Demonstrators Target U.P. Over Its Coal Transportation

OMAHA WORLD-HERALD
FRIDAY, JUNE 18, 2010
BY JOE RUFF
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER

Approximately 50 people demonstrated at Union Pacific Corp’s headquarters at 14th and Douglas Streets on Thursday to spotlight coal’s role in global warming. Union Pacific gets more than 20 percent of its revenue from transporting coal to power plants on its trains.

Nebraskans for Peace and several other groups invited environmentalist and writer Bill McKibben to speak at the demonstration. 

McKibben, of Ripton, Vt., said coal is the dirtiest of fossil fuels, emitting more carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, than natural gas or oil.

Charles Harper, a sociology professor at Creighton University, said people need to be aware of the consequences of burning coal.

“It’s real,” Harper said.  “It’s not made up.”

Demonstrators held signs, including one that read:  “Coal fuels global warming, derail this deadly energy.”

One counter-demonstrator, Park Blaine of Elkhorn, held a sign saying “Right Wing Extremist” and “What would Reagan do?”

Human behavior doesn’t have an appreciable effect on global warming, said Blaine, who characterized the demonstrators as misguided.

Union Pacific spokeswoman Donna Kush said the company is making efforts to support renewable resources and clean coal.

Coal generates half the electricity used annually in the U.S., she said.  Is relatively inexpensive and abundant so it provides energy at a low cost and that helps the U.S. economy compete globally.

Congress should carefully consider the economic ramifications of severely capping or taxing carbon emissions from coal, she said.

McKibben, founder of 350.org, an international activists group seeking to reduce carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere, said global warming legislation that doesn’t target coal isn’t worth passing.

McKibben and Kush also disagreed about the impact of clean coal technology.

That technology, which captures carbon dioxide emissions from power plants before they get into the air, is promising, Kush said.

But McKibben said that wouldn’t quickly reduce global warming.

Contact the writer:  402-444-1117, joe.ruff@owh.com

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