ATLANTA, Georgia, April 20 -- The Sierra Club issued the following news release:
Southern Company has released a report announcing its electricity generation fleet will be "low to no carbon" by 2050, on the heels of CEO Tom Fanning's statement last week at the Bloomberg Energy Summit that Southern will "take down carbon emissions to zero."
While the plan proposes a long-term phase out of coal, it primarily pivots to fracked gas instead of fully transitioning to clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Methane, the primary component in fracked gas, is 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat during its first 20 years in the atmosphere.
In response, Stephen Stetson, representative for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, released the following statement:
"We agree with Tom Fanning that there's no future for coal at Southern Company.
"Unfortunately, his definition of 'low carbon' includes gas, even though the pollution that results from drilling for, transporting, and burning these fossil fuels also threatens our air, water and climate.
"Frankly, these initial emission reduction goals towards a carbon-free 2050 are laudable symbolism, but are actually business as usual, allowing Southern to eke out the last gasps of its aging, dirty, and inefficient coal plants.
"Southern Company can do more--and sooner. Just last May, the City of Atlanta, adopted a resolution to work toward having 100 percent of the electricity consumed in the city generated through renewable energy sources by 2035. More than 50 cities nationwide have done the same, and it's not too soon to start announcing additional specific closures of coal plants.
"So if our praise for a proposed three-decade Southern Company path to decarbonization is muted, it's because it's no great sacrifice to stop doing something after you've extracted all of the value. And since building new coal plants would be ludicrous, there's no real virtue in passively awaiting the inevitable end of the current coal plants' usefulness.
"Southern's announcement proves that after decades of environmental advocates being condemned and dismissed by utilities and their allies, we were right about renewables: the sun does shine in Georgia.
"We're also right that there's a way to meet Georgia's energy needs with a safe, coal-free grid, powered 100 percent by clean, abundant solar and wind, and bolstered by robust energy efficiency that would decrease demand and lower people's bills, all while protecting our air, water and communities."
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