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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Sunday, December 31, 2006

"What's This Lignite Used For?"

lignite: A soft, brownish-black form of coal having more carbon than peat but less carbon than bituminous coal. Lignite is easy to mine but does not burn as well as other forms of coal. It is a greater polluter than bituminous coal because it has a higher sulphur content. -- The American Heritage Science Dictionary

The Clarion-Ledger ran an edited rendition of this letter on December 26, 2006.

Ackerman is the seat of Choctaw County, Mississippi, while Kemper County is north of Meridian and borders Alabama.

I read with interest Laura Hipp's article ("Utility weighs $1.8B plant," Dec. 13) and your editorial ("Lignite: State's resource finally to blossom?" Dec. 14) on the prospective power plant in Kemper County and the Red Hills Plant near Ackerman.

In the mid-1970s, a friend of mine was involved in exploring for lignite coal in parts of Mississippi, including Choctaw County. His job was buying rights of way from landowners.

My first question was, "What's this lignite used for?" Andy explained that it was used to generate electricity. Having recently experienced the "energy crisis," people were very much aware of the need for new energy sources. Several of the farmers related that they had encountered the brownish-black substance on their land.

The initial tests were done about a mile apart, and it was much like drilling a water well. The hole was three to four inches in diameter and 300 feet deep. The actual test was performed when a radioactive probe was sent down the hole and the soil contents were logged. The entire operation usually took about an hour and a half.

Then, of course, we had no way of knowing that 1) any power plants would be built in Mississippi, or 2) it would be a quarter century before electricity would be produced from the lignite.

Today coal fuels about 50 percent of this nation's electrical generation. Nuclear power is a distant second with some 20 percent.

Andy has passed on, but his and his colleagues' legacy shines when switches are flipped in homes and businesses.


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