Many Americans have already forgotten about the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the Obama administration’s signature effort to reduce carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants. But not the nation’s coal communities. They’ve lived with this regulation as an ever-present threat even after its implementation was stayed by a federal court.
West Virginia’s coal communities saw the CPP for exactly what it was: a thinly-veiled assault on their livelihood—and one that would would cripple an already reeling industry while providing little environmental benefit.
Fortunately, the Trump administration has done just what it promised. By executive order, President Trump has axed the CPP and another vestige of the Obama administration’s anti-coal policy, the moratorium on all new leases of federal coal reserves.
Just a few months ago, those waging the War on Coal felt like they were on the precipice of victory. Now, they are now in full retreat. The industry can finally compete again without having both of its arms tied behind its back by an overzealous U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Interior.
We’ve been told that coal plant retirements, falling coal demand, and lost mining jobs were all the result of market competition from cheap natural gas. While lower natural gas prices have played a role, the elephant in the room has been the regulations designed to close coal plants while make it more expensive to mine coal.
To understand just how dangerous the CPP would have been, simply look at the facts. By the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s own calculation, the regulation would have meant the unnecessary and premature closure of many of America’s remaining coal power plants. With reduced demand for coal, production would have fallen by 240 million tons per year. That level of production supports nearly 30,000 coal mining jobs and another 100,000 jobs in the supply chain.
Eastern coalfields would have been victimized, adding to the 68,000 jobs our industry has lost since the first major power plant regulation took effect in 2011.
Consumers across the country would have paid through the nose for this folly. Replacing so much lost coal generating capacity would have cost $64 billion. And because this low-cost power would have been replaced with more expensive alternatives, wholesale electricity prices would have soared.
Energy Ventures Analysis, a leading consulting firm, calculated that wholesale electricity prices would have experienced double digit percentage increases in more than 40 states. The average American household would have paid an additional $680 per year compared to electricity costs in 2012. These are staggering numbers. And for what?
Environmental activists were willing to sacrifice America’s coal industry, and the affordable power it provides, even as coal demand continues to rise overseas. China and India now consume as much coal as the rest of the world combined.
The Trump administration has thankfully restored commonsense to our energy policy. Instead of viewing the coal industry as a problem in need of fixing, the country can again embrace an all-American resource that provides one-third of our electricity and supports hundreds of thousands of good jobs. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook near misses, damage avoided. We would be wise not to make that mistake with the War on Coal. The Trump Administration may not restore coal to its glory days but at least it is not waging war on a hallowed American industry, the best coal miners in the world, and the communities where they live.
William Raney is the president of the West Virginia Coal Association.
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