Take a larger perspective

Thank you for your coverage of the recent protests to bring attention to Bank of America’s financing of mountaintop removal. Your efforts to report from the perspectives of the activists, police and business owners are commendable.

However, there was one glaring omission: the overarching context of the topic of the protest. For anyone who’s seen the outcome of mountaintop removal, the devastating impact on communities and bioregions is obvious (see www.ilovemountains.org for details). However, the long-term social and economic chaos that will be caused by the ongoing use of coal-burning power plants may not be as widely understood. For a bit of context, please see the statistics recently collected by Architecture 2030 (www.architecture2030.org/news/e-news.html). Here are some examples:

• Home Depot has funded the planting of 300,000 trees in U.S. cities. Each tree will absorb and store about one-third of a ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) over its lifetime. The CO2 emissions from only one medium-sized (500 MW) coal-fired power plant, in just 10 days of operation, would negate Home Depot’s entire effort.

• Wal-Mart, the largest “private” purchaser of electricity in the world, is investing a half-billion dollars to reduce the energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of their existing buildings by 20 percent over the next seven years. The CO2 emissions from only one medium-sized coal-fired power plant, in just one month of operation each year, would negate Wal-Mart’s entire effort.

• California, with over 10 percent of the country’s new-vehicle market, passed legislation to cut GHG emissions in new cars by 25 percent and in SUVs by 18 percent, starting in 2009. If every car and SUV sold in California in 2009 met this standard, the CO2 emissions from only one medium-sized coal-fired power plant would negate California’s 2009 effort in just eight months.

• If every household in the U.S. changed a 60-watt incandescent light bulb to a compact fluorescent, the CO2 emissions from just two medium-sized coal-fired power plants each year would negate this entire effort.

This should shed some serious light on the urgency with which this issue needs to be addressed, reminding us all that good intentions and token “green” gestures will not be enough to avoid cataclysmic climate change. Societies around the planet need to act immediately to put a halt to these immensely destructive power-generation facilities. Economic “progress” that threatens the well-being of future generations and the health of our planet isn’t just greedy and myopic, it’s suicide.

It is highly commendable that Bank of America is directing $20 billion towards encouraging sustainable innovations, but the facts illustrate the extent to which their efforts are quickly canceled out by their support of the coal industry. I found these statistics to be simultaneously eye-opening and depressing, so you may consider interviewing some local environmental and energy experts to explain the innovative ways in which our community can become involved with halting these disastrous practices. I hope you even find this issue important enough to cover as a front-page story.

— David McConville

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