The coal-fired power plants in Las Ventanas in Chile look like something out of science fiction. They loom larger than life over the bay, their pipes extending like the legs of some huge prehistoric spider out into the water where they deposit contaminated waste into the ocean.
It was already dark when we arrived and as I ran my eyes upward along the hulking framework of lights that outlined the interconnected towers and building of the power plants, I realized there were no stars to be seen. Even when I look directly upward I couldn’t see any, as if someone had placed a blackout curtain as far as the eye can see. This is not an illusion, nor is it the result of cloud cover. It is the pollution that is made up of coal dust, smoke and the two billion kilograms of carbon dioxide emitted from these power plants each year.
In a speech today at Georgetown University, President Barack Obama laid out his climate plan for the United States moving forward in the months, years, and decades ahead. Oceana was pleased to hear President Obama promoting clean energy like wind and solar energy, but wishes that he had also mentioned offshore wind – a form of energy that is safe for our oceans and its creatures, and forever sustainable.
Lewis Pugh is a British environmentalist, maritime lawyer and Oceana ally. He was the first person to complete a long distance swim in every ocean, and is probably best known for two impressive feats: his 2007 swim across the North Pole to highlight the melting of Arctic sea ice, and a swim across a glacial lake in the Himalayas 2010 to draw attention to the region’s melting glaciers.
Last week Pugh spoke in Cape Town, South Africa against Shell’s proposed fracking in the country. Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, is a method of extracting natural gas by pumping chemicals, sand, and water underground to break apart rock and release gas. (For more on the controversial practice of hydrofracking see Grist and the New York Times.)
While Oceana doesn’t have a campaign directly dealing with the practice of hydrofracking, we are certainly aligned with Pugh on his bottom line: it’s time to transition away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy. Here’s a clip of Pugh’s powerful speech:
Here in the U.S., we need your help to stop dirty energy, too. Please speak up by March 30 (tomorrow!) to prevent new offshore drilling for the next five years.