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Coal conference in Charlotte brings out protestors

About 5,000 power company executives and members of the coal industry wrap up a three-day conference in Charlotte today. WFAE's Lisa Miller reports they'll be greeted by protestors. Coal-Gen is an annual conference sponsored by an industry publication called Power Engineering Magazine. Local companies Duke Energy and the Shaw Group also sponsored this year's event, which focuses entirely on burning coal for electricity. Brian Staton and other Greenpeace protestors say power companies should be spending more time on renewable energy sources "Coal is a big part of the crisis were facing in the environment. Burning coal in 2009 is just foolish, bordering on insane," says Staton. Protestors are unusual at Coal-Gen conventions, according to this year's event chairman David Wagman. "Some of the difficulty I think with some of the environmental groups - they misunderstand the capabilities of renewable and how far they cannot go to replace many forms of baseload generation - whether it's coal, whether it's nuclear, or even natural gas," says Wagman. Wagman says the demand for energy in the U.S. makes it impossible to do away with coal-fired power. Instead, he says utility companies are focused on reducing the harmful emissions that come from burning coal. Environmental groups are particularly upset that Duke Energy is building a new coal-fired unit at its Cliffside Plant near Charlotte.