Must-see TV: What’s wrong with our energy policy?

Today, few words but a couple of videos instead, one from the left and one from the right (because we strive to be nonpartisan here at www.marcgunther.com).

The first, from the activist group Rainforest Action Network, is about the tragedy of mountaintop removal coal mining. RAN is running a campaign against banks that finance mountaintop removal, notably PNC, Citi and UBS. More here.

One thing I learned from the video: MTR coal accounts for just 7% of the coal burned in the U.S. Is this really necessary?

The second one-minute video comes from the conservative end of the political spectrum, namely, Fred Smith, the founder and CEO of FedEx. An advocate of electric cars, Smith is bothered by America’s dependence on imported oil.  He’s got a business agenda of course–high oil prices hurt FedEx–but the benefits of electrifying the U.S.’s transportation sector go well beyond cost to include reduced greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and national security:

Thanks to Mitch Jackson for posting this on the FedEx blog. More info here. I’d encourage Fred Smith to talk to some of his Republican friends about why the threat of climate change is worth taking seriously.

PNC Bank: Helping to destroy mountains

2825430279_a3aa7cd059_oPNC, a big regional bank (annual revenues: $16 billion) based in Pittsburgh, has become the bank that environmental activists love to hate because of its support for mountaintop removal mining.

The bank was identified as the worst of the worst in Grading the Banks: A Mountaintop Removal Scorecard, a new ranking compiled by the Rainforest Action Network and the Sierra Club.

According to the report, the bank has made loans to six companies engaged in mountaintop removal mining: Massey Energy, Patriot Coal, Alpha Natural Resources, International Coal Group, Arch Coal and Consol Energy.

PNC, by the way, was a recipient of TARP funds (since paid back) so these loans were, at least in a small way, your tax dollars at work.

I emailed PNC to ask for their comment and got a prompt reply from Fred Solomon, vice president, corporate communications:

PNC’s practice is not to comment on analyst or other research reports, and in general, our credit policies are proprietary information.

Interesting. We’ll see how long that no-comment approach lasts, if any of the enviro groups decide to bring pressure directly on PNC, a major consumer bank in the mid-Atlantic region. Transparency, evidently, is not for now part of the PNC culture.

I’m returning to the topic of banks and coal after just a couple of weeks (See J.P. Morgan Chase’s Coal Problem) because of a couple of significant new developments. The first is the RAN/Sierra club report card–a tactic that, in the argot of the corporate campaigns, is known as “rank ‘em and spank ‘em”. The second is a new policy from by JP Morgan Chase, released just before the bank’s annual meeting, which was held today. [click to continue…]

JP Morgan Chase’s coal problem

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Activists target Chase

Do we really want to keep blasting the tops off mountains, destroying forests and dumping the rubble into waterways, in order to extract and burn coal that is messing up the climate?

For now, the answer to that question is yes, despite vigorous efforts by environmentalists and activists in Appalachia to stop mountaintop removal mining. Some are behind a bill in Congress sponsored by Lamar Alexander, a Republican, to end the practice. Others are calling on big banks–in particular JP Morgan Chase–to stop financing mountaintop mining.

The pressure on JP Morgan Chase is coming from activist groups including the Sierra Club, the Rainforest Action Network and an Appalachian group called Climate Ground Zero which calls itself an “ongoing campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience in southern West Virginia to address mountaintop removal coal mining.” All are stepping up their efforts in advance of JP Morgan Chase’s annual shareholder meeting on May 18. They plan to release a list of the worst funders of MTR mining before then, and chances are Chase will be at or near the top.

What’s wrong with mountaintop removal mining? Lots. Here’s an overview from a [click to continue…]