by Whit Jones, Campaign Director, Energy Action Coalition
St. Louis, Missouri is ground zero for corporate dirty energy. Two of the nation's largest coal companies, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal have been running the town for decades, but there's about to be a showdown...
These corporations have been using Washington University in St. Louis as a breeding ground for coal industry support. The CEOs of Peabody and Arch are on the University's Board of Trustees and despite student protest have helped form and fund the Washington University's Consortium for C!e@n Coal Utilization. For the past two years they have hosted Global Energy Future Symposiums, gatherings of energy CEOs with little-to-no emphasis on renewable energy, and in just 10-days they'll be gathering again.
But this time corporate dirty energy wont be the only thing up for discussion on campus. Student and community groups are organizing an alternative Climate Solutions Forum to advance community-led clean energy solutions. They'll be camped outside of the official Global Energy Future Symposium hosting speakers, workshops and trainings on how to bring about a clean and safe energy future.
And this wont just be a discussion with corporate CEOs and community groups; John Holdren, President Obama's chief scientific advisor will be at the forum, so they'll be working to make sure their solutions and message are heard. He'll hear of the students efforts to make WashU a coal-free campus and their vision for a clean energy economy in Missouri.
These competing forums are reflective of dialogue and dynamics unfolding across the country. In the wake of the Senate's failure to pass climate and energy legislation, people are taking action to counter the dirty energy industry and get to work themselves. On over 300 campuses across the country young people are organizing the Power Vote campaign to mobilize young voters around cleaning up politics and advancing clean energy solutions. They're asking public officials to stand with them behind clean energy solutions, not with the polluters. And on 10/10/10 they'll be joining thousands of communities around the world in the Get To Work day of action; on that day we'll get out and create the sorts of solutions we're calling for, and show elected leaders the political demand to do it by turning out lots of people to join us. More immediately is Appalachia Rising, a major mobilization of coalfield residents, students and environmental activists taking their demands and vision of a more just and prosperous Appalachia free of destructive mountaintop removal mining directly to the Obama Administration's doorstep.
The media is reporting that in the wake of a string of fossil fuel disasters, and amidst a multitude of organizing efforts, the fossil fuel industry is experiencing a PR crisis (see this article in the Politico featuring a photo from our Crude Awakening rallies). The incredible thing about efforts like Appalachia Rising and the WashU Climate Solutions Forum are they are not only educating people about the dangers of fossil fuels, but are presenting a different vision and path forward. Stay tuned for how they get their message across, it should be exciting!