A new video from the Sierra Club makes the connection between coal, public health, and greenhouse gas emissions. Coal 101 points out that the United States still gets 40 percent of its electricity from coal, and new data from the Energy Information Administration shows that natural gas is not replacing coal as many assume. In fact, coal is reclaiming its market share.
What does this mean? As the U.S. burns more coal, carbon dioxide emissions will rise. This has serious impacts both globally and locally. Burning coal also harms human health from air and water pollution, mercury poisoning, and toxic waste in the form of coal ash. Rural communities have to deal with mountaintop removal mining — i.e. blowing up a mountain to get at what’s inside, and leaving slag behind.
There are signs of hope — the amount of electricity from renewable energy has doubled over the last few years, with Iowa and South Dakota getting more than 20 percent of their energy from wind for example.
By Climate Guest Blogger on Jan 23, 2013 at 8:46 am
For civil disobedience to be justified, something must be so wrong that it compels the strongest defensible protest. Such a protest, if rendered thoughtfully and peacefully, is in fact a profound act of patriotism…. For us, [the wrong] is the possibility that the United States might surrender any hope of stabilizing our planet’s climate.
If you could do it nonstop, it would take you six days to walk from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond to President Barack Obama’s White House. For the Sierra Club, that journey has taken much longer. For 120 years, we have remained committed to using every “lawful means” to achieve our objectives. Now, for the first time in our history, we are prepared to go further.
Next month, the Sierra Club will officially participate in an act of peaceful civil resistance. We’ll be following in the hallowed footsteps of Thoreau, who first articulated the principles of civil disobedience 44 years before John Muir founded the Sierra Club.
Some of you might wonder what took us so long. Others might wonder whether John Muir is sitting up in his grave. In fact, John Muir had both a deep appreciation for Thoreau and a powerful sense of right and wrong. And it’s the issue of right versus wrong that has brought the Sierra Club to this unprecedented decision.
A few months back I wrote a post about the $80 billion clean energy access opportunity from capturing remittance flows. I thought that was revolutionary given its scale and applicability (especially compared to mechanisms subject to the excruciating dynamics of the UNFCCC like the Green Fund). Now an even bigger, and far more advanced innovation in clean energy access finance has come along — and the $90 billion opportunity it presents is tremendous.
It’s called crowd funding, and it could catalyze clean energy across the developing world.
Crowd funding allows early-stage companies, or projects to “crowd in” finance from lots of small sources over the Internet (you could consider it democratizing finance in a way). A notable non-profit precursor is Kiva, which has helped raise more than $500 million to date (ironically the same amount energy access entrepreneurs requested, but did not get, from the World Bank at Rio+20).
With the passage of the US JOBS Act, crowd funding is now primed to move from a non-profit activity to a legitimate retail investment for the masses. Bloomberg estimates that if even 1% of the retail investment market is captured the opportunity is worth $90 billion dollars — which has energy access entrepreneurs understandably quite excited.
So why is crowd funding so ideal for these entrepreneurs? Because the most effective means of delivering energy access is small scale, distributed clean energy. Crowd funding is a financing model that mirrors this scale and distribution. But far more importantly, it allows entrepreneurs to access funding that traditional institutions have thus far failed to provide.
At the end of the day what determines “bankability” (the ability to secure finance) is overwhelmingly perception. That’s why clean energy had such a hard time for so many years. Not because it wasn’t legit, but because it was new — and in the minds of risk averse, conventional bankers new = risky. That has changed for the global clean energy market (which is now over $260 billion), but the stigma remains for those focused on innovations in delivering clean energy to poor citizens around the world.
As Nathanial Bullard explains in a must read note from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, this is where the true “disruptive potential” of crowd funding lies: “Crowd funding…works in reverse — retail investors can determine which projects are brought to market” because “Crowd funded investors…demand qualitative information….[which] places a premium on empathy.” That’s right. People care about the poor having clean energy, so they make them bankable, traditional financiers be damned.
As long-delayed rules to enforce the Clean Air Act against coal pollution go into force, the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign has launched Mr. Coal Guy, a new social-media campaign with satirical videos that parody the coal industry’s multi-million dollar advertising campaigns. These videos feature Mr. Coal Guy, played by Mr. Show’s John Ennis, using iconic TV shows from the 1980′s to portray coal as fun, hip, and totally safe. In one video, Mr. Coal Guy provides the voiceover to a clip of Bob Ross’s timeless landscape painting to promote mountaintop removal coal mining (“scrapey scrapey goodbye lakey!”):
Another video portrays a coal-executive beach party celebrating “the fact that coal pollution never causes any health problems”:
The $300,000 campaign is “a funny send up of just how desperate dirty fossil fuel execs are to keep our country chained to the dirty, outdated 19th-century energy source,” says Mary Anne Hitt, the director of the Beyond Coal campaign. The campaign is on Facebook and Twitter at @mrcoalguy.
Michael Brune ended Sierra Club's relationship with Chesapeake when he became executive director in 2010.
An investigation by the Corporate Crime Reporter blog forced the Sierra Club to admit that it secretly had taken millions of dollars from the Chesapeake Energy natural gas company to fund its Beyond Coal campaign from 2007 to 2010 under the leadership of Carl Pope. Time’s Bryan Walsh writes in the complete exposé that Michael Brune ended the relationship when he became executive director in 2010:
Though the group ended its relationship with Chesapeake in 2010—and the Club says it turned its back on an additional $30 million in promised donations—the news raises concerns about influence industry may have had on the Sierra Club’s independence and its support of natural gas in the past. It’s also sure to anger ordinary members who’ve been uneasy about the Club’s relationship with corporations.
In a Sierra Club blog post, Brune explained his response when he became the executive director in 2010: “We cannot accept money from an industry we need to change. Very quickly, the board of directors, with my strong encouragement, cut off these donations and rewrote our gift acceptance policy.”
GOP Sock Puppet Primary: Keystone XL Edition |
The Sierra Club has a new site showing how the Republican presidential candidates are sock puppets of Big Oil. “These candidates have a lot to say about how much they love Keystone XL – Big Oil’s favorite pet project. But a few important facts are never mentioned. They don’t say that the pipeline is pumping highly toxic crude over critical water sources. They neglect the fact that the first Keystone pipeline caused twelve oil spills in twelve months. And they never mention how much money oil companies have pumped into their campaigns.”
Bloomberg: The time has come for our nation to begin transitioning away from coal-fired power plants towards cleaner, more efficient, and more cost effective energy sources. If we succeed, and I fully believe that we will, we will save millions of lives and we will help millions of children avoid asthma and its debilitating effects.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced today that he is giving $50 million to the Sierra Club campaign to shut down dirty coal plants around the nation.
I ventured out into the sweltering DC heat to bring you this video of Bloomberg’s remarks:
I’m joining the Sierra Club on another front in the battle for clean air and that is in ending America’s reliance on coal-fired power plants specifically by working to phase out existing power plants like the one right behind me [in Alexandria, Va]. And we’re calling this campaign Beyond Coal. It’s especially timely to put the focus on coal on a day when the region is under Code Orange alert for pollution levels considered dangerous to children and other particularly vulnerable people.
Every year, coal burning power plants like this one cause more than 200,000 asthma attacks nationwide, many of them affecting children. Coal pollution also kills 13,000 people every year and costs us a hundred billion dollars in medical expenses. Just think about that. 13,000 people from something that’s planned and is something that is going to happen again next year and the year after and the year after unless we do something about it. The burning of coal does terrible harm to children, mothers, and families across the country. Every year coal pollution causes birth defects and developmental problems for children. And we can change it. There’s just no question about the science
I had a chance to chat with Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune briefly about their strategy. They aim to create enforceable deals to shut down one third of the dirtiest coal plants in this country by 2020 — and replace them with clean energy. Everything you could want to know about the Sierra club’s Beyond Coal Campaign is here.
I think they have a real chance of succeeding. As Bloomberg said, in the past decade, the Sierra Club’s efforts have helped to stop “the construction of more than 150 plants all over the country and in every case they have worked with local utilities and local governments and local community groups to develop a plan to replace that dirty energy with energy from cleaner sources.”
Bloomberg’s investment is certainly a “game changer,” as Brune said — not just because it will allow Sierra Club to greatly expand its efforts (from 15 states to 45) — but also because Bloomberg personally committed to help make it happen. Bloomberg is a centrist politician, successful billionaire businessman, and a committed philanthropist. He is a guy who makes things happen
Here is a transcript of his full remarks, which extend beyond the video above (I used my iPhone for that):
The Sierra Club is running this full-page advertisement in CQ, The Hill, Politico, Roll Call, and the National Journal’s Congress Daily AM tomorrow. Click here to enlarge.
Last week, the Washington, DC consulting firm Bonner & Associates was exposed for forging letters in opposition to the American Clean Energy and Security Act. Bonner forged letters from the Virginia branch of the NAACP and local community organization Cruciendo Juntos to Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA), a freshman representative whom the GOP attacked with false ads after he voted in favor of the clean energy legislation. On Friday, Rep. Ed Markey announced his global warming committee would investigate Bonner’s fraud. Today, MoveOn.org began a petition to urge the Department of Justice to investigate this naked fraud in opposition to climate and energy reform:
A lobbying firm hired to fight clean energy was caught sending forged letters from the NAACP and a Hispanic nonprofit to a Democratic congressman. Please conduct a thorough investigation into whether the firm, Bonner & Associates, committed fraud, and how often they’ve done this.
The Sierra Club has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice calling for an investigation, explaining how Bonner’s actions constitute wire fraud:
The Sierra Club will also be running a full-page advertisement in CQ, The Hill, Politico, Roll Call, and the National Journal’s Congress Daily AM tomorrow that mocks the “coalition to kill clean energy jobs” as “tall tales from Washington lobbyists.”
Bonner & Associates have blamed their forgeries on a “temporary employee,” have not admitted whether they sent fraudulent letters to any other members of Congress, and have yet to disclose their clients.
At 10 PM tonight, the Sierra Club’s Carl Pope and right-wing oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens began a live-streamed chat that had been advertised across the Internet as an “e-rally” in response to the presidential debate. Pickens and Pope previously met in a discussion moderated by Center for American Progress Action Fund president John Podesta, in which the three found common ground on the question of getting off our dependence on oil.
Under the banner of the Pickens Plan to increase wind and natural gas use, Pickens and other natural gas titans are fueling a major campaign to support Proposition 10 in California, which would give $5 billion in taxpayer money to natural gas companies. Clean Energy Fuels Corp., a Pickens company, has spent $3.8 million directly pushing Prop 10.
Although the Sierra Club opposes Prop 10, it has raised no money to block the measure, according to state records.
He has no interest in conservation and no interest in greening our energy supply. He’s merely interested in energy independence and if that involves renewable energy, not to mention if he can make billions off of it, then so be it. He made it clear that he wants more domestic drilling than even John McCain. In his own words: “McCain says, ‘OK off the east and west coast.’ I say east, west coast and ANWR—get it all!”
So let me get this straight. We can’t drill our way out of this problem, but we should drill everything anyway? Could there perhaps be some lingering vested interests for T. Boone?