Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why Cleaner Energy Matters

A view of the Appalachians taken from Carvers Gap in Tennessee

Running 1,500 miles long, the Appalachian mountain system extends from Quebec, Canada to northern Alabama. (1) The Appalachians hold some of the most diversity-rich forests in the United States. They are also the epicenter of devastating activity by US coal companies. In order to obtain the valuable fossil fuel buried deep within the mountains, companies like Peabody Energy level forests and blast away entire mountaintops with high-power explosives, dumping the resulting waste into valleys below. This method of extraction, aptly named "mountaintop removal," erases entire ecosystems, pollutes rivers and streams and can poison mountain and valley residents. (Carcinogenic chemicals can leach into groundwater poisoning wells, for example.) (2) 
The burning of coal to produce electricity has similarly ghastly effects on the environment. Burning coal releases carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. Over the past 200 years, coal has raised carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere by 28%. (3) 
According to the EPA's Clean Energy Power Profiler 49.6% of the electricity used in the United States is generated by burning coal. In our distribution region, 45.1% of electricity used is generated by burning coal (38.3% is generated by nuclear, 9.6% by gas, 4.0% by oil, 1.2% by non-hydro renewables, and .9% by hydropower). By supporting clean-energy alternatives like wind and solar power, we help turn the tide against the coal companies and help protect what should be held as sacred American land.  

Photo & Words - Zoe

(1) "Appalachian Mountains."
(2) Reece, Erik. Lost Mountain.
(3) "Coal."

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