The California-based nonprofit Rainforest Action Network (RAN) launched a new campaign last week, trying to influence financial sector powerhouses Citi Group and Bank of America to shift their investments away from coal and other dirty-energy projects and toward clean energy alternatives.
Coal-fired power plants, while relatively inexpensive to operate, take their toll on the environment in several ways. For starters, coal mining devastates the environment and the viability of surrounding communities, especially when it takes the form of the mountaintop removal mining now common in Appalachia. But of even greater concern to environmentalists is the fact that coal-fired power plants top all other sources of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S., besides being the largest source of toxic mercury and a top contributor to air pollution, asthma and other environmental woes.
According to research cited by RAN, Citi was the top underwriter of the U.S. coal industry in 2006, with Bank of America following closely behind. Both banks are top lenders to companies proposing to build new coal-fired...