The “other” Achilles heel of coal

We’ve seen states like Kansas reject coal plants because of concerns the emissions will accelerate global warming. That is the biggest fatal flaw with coal. We’ve also seen that nuclear power has its own Achilles heel in a globally warmed world — water.

Now the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in a major editorial, raise both the emissions issue and the water issue for coal. They question whether now is the time to be building thirsty coal plants in a state where major water sources like Lake Lanier (see picture) are drying up:

Months before the drought had seized the public’s full attention, the state Environmental Protection Division [EPD] granted permits for a new coal-fired power plant in Early County, a rural community in a severely depressed corner of southwest Georgia. But for a variety of reasons — — including mounting concerns about long-lasting water shortages and worsening air pollution — — state regulators ought to reconsider, or perhaps even reverse, their decision.

The drought has forced citizens and political officials to confront environmental concerns that are usually brushed aside. So, while Mother Nature has our attention, Georgia’s leaders should think broadly about conserving all of our resources and expanding our energy portfolio.

Just how much water does the coal plant need?

the plant is expected to consume nearly 20 million gallons of water a day from the Chattahoochee River, putting an additional strain on metro Atlanta’s major source of drinking water. While the plant may be a boon to Early County, it could weaken Georgia’s position in the ongoing “water wars” with Florida and Alabama over the disputed Chattahoochee watershed.

The paper notes that “The $2 billion Longleaf Energy Station they’ve proposed would sit on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, about 50 miles upstream from Florida.” And futher, “about two-thirds of Georgia’s electricity is generated by coal-fired plants, such as Longleaf, which scientists say are contributing to global climate change.” Yup, that is what scientists say!

The paper’s startling conclusion:

It’s true that rescinding EPD’s approval of the Longleaf plant would be unprecedented. Nonetheless, the twin specters of continued drought and global warming have provided ample warning that the days of conducting business as usual are over.

The days of business and usual are over. The time to act is now. Kudos to the AJC for its bold call for change.