Environment

Climate Shame: Four Years After Promise, Capitol Power Plant Still Burns Dirty Coal?

If the US Congress can't even move off its own use of dirty energy--so symbolically small--is it any wonder that the annual UN climate talks result in such pathetic action?

Photo Credit: nito/ Shutterstock.com

This article was published in partnership with GlobalPossibilities.org.

With President Obama still unpacking his suitcase in his new digs at the White House in 2009, the AP story headlined newspapers across the nation with great fanfare: Capitol Power Plant: A Symbolic Clean Energy Hurdle.

"Eliminating coal from the fuel mixture should also assist the City of Washington, D.C., in meeting and complying with national air quality standards," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi hailed, "and demonstrate that Congress can be a good and conscientious neighbor by mitigating health concerns for residents and workers around Capitol Hill."

Yes, we didn't, yet.

When the public comment period closes next week for a series of air quality permits from the DC Department of the Environment, the century-old Capitol Power Plant will creep one step closer to a coal-free promise--made nearly four years ago.

If the US Congress can't even move off its own use of dirty energy--so symbolically small--is it any wonder that the annual UN climate talks result in such pathetic action?

In the meantime, while a much ballyhooed plan for a natural gas-powered cogeneration plan has been in the works for over a year, the Capitol Power Plant's primary fuel source remains natural gas, according to the Architect of the Capitol spokeswoman Eva Malecki, "but we have the capacity to burn 3 types of fuel." Read: Dirty coal, natural gas and diesel fuel. Below is the AOC's 2011 Energy Management Chart:


Meanwhile, at Germany's Reichstag government chambers, as author Osha Davidson reminds us in his new book, Clean Break: The Story of Germany's Energy Transformation -- and What Americans Can Learn From It, "a bank of solar panels, seamlessly embedded in the roof, powers a swiveling metal shade that reduces glare by tracking the sun's path and filtering its harshest rays."

Four years, folks. Four years, and the US Congress is still at the permit stage.

Jeff Biggers is the American Book Award-winning author of Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland (Nation/Basic Books), among other books. Visit his website: www.jeffbiggers.com
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