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Students are leading the way in moving beyond coal

Penn State students successfully moved their campus off coal.Photo: Sierra ClubNationwide, young people are working to move their college campuses and communities beyond coal to clean energy solutions -- and they are winning. In the past few weeks we've seen three colleges decide to move beyond coal on their campuses, showing yet again that students are helping to lead the fight for clean energy. Just this week we saw Miami University of Ohio announce it would immediately begin reducing the amount of coal burned on campus and eventually eliminate it altogether. Miami students had worked for months to pressure the …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Coal

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Susan Sarandon explains mountaintop-removal mining in 60 seconds [VIDEO]

If most of us have a notion of mountaintop-removal mining, it's that somewhere in Appalachia a bunch of extras from Winter's Bone are getting their view spoiled by some trucks and TNT. But these are real people, and the environmental catastrophe they're experiencing -- entire counties turned into flattened moonscapes like you'd expect after a nuclear bomb -- is entirely unnecessary, even for a country as coal-addicted as the United States. If you remember one thing from this video, it should be this: only 7 percent of our nation's coal comes from mountaintop-removal mining. The U.S. is also a significant …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Coal

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Natural gas from fracking is worse for climate than coal, says new study

Photo: Erland HowdenNatural gas obtained through "fracking" -- the increasingly common process of splitting open underground deposits with high pressure chemicals -- now has an even bigger strike against it than its potential to contaminate regional water supplies. Fracking, it turns out, yields more global warming per unit of energy than coal -- at least 20 percent more, and possibly up to twice as much. Those are the bombshell findings of a new study [PDF] released by a trio of scientists at Cornell University. It turns out that after the fracking process, when the high-pressure drilling fluid is flowing back …

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FX’s ‘Justified’ features mountaintop-removal mining controversy [VIDEO]

One of the best new shows to hit TV in years is Justified, on FX. For one thing, it's got one of my favorite actors, Timothy Olyphant, doing a variation on the strong, silent, badass type he played in Deadwood -- this time as a U.S. marshal. Timothy Olyphant on FX's Justified. Justified is about a culture that is virtually absent from national popular entertainment: Appalachia. It's set in Harlan County, Ky., and portrays the hardscrabble life there with a degree of empathy that surprised me when I first watched. (The entertainment industry is not known for its sensitivity to …

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America’s energy use, in one nifty chart

Periodically, it's nice to step back and get reacquainted with some energy basics. There's no better way to do it than with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's famed (or oughtta be famed) energy flow charts. Here's the most recent, from 2009 (click for larger version): Chart: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory I'm not going to ruin the pretty picture with a bunch of wonk talk. Just a few basic things that are worth noticing: 1. Holy sh*t we waste a lot of energy! I mean seriously. Look up there in the top right -- "rejected energy." Well over half of the raw …

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New wind now costs the same as new coal — the tiebreaker is one of them kills you

The radical environmentalists at Bloomberg have declared that the world's best new wind projects now produce electricity that costs about the same as electricity produced from new coal-fired power plants. A lot goes into these calculations, but here's the bottom line: wind costs $65 a megawatt-hour, while power from new coal-fired power plants costs about $68 an hour. Coal would be much cheaper if there were no environmental controls on it. So if you like asthma, poor air quality, and premature death, be sure to vote for whichever politicians are all about rolling back environmental controls.

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Me, talking about the Clean Energy Standard [VIDEO]

Last week, I sat down for an interview with EnergyNow about the Clean Energy Standard that Obama introduced during his State of the Union. Senate Energy Committee Chair Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) recently put out a white paper soliciting ideas for how the policy should be constructed. In the first bit, I discuss the CES mechanism and the many unanswered questions about how it will work: In the second, I talk about the politics of the situation: It is possible in theory to construct a CES that would make a substantial, positive difference in America's …

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A year after the deadly Upper Big Branch mine disaster, not much has changed

Today marks the one-year memorial of the Upper Big Branch mine disaster, which killed 29 workers. Massey Energy Co., which ran the Upper Big Branch mine, will idle production at its 60 underground mines today -- but as safety reports and lawsuits pile up, it becomes increasingly clear that a one-day shutdown is not enough. There have been at least 10 wrongful death lawsuits, including one that alleges several miners survived the initial blast and died later, counter to the official story. Safety investigations begun after the tragedy are now nearing completion, and the chief investigator says that “the explosion …

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World Bank to the poor: ‘Coal’s good enough for you!’

The World Bank -- famous for funding gobsmackingly huge, planet-killing coal-fired power plants -- is changing its tune, sort of. Under a new set of proposed rules, the Bank would only be allowed to fund gobsmackingly huge, planet-killing coal-fired power plants in the world's poorest countries. Progress! Okay, that sounds dastardly, but it’s a little complicated. The world's poorest countries are exactly the countries that will suffer most under climate change, so less coal is good (though no coal would be better). But they’re also the countries for whom energy poverty represents an even bigger threat than climate change, meaning …

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The coal power industry’s willfully deceptive picture of EPA rules

Every Republican who's come within shouting distance of a microphone in the past year has charged the EPA with out-of-control, unconstitutional job-killing malefaction -- "regulatory overreach" for short. More than a few conservative Dems, led by the crudely pandering Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, have followed suit. This is their way of advocating for the interests of a certain set of companies, companies with business models premised on offloading social and health costs to the public. Those companies understandably don't want to be held accountable for their externalized costs, so they portray the economic consequences of doing so as …