Coal power or brain power? It's time to get smart about our energy future


"This mining technique literally clear cuts the range, blows off the tops of mountains with massive ammonium nitrate and fuel-oil blasts, and topples the rocks and waste into valleys and streams. In the past three decades, an estimated 500 mountains have been destroyed by this mining technique; more than 1,200 miles of streams have been jammed with mining waste and fill, and scores of historic communities have been depopulated, left in ruin and saddled with unsparing poverty. Relying on heavy machinery and explosives, mountaintop removal operations have also stripped the region of needed jobs and any possibility of a diversified economy."

I learned all this long before our power went out, via the Web connection on my coal-powered laptop. Knowing that my electricity comes from such a nasty and mindless source is not something I feel good about, and I wish I could do something about it. But the high cost of alternative energy leaves ordinary working folks few viable options.

Don't the energy companies make enough money to figure this out? And couldn't my taxpayer dollars be used for something more constructive than subsidizing those businesses to maintain the status quo?

A coalition of 34 conservation organizations recently teamed up to pitch Congress and the Obama administration a plan known as the Green Budget. Among other things, it proposes eliminating loopholes that allow big corporations to write off oil and gas production costs; this would save taxpayers an estimated $13.3 billion over nine years. And cutting taxpayer subsidies for expensive new nuclear technologies would save more than $220 million in 2011 alone, according to the Green Budget. Congress could save billions more by ending subsidies to corporate agribusinesses that destroy land and pollute our water...