The Washington Post analyzed nearly four years of data on the coal used to power to the six plants that supply most of the D.C. region's energy. It's not a huge surprise that the majority of it is pulled out of mountaintops in West Virginia, western Virginia, and eastern Kentucky. But the shock should be the 40 percent increase in coal use between 2004 and 2006 alone, and the 816,000 acres of land this growth in demand is expected to destroy by 2012 – an area 20 times the size of the D.C.

It's a useful reminder that our energy comes from somewhere, and as "cheap" as coal may be for us, someone else is paying for it. It's also evidence that though we regularly discuss the planet-warming effects of burning coal, we you can't forget that long before you burn it, coal is already an environmentally unsound fuel. Our unfettered energy consumption is destroying the land and water in these regions, and it's only going to get worse in the absence of alternatives. This is yet another reason why "clean coal" can never really be clean at all -- it still has to come out of the ground, and you can't do that without destroying something. Now, would someone please tip off Clinton and Obama?

--Kate Sheppard