Bummed out about Copenhagen, the U.S. Senate, that expensive-sounding kggrstch emanating from somewhere in your transmission? Well, here’s some good news to sip and enjoy: the amazing success of the fight to stop new coal plants. Consider the situation in early 2007. At that time the Energy Department released a survey showing 151 new coal plants in progress. Speaking to the National Press Club in February 2007, NASA’s head climate scientist James Hansen identified stopping this boom in new coal plant construction as a necessary condition for halting climate disaster.
Hansen’s focus on coal proved invaluable as a yardstick for grassroots climate activists. Across the country, hundreds of small groups mobilized to block the wave of construction. While many national groups assisted the grassroots groups, two deserve particular kudos for zeroing in specifically on stopping coal plants: Sierra Club and Rainforest Action Network.
In my account of the anti-coal movement, Climate Hope: On the Front Lines of the Fight Against Coal, I document 100 coal plant cancellations between mid-2007 and mid-2009. That number continues to grow, with the Sierra Club tracking list now showing 123 coal projects derailed as Feb. 12. Of the 151 coal plants listed by the Energy Department in 2007, the CoalSwarm wiki lists 95 plants cancelled or abandoned.
That’s a .629 batting average–incredible!
For the first time in six years, not a single new coal plant broke ground in 2009, a radical turnaround from projections of three years ago.
But the success of the anti-coal movement hasn’t been limited to stopping new coal plants. The vast infrastructure of existing plants — call it the Carbon Archipelago — is beginning to crumble as well. And overseas, the Chinese coal plant boom is also fading. I’ll make those two closely related developments the subject of upcoming posts.