Why Not Read the Writing on the Wall and Embrace Renewable Energy?

It sadly comes as no surprise after recent statements by UMWA boss Cecil Roberts  that he is asking the once proud union to protest EPA’s proposed EPA carbon emission standards at a rally outside a public hearing on July 31 in Pittsburgh.

AEP's John Amos coal-fired power plant near Charleston, WV. Photo by Vivian Stockman. Flyover courtesy SouthWings.org

AEP’s John Amos coal-fired power plant near Charleston, WV. Photo by Vivian Stockman. Flyover courtesy SouthWings.org

The idea that the new rule would have “no significant effect on global greenhouse gas emissions” is absurd. Coal-fired power plants in the U.S. are drivers of climate change as the top producers of C02 emissions. In 2011, utility coal plants in the United States emitted a total of 1.7 billion tons of CO2.  A typical coal plant generates 3.5 million tons of CO2 per year.

Roberts does admit in the released statement that climate change is a real phenomenon.

This real phenomenon is already adversely affecting communities and economies across the globe. According to a report by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:

Throughout the 21st century, climate change impacts will slow down economic growth and poverty reduction, further erode food security and trigger new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hotspots of hunger.

Climate change will exacerbate poverty in low- and lower-middle income countries and create new poverty pockets in upper-middle to high-income countries with increasing inequality.

Roberts goes on to say that we need a “global solution” to climate change, and that certainly sounds like a great idea. But, why not start here in American and lead the way? Haven’t we already worked on a global solution years ago – the Kyoto Protocol? This international treaty sets binding obligations on industrialized countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, the United States, under the leadership of George Bush Jr., choose not to sign on to the treaty. Why sabotage a local solution after previously sabotaging a global solution? Climate change is a serious issue and needs action now. Exporting our coal to other counties does nothing to solve this problem; it only creates more problems and further compounds the threat to our future.

So, why don’t we embrace a more sustainable and just future and create new jobs for Appalachia? We can meet the proposed C02 emission targets by scaling up our renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors. In fact, according to a 2012 report commissioned by the Sierra Club, there is the potential to create at least 19,500 jobs in West Virginia by scaling up our energy efficiency.

If the UMWA is looking for new sectors in which to organize, scaling up renewable energy and efficiency jobs offers a great opportunity for the union. Current and future generations of our state deserve just and sustainable employment, jobs that don’t sacrificing our health and the health of our planet.

Our take on the EPA’s carbon emissions standards is here, along with information on a Climate Action now rally in Pittsburgh on July 31. If you want to come to the Climate Action Now rally, hop on the bus.

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Dan

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