It’s a pretty sad day when a large coal company must beg its customers to complain to the EPA over new pollution standards that will remove harmful particulates from the air and ultimately save lives. Say what you ask? Yes, it’s true. Last week, the general manager of Cherryland Electric’s Cooperative sent an email to company co-op members in Michigan pleading with them to contact the EPA to complain about proposed stricter clean air regulations, even though these same standards will improve their own air quality.
Pollution from coal-fired power plants is no joke and this dirty energy industry ”causes over 13,000 premature deaths, 200,000 asthma attacks, and more than $100 billion in health costs each year across the country.” Still, coal remains one of the cheapest — at least in basic cost terms — forms of energy out there; the externalities, however, are enormous. Mountaintops in the Appalachian Mountains have been blown off for coal, communities torn apart and many a river or stream has been poisoned with mercury runoff from this powerful industry.
Still, no matter how “mighty” big coal is, there’s simply no reason to push customers to lobby the EPA for more pollution, and thankfully, residents of Northern Lower Michigan, where Cherryland Electric operates, didn’t stand for such an advertising ploy. Instead, the residents fought back complaining that Cherryland was out of line. One co-op member stated: ”Co-ops are wonderful business models, but in this case our electric cooperative has lost the original intent of social responsibility in favor of defending coal plants that are environmentally destructive and financially prohibitive.”
In another rather pathetic instance of desperation, the coal industry recently paid unassuming “activists” $50 to wear a t-shirt stating: “America Counts on Coal” at EPA hearings in Chicago and Washington, DC. These hearings were also related to the EPA’s new clean air regulations. Those that wore the shirt found the ad on Craigslist, which contained the ambiguous text: “wear a t-shirt in support of an energy project.”
Whether or not you believe that “clean coal” actually exists, or is a total PR stunt (hint, it’s the latter), coal is an archaic energy source that has got to go. The more big coal acts out of fear of a shifting market demand, the more we see instances — like those mentioned above — of an industry desperately trying to hold on to its money and standing in the energy sector. It’s time to move on, however, to clean, renewable energy and if the coal industry was smart, executives would realize this and leave dirty coal behind for cleaner energy investments.
Photo Credit: Stefan Wernli