Voters Not Conned By Coal

This week's post was co-written by Mary Anne Hitt, the new deputy director of the National Coal Campaign.

Wow -- what an amazing and transformational time to be an American. Whether you have been voting for decades or you have just voted for the first time, the election of Barack Obama marks an incredible new chapter in the history of our nation, our planet, and our energy future.

In the midst of this renewed spirit of possibility and hope, it is worth noting that in the 11th hour of the Presidential election, as John McCain and Sarah Palin were making their last-ditch attempt to win swing states in America's heartland, they picked one final issue that they hoped would turn those states red. Of all the issues facing the nation -- the economy, health care, the war in Iraq -- which issue did the McCain campaign choose as its Hail Mary, its last hope to win the election?


Did you notice something else?

It didn't work.

When the votes were counted, McCain lost critical coal-producing states he hoped to win over with his last-minute coal blitz -- Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia, to name a few.

The coal industry spent millions this election season, sponsoring the debates and the conventions and blanketing the nation with so-called "clean coal" ads. But I imagine it didn't fool you, and if the election of Barack Obama taught us anything, it's that the American people are ready for honesty and integrity, not spin from well-funded industries. While we heard a lot about clean coal during the election, you know the facts:

- Coal is not clean
- Coal is not cheap
- Coal is not a replacement for oil
- Coal is not abundant

In local elections coal also took a beating, because citizens understand the economic benefits offered by clean energy and demanded that America move beyond coal. 

Here are just two examples:  In Missouri, a state with a long history of coal burning, voters by a margin of 2:1 passed a statewide initiative requiring the state's utilities to turn away from coal and meet 15 percent of their energy needs with clean energy. With its strong manufacturing base and great potential for clean energy, Missouri is now racing to catch up with other Midwest states, such as Minnesota and Iowa, to be a part of this clean energy revolution.   

In Sevier County, Utah, voters overwhelmingly approved an initiative that gives local residents the right to reject zoning for dirty coal plants.  This is likely the end of a long battle over plans to build a new coal plant in that county.

Clearly, the next four years presents us with an incredible, historic opportunity. We can halt the runaway global warming, restore clean air across America, and swiftly end mountaintop removal mining, by moving America beyond coal.  This is a challenge that America is ready to face with creativity and ingenuity, and we will need the help of each and every one of you to ensure we create a truly independent, clean energy future for our nation and our planet. Please join us and sign up here to support the Sierra Club's campaign to move America beyond coal.

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