake Herman, SDLay the west gate of that mine near my house, and the complex would stretch about six miles northeast and six miles southeast. Counting sections, I guess it's about 25 square miles, maybe more.

Today's enviro-engineering question: how much electricity could we produce by covering the same amount of land with a wind farm?

Bonus Statistics and Speculation: The Powder River Basin accounts for over 75% of the coal produced in the western United States and over 40% of total U.S. coal production. Hmm... could that help explain why railroad lobbyist turned Senator John Thune is so eager to block the national grassland wilderness in western South Dakota that would take up land near a prime rail route to that coal bonanza?

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