Do climate protests work?
On Monday, thousands of climate activists descended on Washington, D.C., to protest the Capitol Power Plant, a partly coal-fired plant that heats and air-conditions the seat of the US Congress and is the District of Columbia's largest source of air pollution and carbon emissions.
On Monday, thousands of climate activists descended on Washington, D.C., to protest the Capitol Power Plant, a partly coal-fired plant that heats and air-conditions the seat of the US Congress and is the District of Columbia's largest source of air pollution and carbon emissions.Skip to next paragraph
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For more than four hours, the protesters, many wearing dress clothes to play down any appearance of radicalism, blockaded all five entrances to the plant as police stood by, according to the Associated Press and other news reports. Nobody was arrested.
The activists are declaring victory, in part because, a few days before the protests, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that they would convert the plant to run entirely on natural gas, which burns far more cleanly than coal does. Currently, the plant runs on about 35 percent coal, 65 percent natural gas.
In a Feb. 26 letter to Stephen Ayers, the acting architect of the Capitol, the Democratic leaders called the move "an important demonstration of Congress’s willingness to deal with the enormous challenges of global warming, energy independence, and our inefficient use of finite fossil fuels."
"It sounds like we're making progress before we even get there," quipped Bill McKibben, a prominent climate activist and one of the protest's organizers, in an interview with the online eco-mag Grist. He added that, despite the victory, the protests would go on as scheduled. "Of course our real protest is aimed at coal power all over the country, and Nancy Pelosi could help rewrite the rules for that as well, which would be even more important," he said.
According to the Associated Press, converting the plant would cost between $6 million and $7 million in equipment upgrades, and at least another $2 million a year in purchasing gas, which is more expensive than coal.
The Capitol Climate Action site, backed by Greenpeace, the Rainforest Action Network, the Center for Biological Diversity, and a host of smaller outfits displays videos of the civil disobedience under headlines that read "We shut them down!" and "This is what democracy looks like."