Shazam! Sierra Club and Bloomberg showed us the future of the climate change movement

Mayor Michael Bloomberg just gave $50 million to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. It was already the biggest, baddest thing happening in the grassroots movement to confront climate change. Now it’s going to explode. This is what Biden would call a BFD.

The coal industry may soon wish it had supported the failed cap-and-trade bill which was loaded with coal subsidies. The alternative will be something they like even less.

Here’s how I see Americans dealing with the largest source of man-made global warming emissions as long as Congress fails to act:

1) A series of EPA regulations being introduced now will increase the cost of running the oldest, dirtiest coal plants. The industry will be forced to either internalize the true cost of their pollution, or shut their oldest plants down. They will no longer be allowed to act like a bad neighbor who throws their polluting trash in your yard instead of paying for their own garbage pickup.

2) The stimulus bill made huge investments in renewable energy. There needs to be another round of investment, such as Obama’s proposal to divert oil industry tax breaks into clean energy.

3) Utility companies will face a grassroots movement pushing them to speed up the transition to modern, clean sources of power.

The fossil fuel Senate’s failure to vote on a cap-and-trade bill during Obama’s first two years in office was deeply disappointing. But, plan B may prove to be even more effective and it won’t involve big giveaways to coal operators.

The Sierra Club coal campaign already helped stop the construction of over 150 new coal power plants. It has shifted to shutting down the oldest, dirtiest coal plants that are the biggest contributors to climate change and negative public health impacts. The Sierra Club’s grassroots movement will grow, state by state and plant by dirty plant.

If you live in a state with many aging coal plants, then don’t be surprised to see citizens calling for them to be replaced with clean energy. If you run a coal-dependent utility then start thinking about what you’ll do next when your dirtiest plants become more expensive to operate.

This is the future. Get ready.