Getting fired up over a Union of Concerned Scientists action alert about coal-fired power plants, I sent the following message to my elected federal representatives:

Representative Mark Steven Kirk
Senator Barack Obama
Senator Richard ‘Dick’ J. Durbin
While our economic woes have taken much of our collective attention of late, we face another, less immediate, but no less important transnational danger in the impending global climate crisis. Even while we take necessary steps to shore up our economy, we must ensure that the investments we make to meet our energy needs are in our long-term best interest. Therefore, please act to prevent construction of any coal-fired power plants lacking the ability to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions. Constructing new pulverized coal power plants would lock the United States into decades of increased greenhouse gas emissions that would make it extremely difficult to avoid the worst consequences of global warming, as well as spread the well-documented degraded air quality and public health problems created by coal combustion.

The best way to accomplish this restriction for new coal plants is to pass legislation putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions through a carbon dioxide tax and/or cap & trade emissions credits, which would allow the free market to allocate investment capital to the technologies that most efficiently provide the energy we need without adding to atmospheric greenhouse gas levels.

However, failing that comprehensive market-driven approach, government regulation and public funding of new coal-fired power plants should require carbon capture and storage technology, and be limited to a handfull of demonstration plants until such technology is proven to be safe, reliable, and cost-effective. The Union of Concerned Scientists has found that the U.S. can meet its near-term energy needs and curb greenhouse gas emissions through current renewable-energy and energy-efficiency technologies, so significant investment in dirty energy sources like coal is not warranted at this time. Rather, the U.S. should focus on catalyzing job creation & economic recovery through investment in innovation in clean, renewable energy sources to meet our long-term energy needs while simultaneously averting the most devastating impacts of a global warming-induced climate crisis.