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Fighting coal plants in the West

James Hansen runs NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. One of the key objectives of the institute is to research and attempt to predict global climate change. An authority on climate science, Hansen has become a prominent voice on the need to act on global warming. But Bush administration officials try to stop him from talking; they don't like how he answers questions. Here's an example. Asked about how to limit the impact of global warming in July of this year, Hansen said:

There are long lists of things that people can do to help mitigate climate change. But for reasons quantified in my most recent publication, "How Can We Avert Dangerous Climate Change?" a moratorium on coal-fired power plants without CCS is by far the most important action that needs to be pursued. It should be the rallying issue for young people. The future of the planet in their lifetime is at stake. This is not an issue for only Bangladesh and the island nations, but for all humanity and other life on the planet. It seems to me that young people, especially, should be doing whatever is necessary to block construction of dirty (no CCS) coal-fired power plants.

According to this New York Times piece, people all over the West are opposing new coal plants, and it's not just hippies and young people. Apparently, it's ranchers and farmers, too. Richard D. Liebert, a Republican cattle rancher in Montana:

The more I learn about global warming and watch the drought affect ranchers and farmers, I see that it's wind energy, not coal plants, that can help with rural economic development. Besides, do we want to roll the dice with the one planet we've got?

Local citizens stopped a new coal plant in Idaho, another in Kansas, and they're working on shutting down production of other proposed plants in Montana and Iowa. In Kansas, the state denied a permit for a new coal plant explicitly because of global warming impacts. Roderick L. Bremby, the secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said in a statement:

I believe it would be irresponsible to ignore emerging information about the contribution of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to climate change and the potential harm to our environment and health if we do nothing.

But there's more trouble down the river:

Government projections suggest that coal, which provides 50 percent of the nation's electricity and a quarter of its total energy, will continue to dominate the nation's energy mix, despite its environmental problems. As of last May, the Energy Department projected that 151 coal-fired plants could be built by 2030 to meet a 40 percent rise in demand for electricity, largely from soaring populations in Western states.
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