Coalin' Power at the DNC

August 29 2008, 11:01 AM

Wooden hotel key-cards. Vehicles running on beer-waste ethanol. Cash incentives for biking and carpooling. Coal. Which one isn't part of greening the Democratic convention? Before you buzz in with your answer, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity wants to have a few words with you.

During the convention, several experts from the organization will be available to talk about how coal power fits in with other greening initiatives going on in Denver and around the country. Brad Jones, a spokesman for the group, says the media blitz will also include print ads and billboards for coal, and a "street team" that will ensure delegates understand "the important role coal plays in meeting our energy demands." But, green coal? We know what you're saying: Not on a train! Not in a tree! Not in a car! Sam! Let me be! Well, consider that if we want to fuel ourselves domestically, for environmental and national-security reasons, coal is our lump of choice. That's especially true in Colorado, where we produce 38 million tons of anthracite annually and get almost three-fourths of our energy from the stuff (as readers of 5280's November 2007 issue know). Still, convention followers and delegates should take any insight from the coalition with a grain of carbon-free salt. The organization is composed of forty companies in the mining, utilities, and railroad sectors, including Tri-State, which recently lost a battle with the state of Kansas to build two new coal plants in the Jayhawk State that would have produced energy mostly for Colorado. In fact, the coalition is a hybrid of two previous pro-coal efforts, including Americans for Balanced Energy Choices. That group had plans to spend $35 million this year on coal-is-your-friend p.r., and even sponsored one of the Republican primary debates (which, oddly, didn't include any questions on climate-change policy). The coalition already has some good stories to spin this coming week. On August 19, the state approved Xcel's plan to shutter two coal plants and replace them with natural-gas production. The move will reduce the state's carbon emissions by 1.4 million tons a year. What does the coalition have to say about that? "We're of the notion that Xcel has studied its demand and can meet that demand without those coal plants," says Jones, "but what it comes down to in Colorado is that it's important that coal still is and does remain a prominent piece of the energy portfolio."

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