Coal Plants and Politics: Surprising Sources of Hope

The United States is obviously the largest global warming villain on earth–it’s pumped more carbon into the atmosphere, for a longer stretch of time, than anyone else, and under President Bush the U.S. has refused to enter into serious negotiations with the rest of the planet. But every once in a while something comes along that gives you a little hope, and this week there were two:

In the western state of Colorado–a bastion of mining interests–the big electric utility Xcel announced it would shut down down two coal-fired power plants in the state and in their place build one of the world’s largest utility-scale solar power plants. This is the first time a U.S. utility has announce plans to close down a coal-fired plant to cut pollution. And not only did they win permission from the state authorities to build a 200-megawatt solar installation, they also asked for and got authority to add 850 megawatts of wind energy to its system. Colorado gets 300 days of sun a year–and their state legislators enacted a so-called “renewable portfolio standard” recently, which forced the utility to seek new, clean sources of power. It’s precisely what we need to do as a planet.

Meanwhile, in Springfield Illinois, presidential candidate Barack Obama introduced his running mate, Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware. At 350.org we don’t take sides in elections in any of the countries we’re at work in–but it’s worth noting that Senator Biden, as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, has made sure to send observers to many of the international negotiations on climate over the years and introduced a resolution for the US to reengage the process, even though the Bush administration balked at taking part. It’s one more sign that, whoever wins, the world may see the U.S. back in the international discussion after November.

 

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