When your city launches an effort to implement a major and complicated policy change, it helps if your mayor is a billionaire. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been moving the Big Apple away from fossil fuel-generated energy and toward alternative energy sources, made a donation yesterday of $50 million to the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign. The goal is to shut down coal-fired power plants across the country and cut energy production from coal by 30% by 2020. Mayor Bloomberg’s donation of $50 million was called a “game changer” by the Sierra Club in the fight against coal. Right here in Los Angeles there is a long-range goal to end the city’s reliance on coal-fired power plants, also by 2020, but just like in the rest of the country it will be an uphill battle. Coal provides nearly half of the nation’s electricity and accounts for roughly a third of its output of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. At the same time electricity from alternative sources, from solar to wind to biofuels is soaring, providing almost 12% of the nation’s production, representing a big jump from just a few years ago. The coal industry calls the Beyond Coal campaign “beyond jobs” and says that warnings about the health risks of coal are overblown. Is there life beyond fossil fuels and can $50 million really change the game?
Bruce Nilles, deputy conservation director at the Sierra Club
Molly Peterson, KPCC environment reporter