Salon.com News Article: Let's call the coal thing off by Amanda Griscom Little, Mar. 12, 2007.
Coal supplies nearly half the electricity in the U.S. and is responsible for more greenhouse-gas emissions than any other electricity source. Is it too late to kick the habit? Climate scientists, key members of Congress, enviros and the progressive wing of the business world are plotting a coup d'état. Regime change isn't likely to come soon, but this resistance movement could significantly alter the way the pollution-spewing sovereign wields its power.
The ringleader of this uprising is James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and one of the world's top climate scientists. Last week he threw down the gauntlet: "There should be a moratorium on building any more coal-fired power plants," Hansen told the National Press Club.
Coal supplies nearly half the electricity in the United States and is responsible for more greenhouse-gas emissions than any other electricity source. The Department of Energy reported last month that 159 new coal-fired power plants are scheduled to be built in the United States in the coming decade, intended to generate enough juice for nearly 100 million homes.
"If you build a new coal plant, you're making a 60-year commitment -- that's how long these plants are generally in use," explains David Doniger, policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council's climate center. "So we really need to avoid building a whole new generation of coal plants that use the old technology."
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Texas, in particular, is contributing to the rise in coal plants. Recently, on All Things Considered, on NPR, Wade Goodwyn described exactly what Texas' role has been and will be in the future.
Texas already has a sorry reputation for its dirty air. Houston vies with Los Angeles, trading back and forth the No. 1 spot on the list of cities most choked by smog. Now, Texas utility companies are proposing to build 17 new coal-burning power plants and one petroleum-coke power plant over the next four years. They have the support of the governor, but mayors in some of the state's largest cities are putting up a fight.
Gov. Rick Perry has issued an executive order fast-tracking state permits for the proposed plants. But a coalition of Texas mayors, newspaper editors and environmentalists are playing the tortoise in this Texas race, trying to stave off the coal plants by slowing the process down until more Democrats get elected in Washington, D.C.
"There's a national movement by the utility companies to build coal-burning plants," says Dallas Mayor Laura Miller. "And the reason is coal is plentiful, coal is cheap and, unfortunately, coal pollutes the air aggressively."
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