Rachel's Democracy & Health News #935, November 29, 2007
NO MORE COAL
[Rachel's introduction: The message is crisp and crystalline: "We don't need coal, we have what we need: efficient design and proven technologies."]
By Peter Montague
As the urgency of global warming continues to unfold in surprising ways, the coal industry finds itself in desperate straits. Opposition has developed in completely unexpected places.
This week Google -- the innovative internet giant -- announced it will invest several hundred million dollars in research to produce electricity from solar power cheaper than from coal. And they intend to do it in the next few years, not the next few decades. And a new study this week showed that windmills wired together in a large grid could provide power as reliably as -- and cheaper than -- coal plants.
Coal technology has remained essentially unchanged since the dawn of the industrial revolution in the early 19th century -- so to have a young, savvy adversary like Google enter the electricity business means that coal and electric utility executives suddenly have reason to fear for their retirement benefits. They must be feeling like a slow-moving leaf-eating dinosaur that suddenly finds itself staring into the eyes of a large pack of hungry leopards.
Coal-fired electric power plants produce 40% of all CO2 emissions in the U.S. (and even more, worldwide). By itself, phasing out coal would go a long way toward fixing the global warming problem.
That point was made last April in an advertisement in the New Yorker magazine. The ad asserts,
"There is a 'silver bullet' for global warming: NO MORE COAL.'
The ad, placed by Architecture 2030, a design firm in Santa Fe, New Mexico, threw down the gauntlet to the coal industry -- but more importantly to all the designers of the built environment, the people who design and build our cities and towns. They are calling it the "2030 Challenge."
The "2030 Challenge" points out that there are 151 coal-fired power plants currently on the drawing boards and 76% of their energy would go into buildings. So, to solve the global warming problem, let's just modify our buildings so we don't need any more coal plants.
Here's the text of the ad:
Think You're Making a Difference?
There are 151 new conventional coal-fired power plants in various stages of development in the US today.
Home Depot is funding the planting of 300,000 trees in cities across the US to help absorb carbon dioxide (C O2) emissions...
The CO2 emissions from only one medium-sized (500 MW) coal-fired power plant, in just 10 days of operation, will negate this entire effort.
Wal-Mart is investing a half billion dollars to reduce the energy consumption and CO2 emissions of their existing buildings by 20% over the next seven years. If every Wal-Mart Supercenter met this target...
The CO2 emissions from only one medium-sized coal-fired power plant, in just one month of operation each year, would negate this entire effort.
California passed legislation to cut CO2 emissions in new cars by 25% and in SUVs by 18%, starting in 2009. If every car and SUV sold in California in 2009 met this standard...
The CO2 emissions from only one medium-sized coal-fired power plant, in just eight months of operation each year, would negate this entire effort.
If every household in the US changed a 60-watt incandescent light bulb to a compact fluorescent...
The CO2 emissions from just two medium- sized coal-fired power plants each year would negate this entire effort.
The Campus Climate Challenge calls for all college campuses in the US to reduce their CO2 emissions to zero. If every college campus building in the US met this challenge...
The CO2 emissions from just four medium-sized coal-fired power plants each year would negate this entire effort.
NY, ME, VT, NH, MA, CT, RI, PA, NJ, DE, MD
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is a cooperative effort by 11 Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce their CO2 emissions to 1990 levels by 2014...
The CO2 emissions from just 13 medium-sized coal-fired power plants each year will negate this entire effort.
Congress is considering many climate change bills this year to reduce US carbon dioxide emissions...
The CO2 emissions from any new coal-fired power plants work to negate these efforts.
THERE IS A "SILVER BULLET" for SOLVING GLOBAL WARMING...
NO MORE COAL
Without coal, all the positive efforts underway can make a difference.
Over an 11-year period (1973-1983), the US built approx. 30 billion square feet of new buildings, added approx. 35 million new vehicles and increased real GDP by one trillion dollars while decreasing its energy consumption and CO2 emissions.
We don't need coal, we have what we need: efficient design and proven technologies.
Today, buildings use 76% of all the energy produced at coal plants.
By implementing The 2030 Challenge to reduce building energy use by a minimum of 50%, we negate the need for new coal plants.
Make a Difference: Protect Your Efforts.
The message is crisp and crystalline: "We don't need coal, we have what we need: efficient design and proven technologies." (And, for anyone who wants a detailed energy plan for the U.S. that avoids both coal and nuclear, one is available.)
Of course, because we have allowed Big Money to buy influence and run roughshod over common sense in Congress, we're going to have to fight like crazy to keep Congress from propping up Big Coal with a massive multi-billion-dollar bailout subsidy.
Just remember: Every dollar spent to prop up Big Coal is a dollar that cannot be spent creating good jobs with a real future -- renewable energy and efficient use. Every dollar spent propping up Big Coal is a dollar that cannot be spent renewing the U.S. as a world-class industrial leader.
But with innovators like Google and Architecture 2030 nipping at their heels, the coal industry dinosaurs are up to their eyeballs in deep mud -- and with some persistent organizing, many of their servants in Congress may soon suffer their same fate: political extinction.