Sunday, July 15, 2007

Southern Utilities Cling to Coal Burning

We know historically that the South has been extremely slow to change and in fact has been so slow that it has been forced to change when it came to slavery and segregation. It appears that this pattern of resisting change is continuing when it comes to switching from coal burning to renewable energy sources. According to an article from the Associated Press, whereas nearly half of the states now have adopted mandates requiring electric utilities to produce a specific percentage of electricity from renewables, Texas is the only state in the South with such a mandate. Moreover, half of the votes in the Senate to defeat federal legislation to require 15% of electricity to come from renewables were cast by senators from southern states.

A good appreciation of the coal-burning situation in the South can be gained by watching the film Kilowatt Ours. The film shows how burning coal in the South has resulted in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park often being filled with haze instead of usually offering crystal clear views of distant mountains as in the past and how the need for coal in the South, which uses more coal than the national average for generating electricity, leads to the disgraceful practice of mountaintop mining in West Virginia.

The AP article says that the US Environmental Protection Agency ranks three southern utilities—Southern Co., Duke Energy, and the Tennessee Valley Authority—among the top four greenhouse gas emitting utilities in the US. The number one emitter, Southern Co., doesn’t even appear to admit that emissions of carbon dioxide are related to global warming based on statements such as the following by senior executive Chris Hobson who was quoted in the article as saying:

"If we are irrational about it and we cripple our economy or cripple our industry and we realize carbon dioxide wasn't the source of the problem, then we'll be real regretful."

Maybe someone at Southern Co. should read the latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. If they did they would learn that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted from human sources are the source of the problem. Scientists will never say they are 100% sure of a conclusion but this statement was about as close as they will ever get. The Old South may be mostly gone but the New South needs to transform into the Green South.

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