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Big Coal vs. Renewable, Cleaner Energy

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday September 15th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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The federal government is in bed with the coal industry. A prime example is the $2 million spent in advertising at both the Democratic and Republican conventions by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). Founded this year, the ACCCE combined the Center for Energy and Economic Development and Americans for Balanced Energy Choices. Already the ACCCE has spent $4.7 million on lobbying, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis.
One of the first actions of ACCCE was killing a Senate bill sponsored by Senator John Warner and Senator Joe Lieberman that would have put the first caps on carbon emissions.


According to a case study of the group on Greenpeace’s website, Stopgreenwash.org ACCCE ran local ads in Iowa, Nevada, South Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The group also uses 150,000 supporters they call the “civilian army,” and a Power Van that is decorated with ‚Äòclean coal’ slogans.
ACCCE gave $5 million to co-sponsor six presidential debates. During the debates no questions were asked about climate change and coal’s contributions to it.
The coal industry has not implemented technologies to reduce carbon emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2006 stated that electricity generation is the “single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.,” totaling 33 percent.
However, there is good news: 59 proposed coal plants were either canceled or put on hold, and the Department of Energy (DOE) canceled a FutureGen project for Illinois. Kansas became the first state in October 2007 to reject a permit for a new coal fired plant because of its potential contributions to climate change.
California leads the way
It is a blessing that California does not possess an abundance of coal. The Climate Group said that California invested $523 million in clean tech industry in 2005, and believes that the clean tech industry will create 20,000 to 83,000 jobs in California. Venture capitalists invested $307 million in California’s clean tech industry in the first quarter of 2007 (more than double the amount invested in Europe).
In addition, the state government, including Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, encourages the use of clean energy, namely solar. In a state with plenty of sunshine, investing in solar energy is a smart move.
California established the Renewable Portfolio Standard Program in 2002, with the initial goal of increasing the amount of renewable energy used to 20 percent by 2017, currently it is 11 percent, but increased the goal to 33 percent by 2020.
The California Public Utilities Commission created the California Solar Initiative (CSI) in 2006. The CSI encourages the use of renewables in a myriad of ways: it provides incentives for renewable fuel projects, authorized a pilot solar water heater program for San Diego Gas and Electric Company customers, and reserved 10 percent of its funds for low-income and affordable housing. In 2007 the CSI’s rebate program will provide $2.9 billion in rebates over ten years.
In 2007 the California Energy Commission began to manage the $350 billion earmarked for new residential building construction, called the New Solar Homes Partnership, with the goal to encourage renewable projects during the years 2007 to 2011.
Other states follow suit
Recently the state of Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT) was awarded a $500,000 federal DOE grant. The grant will be combined with $900,000 contributions from the private sector and $350,000 the state received for related studies to increase the use of renewable energy.
Last December, Massachusetts began a $38 million program to increase the use of solar power from four megawatts to 250 by 2017. The program will give four years of rebates to businesses and residences.
During the same month, the Pennsylvania Senate passed a $650 million energy bill that will boost its cleantech industry by with up to $50 million worth of rebates for solar panels.


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