01/11/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Fighting Climate Change: Not an Obligation, an Opportunity

When I think about climate change and clean energy, I'm often reminded of Gandhi's famous quote, "the difference between what we do and what we're capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problems."

Consider that enough sunlight hits the earth's surface in 40 minutes to match the planet's energy needs for an entire year. Or that there's enough wind energy in 12 states in the middle of the U.S. to meet our country's electricity demand two-and-a-half times over. The availability -- and increasing affordability -- of renewable energy solutions show that further investments in dirty energy projects such as mountaintop removal and coal-fired power plants are just outdated and unnecessary.

This is why the Coal River Wind Project in West Virginia is so extraordinary. It is the first community-based proposal to directly counter a mountain top removal (MTR) coal project on Coal River Mountain with a viable alternative: a wind farm.

This isn't just an isolated battle in rural West Virginia, but a roadmap for how investments in clean energy can help address the nation's two biggest challenges: stabilizing both our climate and our economy.

Yesterday, a new report commissioned by Coal River Mountain Watch found that a wind farm on Coal River Mountain would benefit the local economy far more than an MTR project in the same location.

Get this. Not only would blowing up Coal River Mountain result in the devastation of 10 square miles in the heart of Appalachia, burying or contaminating 18-24 miles of streams in the process, but it will also result in a net economic loss of approximately $600 million over 17 years. In contrast, the proposed wind project can bring nearly 50 times more tax revenue to the county on an annual basis. The wind farm would generate increased revenue that could be used to rejuvenate and diversify the region's economy. Remind me again why MTR is supposed to be good for West Virginia?

Here's the bad news. Massey Energy has received all of the necessary mining permits and is set to begin blowing apart Coal River Mountain at any time. West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin could take a stand for the local economy by rescinding Massey's permits. Please tell him what you think.