The Good News About Coal - By Earth Policy Institute
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by Lester R. Brown
During the years when governments and the media were focused on preparations for the 2009 Copenhagen climate negotiations, a powerful climate movement was emerging in the United States: the movement opposing the construction of new coal-fired power plants.
Environmental groups, both national and local, are opposing coal plants because they are the primary driver of climate change. Emissions from coal plants are also responsible for 13,200 U.S. deaths annually—a number that dwarfs the U.S. lives lost in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
What began as a few local ripples of resistance quickly evolved into a national tidal wave of grassroots opposition from environmental, health, farm, and community organizations. Despite a heavily funded industry campaign to promote “clean coal,” the American public is turning against coal. In a national poll that asked which electricity source people would prefer, only 3 percent chose coal. The Sierra Club, which has kept a tally of proposed coal-fired power plants and their fates since 2000, reports that 152 plants in the United States have been defeated or abandoned.
An early turning point in the coal war came in June 2007, when Florida’s Public Service Commission refused to license a huge $5.7-billion, 1,960-megawatt coal plant because the utility proposing it could not prove that building the plant would be cheaper than investing in conservation, efficiency, or renewable energy. This point, frequently made by lawyers from Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental legal group, combined with widely expressed public opposition to any more coal-fired power plants in Florida, led to the quiet withdrawal of four other coal plant proposals in the state.