Thursday, September 17, 2009

We Can't Afford Clean Energy, We Spent All Our Money on Coal!

Life in coal country is hard. Jobs aren't easy to come by. People have been told for generations now that the only way they'll get by, the only way their very way of life can survive, is to hitch their wagons to Big Coal.

Coal & PovertyBut coal's always been a losing bet. Maps of mountaintop removal overlap almost perfectly with poverty rates. In the face of that hard evidence, people in coal country who can start to sound like they're stuck in a dead-end relationship. No one else can ever love us but Big Coal! I know it's wrong, but it's all we have! And politicians of both parties have been convinced to look the other way by the coal money lining their pockets.

People trapped in dead-end relationships tend to rationalize it with statements that don't make any sense. Like this editorial from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph:
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the federal cap-and-trade legislation will eventually cost the average household an extra $175 per year. Sadly, folks in our region — who have been bombarded with one rate increase after another in recent years — simply can’t afford to pay another nickel, dime or penny for electricity.
How can we possibly afford to leave coal -- we're getting soaked by coal! It's like a friend saying, "I can't possibly afford a new car -- it takes every dollar I have to keep my clunker on the road!"

It's not clean energy that's a risky financial bet -- it's staying hooked on increasingly expensive coal-fired power. And here in Virginia, we know what a lousy partner coal can be. We felt the pinch of coal's rising rates three times in the last year:
  • An 18% rate hike last year, primarily to cover higher coal costs
  • An average fee of $1.84 per customer in January to pay for the new coal-fired power plant in Wise County
  • A 6.1% hike in September to pay for the Wise County plant and new transmission lines to carry coal-fired power from the Midwest to East Coast cities
Look, Coal Country. We're not saying you didn't love Big Coal with all your heart. But maybe they're just not the ones for you.

In fact, maybe you can find someone better. A shift to clean energy would create millions more jobs than staying addicted to coal.

And admit it -- wouldn't it feel good to finally kick that no-good, dirty Big Coal to the curb?

Cross-posted from Blue Virginia

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