The current state of affairs gives us cheap energy and deep environmental harm. There is a different possibility—that coal could one day be burned and gasified, the CO2 removed and safely injected into porous seams in the earth. If that vision is to be realized, two big changes will have to take place.

First, huge strides must be made in advanced coal technology and great uncertainties resolved about the ability to permanently sequester CO2 in deep storage. Second, many people will have to surmount their current image of coal as the devil's favorite fuel, while others will have to let go of the increasingly futile hope that high levels of emissions can persist indefinitely without changing course.

Globally, coal fuels much of the world's growth, and demand for coal is skyrocketing. Climate's protectors cannot wish that fact away. Likewise, coal's proponents cannot ignore the costs of carbon, or treat renewable energy and clean alternatives as something more akin to Tinkertoys than to a real energy policy.

We must face these matters squarely.

Politics may seem dirty, but without it, energy will never be clean. A new clean-energy economy will not appear miraculously as the result of drum circles, herbal remedies, and self-help books. The restructuring of the American economy that is needed to bring us industrial-strength clean energy first requires industrial-strength change in the politics of the country. We need a movement.

Clean energy requires clean policies. Clean policies require new politics. New politics requires new people in the process, new coalitions, and new political strategies. The wealth and power of the old energy industry still maintain a grip on democracy that, while it is weakening, can be broken only with new political forces. A new political environment must be established for the success of the clean-energy revolution to be assured.


Clean Energy Will Be Powered by New Politics

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