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coal

Yesterday the White House took a firm stand against an effort to undermine the 40-year-old Clean Air Act, reverse a Supreme Court decision, and block the federal fuel efficiency standards that were finalized this past spring, which will reduce the nation's consumption of oil by at least 455 million barrels.
 

If we have any hope of reversing global warming and breaking our addiction to fossil fuels, we will need to find and pay attention to geniuses who can discard traditional thinking and biases and find a way through the current mess to a future energy economy based on efficiency and renewables.

In 1970, just in time for the first Earth Day, Friends of the Earth and Ballantine Books published The Environmental Handbook, which eventually sold more than a million copies. I had a short chapter in there titled Ecopornography, or How to Spot an Ecological Phony. The idea was to try to help people recognize what we might call greenwashing--image ads from big companies that gloss over, lie about, downplay, or otherwise sweep their environmental crimes under the rug.

Last week, Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) released a long-awaited discussion draft of their climate and energy bill, the American Power Act. Among the bill's big giveaways to polluters was a surprise invitation to exempt dirty old power plants from clean-up requirements for soot, smog, and toxics such as mercury.

Coal-fired power plants generate enough coal ash every year to fill a train stretching from the North Pole all the way to the South Pole. There is enough coal ash being stored in ponds and landfills to fill 738 Empire State Buildings, or flow continuously over Niagara Falls for three days straight. It's no mystery that we create staggering amounts of coal ash, the dangerous byproduct of burning coal to fuel our energy demands.

It's been a long time coming, but they're finally here: the EPA announced today plans to set the first ever federal safeguards for coal ash, one of America's most dangerous wastes. But what they really did was announce two plans: one good and one bad. The agency will accept public comment on both plans and then decide which to pursue.

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