Nilles: Coal and Energy Choice

So, today Dan Evans and I interviewed Bruce Nilles for our film on climate change, Shattered Sky. Nilles is the Sierra Club’s National Coal Campaign Director. He’s pretty focused on ending coal consumption as we know it, and he’s not alone. I asked Nilles if there’s such a thing as clean coal. And, in no uncertain terms, he said the exact same thing that Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy said (who I interviewed a few weeks ago): NO. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is in the study phase, and is at least 10-15 years away as a commercial enterprise. Of course, Nilles emphasized that CCS coal would cost twice as much, and be more expensive as solar and wind. Rogers thoughts that CCS is a good investment. Nilles railed against the production of coal — which includes mountaintop removal, ash ponds, and a certain amount of deaths per year. Rogers didn’t talk much about that.

But we’re in a democracy, right? If we don’t want this anymore, we can change it? “We don’t have choice,” said Nilles. He’s right. Try calling up your monopoly utility company and requesting a second or third option for your electricity. For the approximately 25 states that derive 50% or more of their electricity from coal burning, citizens don’t have much of a choice. Ultimately, is today’s energy debate about providing us with more of a choice? When we find out more, what do we demand? I vote clean. And I suspect, with the right incentives, Rogers’ Duke Energy might invest to help us get there. Possible?

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