The money from coal is not just about energy

14 10 2011

One thing that seems to always come up in debates about coal use is the question of finances. Pro-coal interests will say that coal is cheaper than other energy sources, that it makes sense economically. While that argument doesn’t account for the externalities of coal, like taxpayer dollars spent cleaning up the air or ruling over coal-fueled lawsuits, it is one consideration in talking about our energy priorities. But there’s another financial concern as well, and that comes from donations. Coal and power companies are notorious lobbyists, and that can seriously affect their clout with the government and the law.

For example, here at VT, Beyond Coal has been told that it would cost too much to switch off of coal onto a cleaner energy source. Whether or not that’s true, I don’t know if it addresses another issue — that coal companies donate big sums to the university often, to build our facilities and help the university run. Even at a national level, it seems like these donations are making a difference. Look at this great New York Times article about the cash that flows to Congress from coal.

It looks like this is literally seeping into our law! If our lawmakers can’t look at energy concerns responsibly and objectively, how can they know what to regulate? The president of the EPA noted that she would not be able to effectively do her job if resolutions like the one above pass.

Just some food for thought!

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