For Immediate Release
Pre-Debate Facts on Coal, Nuclear, and Clean Energy
WASHINGTON - In advance of tonight's presidential debate on
energy and the economy, Greenpeace released a new backgrounder
comparing different energy sources. The release comes after Vice
Presidential candidate Sarah Palin unveiled a new slogan at a rally in
Ohio: "Drill, baby, drill and mine, baby, mine!" to promote more oil
drilling and more coal mining.
wind, and solar are where jobs are sprouting in America," said John
Passacantando, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA. "If Sarah Palin
really wants to help get America's economy going, she should be
screaming ‘Blow, baby, blow' and ‘shine, baby, shine.'"
Further information comparing coal, oil and nuclear power with the
green economy is below. The full backgrounder is available at http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/assets/binaries/debate-backgrounder
THE FACTS ON COAL
Coal Kills Jobs
- The coal industry is one of the least job-intensive
industries in America. According to the University of Massachusetts's
Political Economy Research Institute, investing in wind and solar power
would create 2.8 times as many jobs as the same investment in coal;
mass transit and conservation would create 3.8 times as many jobs as
"Every dollar we invest in dirty
energy like coal and oil is a dollar we can't spend investing in
creating jobs in the clean energy economy," Passacantando said. "Just
about the only way you could generate fewer jobs than the coal industry
is by investing in more oil drilling."
- Green investment would create
approximately triple the number of high-paying jobs (at least $16
dollars an hour) as spending the same amount of money within the oil
- Coal is one of the biggest
contributors to global warming, which is conservatively projected to
cause a $3.8 trillion annual drag on the U.S. economy by 2100 through
increased extreme weather, drought, disease, insect infestation and
other impacts (http://www.nrdc.org/media/2008/080522.asp)
- Green investment is projected to
reduce the unemployment rate to 4.4 percent from 5.7 percent (based on
U.S. labor market conditions in July 2008).
Source data and further information:
Pollin, Robert (University of Massachusetts) et. al. ""Green Recovery:
A Program to Create Good Jobs & Start Building a Low-Carbon
Economy." September, 2008 (http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2008/09/green_recovery.html)
Coal Kills People
- Pollution from coal-fired power
plants causes 23,600 premature deaths, 21,850 hospital admissions,
554,000 asthma attacks, and 38,200 heart attacks every year. That
translates into 3,186,000 lost work days nationwide every single year
and $167.3 billion a year in additional health care costs, much of it
borne by taxpayers. Source: http://www.catf.us/publications/reports/Dirty_Air_Dirty_Power.pdf
- Coal is one of the biggest
- Green investment would create
- In Ohio, where Governor Palin called for more dependence on
coal, power plants are responsible for 1,743 deaths, 1,638 hospital
admissions, and 2,873 heart attacks every year. Source: http://www.catf.us/publications/reports/Dirty_Air_Dirty_Power.pdf
- Citizens of a growing number of other states are wise to
coal's dangers and are taking action. California, Kansas, Florida, and
Idaho have effectively outlawed the construction of new coal-fired
power plants; nationally, at least 59 proposed coal projects have been
cancelled due to public opposition, failure to meet permitting
requirements, or lack of funding.. Source: http://e360.yale.edu/content/feature.msp?id=2014
The Myth of "Clean Coal"
- "Clean coal" technology has, until recently, referred to the
scrubbers used to sweep nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and other
regulated pollutants from coal-fired power plants. But today the coal
industry, and now the presidential campaigns, use the term as shorthand
for carbon capture and sequestration (or CCS), a largely-theoretical
technology that would separate carbon dioxide from smokestacks and bury
it in the ground to limit its global warming impact.
- The first attempt to demonstrate the feasibility of CCS was a
project in Illinois called FutureGen. But the government was forced to
abandon the trial in January after years of technical failures and
budget overruns. Nationwide, approximately $5.2 billion in taxpayer and
ratepayer money has been invested in the technology, however a recent
government report found that of 13 projects examined, eight had serious
delays or financial problems, six were years behind schedule, and two
were bankrupt. (http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d081080.pdf)
- Even if engineers are able
to overcome the chemical and geological challenges of separating and
safely storing massive quantities of CO2, a study published this month
shows that CCS requires so much energy that it would increase emissions
by 40 percent of smog, soot, and other dangerous pollution. http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/35181/title/Carbon_sequestration_frustratio
More information: "False Hope," May, 2008 Greenpeace Report on Problems with CCS: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/climate-change/coal/carbon-capture-and-storage
Coal Destroys Mountains and Forests and Pollutes America's Water Supply
- Most coal mining in the Eastern U.S. today uses an intensive
practice known as mountain top removal to extract coal from the ground.
Mountain-top removal has leveled more than 450 mountains across
Appalachia. (Map of destroyed mountains at http://www.flickr.com/photos/nationalmemorialforthemountains/255150433/)
- Mountain top removal destroys
ecosystems, stripping away topsoil, trees, and understory habitats,
filling streams and valleys with rubble, poisoning water supplies, and
generating massive impoundments that can cause catastrophic floods.
(pics and info at
More information at: http://www.mountainjusticesummer.org/facts/steps.php
- Mountain top removal destroys
Greenpeace has released a new video about America's addiction to oil, available at http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/campaigns/global-warming-and-energy/break-the-addiction.
Oil drilling causes oil spilling
- Hurricane Ike resulted in at least three missing oil rigs.
One missing rig was owned by Rowan Cos., resulting in a $60 million
claim. The rig has never been recovered.
- Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
caused 124 offshore spills for a total of 743,700 gallons. 554,400
gallons were crude oil and condensate from platforms, rigs and
pipelines, and 189,000 gallons were refined products from platforms and
- As global warming worsens,
supercharged storms like Katrina and Rita will continue to pummel
coastal areas and oil infrastructure, meaning more oil spills are
Oil drilling won't lower gas prices
- The United States burns 24 percent of the world's oil, yet it
only has 3 percent of the world's oil reserves. Even if the country
drilled every drop of oil the U.S. has on shore or off its coasts, it
will never be able to drill its way to lower oil prices or energy
security. The country simply burns more than it could ever drill.
- Offshore oil drilling is
not a short-term fix. It will take at least a decade to bring new
leases into production. It will be years before exploration will begin
and years after that before production will start. If any effect were
to be felt on gas prices (most likely only a few pennies per gallon),
that effect is decades away.
- Offering up more of the
coastline for drilling won't lower gas prices. There is no correlation
between increased drilling and lower gas prices. The number of drilling
permits increased by 361 percent from 1999 to 2007, yet prices continue
- Oil prices are set on the
global oil market, which means that all oil produced around the world
is all sold at the same price. There is no guarantee that the country
would even be using the oil that was drilled in the U.S.--it would pay
the same rate as the rest of the world.
Nuclear plants remain highly vulnerable to terrorist attack.
- Although seven years have passed since the attacks of 9/11,
America's nuclear power plants remain highly vulnerable to terrorist
attack even thought U.S. officials acknowledge that the architect of
the attacks - Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - originally planned to fly the
planes into nuclear facilities in the U.S. Moreover, according to the
Congressional Research Service, nuclear power plants are not designed
to withstand airliner attack. (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/crs/rs21131.pdf)
Nuclear power can't compete with clean energy as a solution to global warming.
2003, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) under the directorship of
McCain's own economic advisor, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, indicated that loan
guarantees for nuclear plants had a 50 percent chance of defaulting.
CBO considers the risk of default on such a loan guarantee to be very
high-well above 50 percent. The key factor accounting for this risk is
that we expect that the plant would be uneconomic to operate because of
its high construction costs, relative to other electricity generation
Nuclear power requires massive taxpayer subsidies.
- Last July, six major U.S. banking institutions including
Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch
& Morgan Stanley sent a letter to the Department of Energy (DOE).
In it, the bankers told DOE that unless the U.S. taxpayer backed 100
percent of the debt incurred by nuclear corporations that they would
have difficulty "accessing capital markets. "We believe these risks,
combined with the higher capital costs and longer construction
schedules of nuclear plants as compared to other generation facilities,
will make lenders unwilling at present to extend long-term credit to
such projects in a form that would be commercially viable," their
letter said. http://www.lgprogram.energy.gov/nopr-comments/comment29.pdf
The French Model? France's Nuclear Industry Has Been Plagued by Delays, Cost Overruns, and Leaks
- While politicians point to France as an model for new nuclear
plants in the United States, France's new Evolutionary Power Reactor
(EPR) has had tremendous cost overruns and is now estimated to cost
$6.5 billion dollars per plant.
- One French-designed plant in
Finland has experienced "flawed welds for the reactor's steel liner,
unusable water-coolant pipes and suspect concrete in the foundation
already have pushed back the delivery date of the Olkiluoto 3 unit by
at least two years." (http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aFh1ySJ.lYQc&refer=home)
CLEAN ENERGY FACTS
The clean energy economy is creating jobs and prosperity
- Colorado's recent investment in wind power technology
demonstrates the viability of large-scale clean energy solutions. Two
years ago, when Colorado voters were considering a measure to require
10 percent of their electricity to come from clean sources, Xcel
Energy, the state's biggest electric utility fought the initiative
tooth and nail. However, after the ballot initiative passed, Xcel
installed thousands of megawatts of clean energy, met the requirement
eight years ahead of schedule, and quickly agreed to double its goal to
20 percent. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/17/AR2008081702193.html)
- The same program could
easily be duplicated across the country. Enough wind power blows
through the Midwest corridor every day to also meet 100 percent of US
electricity demand. Similarly, geothermal energy is capable of
providing tremendous electricity supplies for America.
- Scientists have shown that
enough solar energy hits the earth every 40 minutes to meet 100 percent
of the entire world's energy needs for a year. A report released by the
energy consulting firm Clean Edge in June showed that solar energy
could meet 10 percent of the of the country's electricity needs by 2025.
Clean Energy Can Provide the Equivalent of $1 / gallon gas
- Plug-in hybrids running on clean energy provide transportation for the equivalent of approximately $1 / gallon (http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2006/8/25/132857/180 and http://select.nytimes.com/2006/02/05/opinion/05kristof.html?_r=1&oref=sl...).
State-by-state analysis of green investment:
"Renewable Power's Growth in Colorado Presages National Debate":
New data on how investing in green economy solutions like wind and
solar would create about twice the jobs as the Wall Street bailout: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20081013/hurowitz
More details on taxpayer giveaways to energy companies in the bailout bill: http://climateprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/enviro-tax-letter.pdf
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