The Al Gore-Inspired ‘War On Coal’ Growing as Activists in US and UK Risk Jail to Protest

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Al Gore’s call to arms against coal-fired power plants is being answered by a growing number of activists willing to risk jail time in a campaign that’s starting to look like a serious threat to billions of dollars of planned and embedded investment.

This fall the former U.S. vice president and Nobel Peace Prize-winning environmentalist publicly called for civil disobedience against the construction of new coal plants.

Since then, a group of Greenpeace protesters in Great Britain tried to interfere with the operation of an existing coal plant. Meanwhile in the U.S., more than a dozen protesters were arrested at the gates of a site in Virginia where a new coal plant is to be built. The protesters reportedly chained themselves to steel barrels and held aloft a banner lit by solar panels.

For every ongoing public protest, news reports suggest there are several legal challenges underway by environmental lawyers in both countries. Adding fuel to the fire, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s appeal board recently ruled in effect that new coal plants cannot be built without expensive equipment for controlling their carbon dioxide emissions. Experts say this paves the way for President-elect Obama to try and thwart new coal-plant construction as part of his plans for a new energy economy.

New statistics from UtiliPoint, an energy research organization, indicate that advocates in this growing war on coal could cause tremendous financial damage. In the U.S. alone, UtiliPoint says there are 31 coal power plants under construction, 38 plants in the permitting stage, and 19 plants in various pre-permitting stages.

All told, these 88 planned and proposed new coal plants represent a total investment of more than $110 billion, according to UtiliPoint.

Further, UtiliPoint says the 88 plants are expected to supply over 52,000 megawatts of new generation for a nation experts say is at great risk of having an insufficient supply of power by as early as the summer of 2009.

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