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The Dirty Truth About "All of The Above" Energy

Sometimes an all-in strategy can tarnish the entire package.

Take for example President Obama’s recent decision to tout an “all-of-the-above” approach to achieving energy independence and lowering gas prices. It’s a catchy, feel-good campaign slogan perfect for banners and sound bites, but it’s a hollow energy strategy. Worse yet, it opens America up for destructive practices by painting the administration into a fossil-fuel corner.

Recently, House Republicans seized on Obama’s vulnerable position by successfully insisting that the administration add “clean coal” to its energy policy website. Never mind that coal is dirty at every step of the process, from mining to burning to disposing of the waste. It’s also the source of 99 percent of mercury from the U.S. power sector and the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S.

Even the coal industry knows that coal is dirty, which is why it has tried desperately to rebrand its baby as “clean coal,” an oxymoron at its finest. The lynch-pin of “clean coal,” carbon sequestration, is wildly expensive and doesn’t address local pollution problems.

Obama’s "all of the above strategy" also has us rushing to drill everywhere from the Arctic to our backyards for oil and gas before the proper precautions and safety measures are put in place. After all, an "all-of-the-above strategy" means that every idea is considered, even if these energy sources pollute our air, contaminate our water and sicken our bodies. Unfortunately, though this is done under the guise of making everyone happy, only those who profit politically and financially are left smiling.

Meanwhile, a majority of Americans who place a high priority on developing alternative energy sources such as solar and wind, eagerly await the day when renewable energy really gets to shine. Under President Obama, electricity generation from solar and wind has more than doubled between 2008 and 2011. And the administration’s new fuel efficiency standards will save consumers an estimated $1.7 trillion dollars in real fuel costs over the life of their vehicles. Unfortunately, this good work is undermined by a strategy that relies on the constant governmental buffing and glossing of coal, oil and gas, which makes them appear sparkling while continuing our dependence on dirty fossil fuels.

Currently, Earthjustice is working to put sustainable energy back in the spotlight by opening up markets to renewable energy sources such as solar and wind on the East Coast, the West Coast and in Hawaiʻi. We’re also ramping up our legal efforts to shut down dirty coal plants, rein in reckless natural gas drilling and protect Arctic ecosystems from risky oil drilling.

Coal, oil and natural gas are all B-list players in the energy sector that have too long fouled our air and water. It’s time for the administration to actually get strategic about its energy strategy and promote the transition from fossil fuels to sustainable technologies like wind and solar, which create energy and jobs while staying clean.

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