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Reflections on a Briefly Darkened Super Bowl

Ralph Cavanagh

Posted February 4, 2013

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It seems more than ironic that the head of Peabody Energy, one of America’s largest coal suppliers, would be suggesting that last night’s Super Bowl blackout is an argument for more coal-fired electricity.

After all, in 2005 Hurricane Katrina turned the Superdome and the city of New Orleans into a horrifying visual symbol of the potential disruptions of climate change, which are in good part all about burning way too much coal. And, as Hurricane Sandy proved with its massive power outages, climate change is also wreaking unprecedented havoc on our utility systems.

But there was plenty of juice in the local grid last night when the lights went out for a while in the Superdome; the problem evidently involved malfunctioning equipment within the stadium. There’s zero evidence that burning more coal could have helped.  And does anyone think that the athletes for either side would have performed better if air quality in the Superdome had been comparable to that of, say, Beijing?

It is, on the other hand, very clear that burning less coal is good for both America’s environmental quality and its utility bills. Consider that a combination of lower cost energy efficiency, renewable energy, and natural gas generation has cut America’s coal consumption by a tenth since 2005.

That’s worth celebrating, no matter who you were rooting for last night. 

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