07/19/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Obama's Coal Conundrum

Does Obama need to keep touting "clean coal" as part of the solution to America's energy and economic woes?

While coal is abundant in the United States, it is far from the clean-as-driven snow energy source that coal industry lobbyists would like us all to think and according to new report out today it is hardly the answer to America's economic problems.

The report released today by the WorldWatch Institute finds that a transition to renewable energy sources promises significant global job gains at a time when the coal industry has been hemorrhaging jobs for years.

An estimated 2.3 million people worldwide currently work either directly in renewables or indirectly in supplier industries. The solar thermal industry employs at least 624,000 people, the wind power industry 300,000, and the solar PV industry 170,000. More than 1 million people work in the biomass and biofuels sector, while small-scale hydropower employs 39,000 individuals and geothermal employs 25,000.

Jeff Biggers points out yesterday on Huffington Post that the coal-grown Appalachian region in West Virginia is a potential boom-town for wind power:

If Senator Barack Obama ever needs a living symbol of change we can believe in, and a hopeful way to transcend the dirty politics of our failed energy policies, he should go and see the future of renewable energy in the Coal River Valley in West Virginia."

The environmental impacts of so-called "clean coal" show that it is far from clean, in fact it is downright filthy. Unless, of course, you don't mind a little Mercury in your breast milk or a slight case of black lung.

While the rest of the world is well down the path of a clean, renewable energy revolution, our most environmentally-friendly presumptive Presidential candidate is still touting a dirty, job-killing, planet-warming energy source as an integral part of our future and our children's future.

It doesn't need to be this way. Does it?