It is by no stretch of the imagination that the connotations assigned to coal power are overwhelmingly controversial. As an energy source that blatantly pollutes in record amounts, yet provides nearly half of the nation's electricity, coal has garnered vast attention on both sides of the spectrum. Environmental activists deplore the costly and irreversible effects, while supporters of the source praise its seemingly "clean" attributes, boasting that properly managing the fossil fuel will ultimately assist in drastically reducing our dependence on foreign oil. The debate has spawned staunch supporters on either side; however, the seemingly oxymoronic nature of "clean coal" has encouraged the launch of a nationwide campaign to effectively dispel the "clean coal myth."
As a component of the six-part initiative entitled the Climate Recovery Partnership, the Beyond Coal Campaign carries a strong presence in all 50 states; which further implies the palpable concern for the rapid progression of the anti-coal movement. The Sierra Club-launched campaign mobilized in the hopes of significantly reducing carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants — knowingly one of the most devastating sources of global warming pollution. The ultimate goal concerns three areas: ceasing the creation of new coal-fired power plants, phasing out existing plants and, lastly, preventing massive coal reserves from entering the international market.
Since 2008, the campaign has already proudly affirmed results, most notably defeating plans for over 100 new coal-fired plants, which in turn prevents an astounding 335 million tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. In other impressive news, 30 proposed plants were either defeated or abandoned, preventing 102 million tons of pollution. In two years alone, the Beyond Coal Campaign has achieved notable success, and continues to march forward with state-wide initiatives, including a convergence on college campuses.
Closer to home, Georgia is battling coal-inspired issues of immense proportions. In fact, Georgia is home to the most sizable coal-fired power plant in the entire United States: Plant Scherer, owned and operated by Georgia Power. Located in Juliette, just north of Macon, Plant Scherer is the largest single-point source of carbon-dioxide emissions in the nation, and ranks 20th in the world according to a 2007 list compiled by the Center for Global Development. Unfortunately, Georgia's reputation is further tarnished by a statistic noting Plant Scherer is the only power plant in the United States listed in the world's top 25 carbon dioxide producers, leaking a total of 27 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually.
Contrary to the inarguable effects of this particular structure, there are plans to construct three new plants of this nature: Longleaf, Washington and Ben Hill. The silver lining in the cloud of adversity concerns a 2009 video posted on the Sierra Club's website regarding Plant Washington. Filmed near Sandersville, Ga., the video sheds light on the ghastly evidence underlying coal power and how Plant Washington will quite literally drain resources from the community and drastically affect the livelihood of the citizens surrounding the structure. Since the video's creation, four of the ten initial investors have resigned support for the plant, leaving Cobb, Pataula, Snapping Shoals, Washington, Upson and Central Georgia EMC as continued investors.
As one of the largest culprits of air pollution in the United States, coal-fired power plants are not only impossible to ignore, but serve as an antiquated source of electricity that ultimately affect the health of the environment and those who inhabit it. It is crucial to dispel the myth that coal can be implemented without resulting in detrimental effects, including, but not limited to: soot pollution, smog, mercury pollution and the release of toxins in the environment that ultimately settle into our soil and without warning, run off into our water sources.
The legacy that coal power will surely leave in its wake is one of waste and destruction. It is characterized by permanent lung damage, asthma and irreversible damage to trees and plants. The EPA has estimated more than 21 million people live within five miles of a coal-fired power plant, and with this astounding figure at hand, remember to choose wisely. Choose green. Choose clean.