A Nasty, Four-Letter Word for Our Energy Crisis


While coal generates about half of America's energy -- it's also responsible for about 30 percent of our global warming pollution. Coal is the problem. And yet, as other industrial Kyoto-Protocol countries are working to cut their global warming emissions, the U.S. coal industry is pushing to build more than 100 new coal-fired power plants across the country.

Michigan is at the center of the coal versus clean energy debate. The state already:

  • Has 19 technologically-outdated coal-fired power plants.

  • Is sending $3 billion a year out of state to buy coal from Wyoming and Montana.

  • Is lagging far behind many of its neighbors on clean energy investments.

  • Has high unemployment.

Now the coal industry is pushing to build eight more old-fashioned coal-fired power plants in Michigan.

Just this week Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm signed into law a new energy efficiency and 10 percent renewable energy bill, the first step in her efforts to move the state toward a clean energy economy. The governor has also voiced support for requiring 25 percent of the state's energy to come from clean, renewable sources by 2025.

So how can Michigan move toward a clean energy economy while still increasing its use of coal? It can't -- Gov. Granholm's promise to create clean energy and cut pollution in Michigan will go up in smoke.

If just three of the eight plants are built, almost 15.5 million tons of CO2 pollution will be emitted each year, effectively nullifying all activities by the state to reduce global warming pollution. If all eight coal-fired power plants are built, they will emit as much new pollution as seven Northeast states are proposing to cut from all of their power plants.

That doesn't make much sense if you ask me.

The Sierra Club and other local groups are calling on Gov. Granholm to halt the construction of any new coal-fired power plants in the state until global warming regulations are in place -- a move that has broad public support.

In the meantime, Michigan has the technology today to begin meeting its energy needs with clean energy -- a transition that could have great economic benefits. Investing in the clean energy field could create over 61,000 jobs in the state, significantly lowering the unemployment rate.

The same is true across the U.S.: investing in clean energy will create jobs and boost the economy, all while fighting global warming. (It's already doing so in other states -- Iowa alone has 5,000 new jobs building windmills.)

And what's better: many clean energy jobs, such as those windmills builders, cannot be shipped overseas and use skills that workers already have.

The question facing Michigan is the same question facing many other states, and the same question facing our nation's leaders:

Do we put our ingenuity to work to power our future cleanly and create job ... or do we continue with business as usual, increasing our dependence on the fossil fuels that got us into this mess?

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