"Debate Pits Montana’S Vast Coal Reserves Against Climate Concerns"

"Several times a day, long trainloads of coal trundle through Missoula to power plants in Washington. Those routine runs generate lots of electricity for homes and lots of consternation for politicians and scientists concerned about the trade-offs. In the short term, coal's convenience and low price make it a simple answer to the nation's energy needs. But its pollution, damage to water supplies and impact on global climate may produce a long-term cost we're unable to afford."

"'Two years ago, the United States was on the verge of adopting a comprehensive climate bill,' said Michael Gerrard, a Columbia Law School climate change expert who visited Missoula last week. 'That fell apart, and we now have at best paralysis and at worst an effort to move backward. All this is happening in the face of a stream of new scientific evidence showing the serious worsening of climate problems. And the U.S. is now standing virtually alone in the world among major countries listening to voices that deny the reality of climate change.'

Burning coal and natural gas produces carbon dioxide, among other pollutants. Tiny changes in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere have triggered increases in overall planetary temperatures and changes in the acidity of the ocean that can cause giant disruptions in the food chain."

Rob Chaney Reports for the Missoulian November 20, 2011.

Source: Missoulian, 11/21/2011