by David Rickless, Coalition of Alabama Students for the Environment
No new coal, the long-time rallying cry of the climate movement, is officially a reality. As I wrote earlier, the EPA carbon regulations make new coal plants unfeasible. But that's really just a technicality, because climate and health activists have been enforcing their own moratorium on new coal plants for several years. It's one of the movement's biggest victories, and the political scene very nearly overlooked it.
The recent organized effort to block new coal plants began in the depths the Bush era when our friends at the Sierra Club launched an ambitious campaign called Beyond Coal. Since then, climate advocates have helped cancel over 160 coal-fired plants. How does that translate to carbon emissions? According to Mother Jones, those power plants would have produced 654 million metric tons of CO2--equivalent to 9.5 percent of our current emissions.
Let's put that in perspective. The deceased cap-and-trade bill was, at best, supposed to reduce our emissions 16 percent by 2020. That bill cost green groups $100 million, and the Senate never even voted on it.
That means that activists achieved more than half of what the climate bill claimed to, with zero help from Washington. Of course, coal was already vulnerable. Energy demand has been down across the board, and natural gas is increasingly a better economic bet for power plants. Still, the coal industry wasn't voluntarily giving up on new plants. Without a coordinated grassroots effort, many of those projects would have gone forward.
So, if street-level campaigning beats out Beltway politicking, do we actually need EPA regulations for coal? The answer is a resounding "YES." Here's why:
- After regulating future pollution sources under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is legally required to eventually regulate existing sources--in this case, the hundreds of coal plants that are still belching out carbon pollution.
- The EPA is under fire from Republicans at all levels. To counter these attacks, we need to demonstrate that young people support the agency's work to protect air, water, and climate. Plans to muzzle the EPA should be politically toxic.
- With new coal plants out of the picture, the climate movement can target existing plants and focus on weaning the economy off coal for good.
Action: Show your support for carbon regulations by submitting a public comment to the EPA and spreading the word on your social networks. Then take up the pen (figuratively) on WeArePowerShift and tell us why tackling carbon pollution is important to you.