I have always suspected that most engineers of any stripe are far too narrowly educated and poorly informed to be trusted to make or even comment on society's important issues. Writing on "alarmists" and global warming in Monday's Missoulian, Marshall Cromwell, a retired civil engineer, confirms my suspicions.
Cromwell charges the University of Montana's Nobel prize-winning professor Steve Running with use of "bad" math in support of a "very slanted, distorted agenda" when Running expressed his belief that mining Montana coal for use in production of electricity is a terrible idea (guest column, Feb. 16). Running is concerned about the climate change effect of the 2.5 billion tons of CO2 he says would be produced by burning 1.3 billion tons of Montana coal. That would be a ratio of almost two tons of CO2 for each ton of coal. Cromwell says there is no way that you can get two pounds of something from one pound of anything else and that to assert that one can is an alarmist attempt to dupe the public on coal and climate change.
In making that statement, Cromwell demonstrates his ignorance of basic chemistry. When coal is burned, each carbon atom combines with two oxygen atoms to make a molecule of CO2, which is much heavier than one carbon atom.
On its Web site, the U.S. Energy Information Agency states that a ton of coal can produce CO2 in the ratio of from 2.8 to 1.4 times the weight of the coal burned. Anthracite, hard coal, produces the most and lignite, just above peat, the least. Montana coal is somewhere in between with 2.46 to 1.8 times the amount of CO2 per weight unit of coal. So, engineer Cromwell, Running's math is not "bad" and you are so wrong, wrong, wrong.
And please, Cromwell, do us all a favor by retiring your poison pen.
Rocky Sehnert, Turah