Playing dirty politics won’t clean up coal

It seems these days that politicians will say and do anything to get elected. Case in point, candidate for governor Terry McAuliffe pandered his way to campus Wednesday in an attempt to greenwash himself in the shadow of the proposed coal plant he refuses to oppose. McAuliffe claimed to be a supporter of renewable energy, even saying on his website that “we have got to plan now for a green energy future.”

How strange, though, that he can claim this, come to see the College of William and Mary’s sustainability efforts, and still support one of the dirtiest, carbon emitting forms of energy in the world. Even worse, he refuses to oppose the proliferation of dirty coal technology in our own backyard.
Coal is never clean; from poisonous heavy metals to toxic sludge and acid rain, the problems of coal-fired electricity are too severe and too numerous to be solved by the farcical technologies of “clean coal.” The only difference between the dirty coal of centuries past and so-called “clean coal” is an insipid Madison Ave. marketing campaign.

Even if coal could be burned cleanly, mountaintop removal coal mining would continue to devastate those living throughout the state and across the country. These methods destroy invaluable mountain ecosystems at the expense of the lives and livelihoods of local residents.

The tragic effects of a dirty coal plant would be felt here as well. In Surry, 15 miles from the College, construction of a coal plant is proposed and the few jobs created would do little to offset the pollution and significant economic impacts. No community should be forced to settle for a slow death for others’ benefit.
The toxins emitted persistently by a coal-fired power plant have widespread effects. These poisonous materials can build up in local food and water supplies, affecting anyone who consumes the resources of Surry County, the James River and Tidewater Virginia as a whole. The proposed location of the plant is upwind of the major population centers of Hampton Roads and the Chesapeake Bay area.

The power to forge a safe and sustainable future does not lie in the hands of politicians and CEOs alone. Taxpayers, voters and everyday citizens can unite to hold decision-makers accountable. Communities have the right to say that they don’t want these dirty coal plants in our community or any other. They have the right to say that they want to invest in sustainability and green-energy technologies, which will create meaningful jobs and ensure that future generations will enjoy the safety and prosperity that is the foundation of American society.

McAuliffe would do well to recognize that a vote for real, green energy is a vote for the best interests of all Virginians and that a weakness of character now will have a negative impact for years to come.
The logic is clear, and the time for bold leadership is now. It is sad that Terry McAuliffe fails to recognize this and, even worse, that he wants you to think that he does.

E-mail Ben Schultz at and Connor Horne at


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