Coal vs. Clean Energy
KING COAL'S THRONE IS STARTING TO TEETER. The industry has been battered by the disaster at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, which killed 29 miners. Less acknowledged are the 10,000 mine workers who have died from black lung disease in the past decade, or the 10,000 people who die every year, according to the National Academies of Science, from coal-fired-power-plant pollution.
Across the country, the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign and other groups have been defeating proposals for new coal-fired plants, fighting mountaintop-removal mines, and pushing states to require utilities to provide a specified percentage of their electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar by a certain date—what's known as a "renewable-energy standard."
Coal divides our nation. Twenty-five states mine coal, but 35 have renewable-energy standards (noted on the map, below), of varying degrees of toughness. Clean-energy activists are busy in almost every state; a sampling of battlegrounds is highlighted here. For a clickable state-by-state map, visit sierraclub.org/coal, and then go take on King Coal where you live. —Paul Rauber
ALASKA Environmentalists are fighting the
proposed Chuitna coal mine, an enormous open-pit
operation that would severely damage one of the
state's finest wild salmon runs.
KENTUCKY There are more than 50
proposed mountaintop-removal mines
in the state. Many may be blocked by the
new EPA guidelines on mine drainage.
COLORADO A bill signed
by Governor Bill Ritter requires
900 megawatts of coal-fired
capacity to be retired.
TEXAS Texas produces more coalderived
power than any other state—
and more wind power. Activists are
fighting 12 new coal facilities.
WEST VIRGINIA In the
heart of coal country, a $6
million grant from the Obama
administration will help train
1,800 people in wind-energy
and biomass technology.
MISSISSIPPI Coal foes
are fighting a 45-square-mile
open-pit mine for lignite, the
dirtiest form of coal (a.k.a.
"brown dirt"), proposed by
Mississippi Power, a division
of the Southern Company.
CALIFORNIA Los Angeles has pledged to
get 20 percent of its electricity from renewables by
the end of 2010 and to kick coal altogether by 2020.
MICHIGAN The Clean Energy Now
coalition managed to whittle eight proposed
coal-fired plants down to three, and it is now
focusing on the huge, 930-megawatt
Consumers' Energy plant in Bay City.
Map and illustrations by Daniel Krall