How's Obama Doing on Our Transition from Dirty Coal to Clean Energy?
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"If you're going to lead my country,
If you're gonna say it's free
I'm gonna need
a little honesty
Just a few honest words"
Ben Sollee, "A Few Honest Words"
With those proverbial first 100 days coming to a close, here are ten moments--some good, some confusing, some hair-raising--in the short swift time of coal in the Obama administration's new era of "clean, renewable energy that will lead the 21st century."
This much is clear: The Obama administration has ushered in a new era of democratic participation in the great energy debate, opening the door to discussions on coal and its dirty legacy for the first time in nearly a decade, and allowing the winds of change to air out Washington's coal dank corridors. No question about it: The Obama administration has clearly made great strides in the right direction to tackle the reality of climate destabilization and unchecked coal mining operations.
At the same time, it is also clear that the Obama administration does not have a road map for withdrawal from our disastrous dependence on coal, no grand plan for a regulated phase out of mountaintop removal or coal-fired plants. Instead, borrowing a page from the compromising policies of the Carter and Clinton wags, the Obama administration appears to be putting its faith in questionable regulations, albeit stricter, but still beholden to the coal industry and its inevitable crimes of extraction and indisputable impact on our children's future.
Above all, an incredible coalition of citizens groups, activists, environmental organizations, students and coalfield heroes has come together in these first 100 days of the Obama administration to bring a little truth and clarity to the debate on clean energy and power our nation past coal. Indeed, see: www.powerpastcoal.org
As the Waxman-Markey debate plods along, how about a few honest words on CCS--carbon capture and storage technologies that everyone knows is an infeasible chimera?
Instead of using government statistics from 1974 on coal reserves, how about a few honest words on the depleting reality of coal today?
1) EPA's Elvis Rule: Greenhouse Gases Must Not Leave the Building
April 17, 2009
The EPA first put a hold on the approval of a coal-fired plant in South Dakota on January 22nd; in mid-February, it announced its intention of more closely regulating carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired plants. After a scientific analysis of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride, the EPA then made an extraordinary decision in April to propose a ruling to recognize greenhouse gases as a cause of climate change and an accountable threat to public welfare.
"This finding confirms that greenhouse gas pollution is a serious problem now and for future generations," EPA head Lisa Jackson said in a statement. "Fortunately, it follows President Obama's call for a low carbon economy and strong leadership in Congress on clean energy and climate legislation. This pollution problem has a solution-one that will create millions of green jobs and end our country's dependence on foreign oil."
"The current global atmospheric concentrations of the six greenhouse gases are now at unprecedented and record high levels compared to both the recent and distant past," the ruling says. "It is also unambiguous that the current elevated greenhouse gas concentrations are the primary result of human activities."
2) Mr. President's Nostalgia: When Can We Stop Being the Saudi Arabia of Coal, and Become the Saudi Arabia of Biomass or Wind or Solar?
February 18, 2009
In an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, President Obama borrowed one of his favorite campaign lines and reminded us that his misplaced Illinois coalfield nostalgia is still deeply embedded: