Coal-fired power plants represent over a third of our carbon emissions, and over half of our electricity mix. Emissions from coal have been a detriment to health, agriculture, and social justice for years. If there's any fat to cut out of our energy portfolio first, it's coal. The developed world has been phasing out coal for decades now - at this point any new energy should come from renewable sources, which we know create more jobs per megawatt, at lower cost to society.
If' we're really out to make a dent in our emissions - creating green jobs, cutting carbon - the best way to protect our efforts is to ensure that our resources are invested in better electricity sources. We can do better than coal.
Supporting a coal moratorium is the best way to support the oppressed peoples of Appalachia, whose communities have been
unjustly impacted by the coal mining industry for years. Mountaintop removal mining has resulted in untold environmental degradation, health effects, and unemployment to an already impoverished area. Coal-related employment in Kentucky alone has gone down 60% in the last 15 years. From Illinois to Wyoming, mining practices threaten communities with layoffs and detrimental health effects in their own backyards.
In spite of the high cost of coal, there are currently over 150 coal-fired power plants in some stage of development today. Unlike oil and natural gas, coal stocks are not running out anytime soon. We cannot afford to wait that long to begin transitioning away from coal. If we're going to start building a new economy, we need to start with a moratorium on coal.
Want to hear more? Check out this new Step It Up original video:
"The most effective action that people can take to stem global warming, I suspect, is to help prevent construction of coal-fired power plants until sequestration technology is ready. In the interim, there is sufficient potential in energy efficiency and renewable energies to handle increased energy needs."
-Jim Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute and premier US climate scientist from his testimony before congress in April 2007. Click here for the full testimony.
These articles explain the need for a coal moratorium in more detail:
Click here for a rough overview of all 151 proposed coal fired power plants, and here for a more detailed summary of each location put out by the Sierra Club's Coal division
Many of our friends and allies are working against coal developments in their backyards right now. Check out their sites for more details.
What about carbon sequestration? Won't new technology allow us to burn coal such that it has zero emissions? What about IGCC Plants?
You would like to think so. The thing with the 151 proposed coal plants out there is that none of them have the technology to capture and store their global warming pollutions.
Although touted as "capture ready," IGCC (Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle) plants cannot burn coal cleanly yet. As of now, no coal is clean coal. All new coal will produce global warming pollution and all new coal will have negative health consequences - not to mention the injustices of plant placement and mountaintop removal mining. The billions of dollars it would take to build dirty coal plants would be better spent on efficiency technology and renewable energy source that we know will produce clean energy now. The idea that IGCC plants could eventually store carbon is not a good reason to invest in them - there are only 2 of them in operation now anyway. Regardless of when the fabled carbon sequestration technology comes, energy efficiency and energy conservation are by far the most economical ways of investing our energy dollars for the time being.
If we act now, we can avoid the worst effects of global warming and create a clean energy economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty... more »