The 100th Coal Plant Milestone
This is the weekly blog post from Bruce Nilles, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign.
As of today, 100 coal plants have been defeated or abandoned since the beginning of the coal rush. Late yesterday, news came down that Utah-based Intermountain Power Agency is abandoning plans for a third coal-fired generator in the state.
This news comes as President Obama is at the G8 summit in Italy discussing action on global warming. As other countries like China say they will not act until the U.S. does, these 100 stopped plants are a sign from Americans. We are taking action against global warming, and it's time to join us.
This also comes just a week after Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced the city would end coal use by 2020, and was announced the same day as a decision by Basin Electric Power in South Dakota to pull plans for a new coal-fired power plant. The decision marks a significant milestone in the shift to clean energy.
Since the first coal-fired power plant started operation in the U.S. more than 100 years ago our country has been wedded to dirty coal power. Despite the availability of affordable, cleaner energy alternatives, there were still plans on the drawing board for more than 150 new coal-fired power plants as recently as last year.
We are seeing a movement. That movement has kept well over 400 million tons of harmful global warming pollution out of the air, making significant progress in the fight against global warming. Stopping 100 new coal plants has also kept thousands of tons of asthma causing soot and smog pollution, as well as toxins like mercury out of our air and water.
This milestone also marks a significant shift in the way Americans are looking at our energy choices. Cities, states, businesses and electric utilities are all moving away from the polluting coal power of the past.
At the beginning of the coal rush, which came out of the Bush-Cheney energy plan of 2001, it seemed inevitable that most of the 150 new proposed coal plants would get built. Since then we’ve seen an incredible change in the way people, businesses and governments are thinking about energy--figuring out how to generate and use it more cleanly and efficiently. Coal is no longer the only option. We can and are creating jobs and electricity through clean energy technology made in America.
Tremendous grassroots pressure by the Sierra Club and others, rising costs, and upcoming federal carbon regulations all contributed to the demise of the 100 plants. Volunteers with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign worked on the ground in almost every state to fight local coal plant proposals, turning out to public hearings, holding rallies and meeting with officials to push for cleaner energy options for their area.
Instead of being locking into new coal plants we now have an opportunity to develop the clean energy technologies, like wind, that will help repower, rebuild and refuel America.
In many places a shift to wind energy is now well underway. Numbers out from the American Wind Energy Association show that last year over 8,000 MW of new generating capacity was added—that’s 42% of all the new power producing capacity in the U.S., and the equivalent of seven new large coal plants. Employing over 85,000 people, up from 50,000 a year ago, the wind industry for the first time created more jobs than coal mining, proving that new coal plants are not the only option for job creation, economic stimulus and power production.
We are also seeing a sea-change at the federal level. President Obama and his administration are clearly making strides for a clean energy economy. The Environmental Protection Agency has declared global warming pollution a threat to public health and welfare, the Interior Department is pushing for renewable energy development, and more. Even Congress is moving forward with a clean energy bill.
Obstacles still remain, though. The coal industry continues to push forward plans for dozens of new plants and is still pouring money into slick advertising campaigns and lobbying efforts to weaken the energy bill in Congress. Even in some of the top wind producing states, like Texas, coal companies are pushing for new plants, insisting that coal is the only viable option despite obvious evidence to the contrary.
This must stop. Coal is not part of our country’s clean energy future. Big Coal deserves no more free rides and loopholes. Their greed has gone too far. They store toxic coal ash waste in unsafe facilities. They push for weaker pollution regulations at all levels, claiming the opposite will bankrupt their industry.
The 100 dead coal-fired power plants are a message from Americans. We don’t want dirty power from a greedy industry looking to skirt the rules. We want clean energy that will boost the economy, create jobs and reduce our global warming pollution. Let’s keep up the fight!