Banks: Stop the Assault on Coal
Ironically, as reported by the Washington Examiner newspaper, “the Democratic National Convention likely will receive much of its electricity from coal.” Coal-fired power keeps the lights on while the politicians continue their war on the miners and the industry that employs them.
The U.S. coal industry is reeling. Worse, the people and communities that depend on it are being ignored. Over the past five years, tens of thousands of coal mining jobs have disappeared. U.S. coal production is now at a 30-year low and nearly 350 coal-fired power plants have been taken offline — enough generating capacity to power 40 million homes.
Coal-mining, which has paid for schools and roads and everything in between, is on life support. In West Virginia alone, 35 percent of coal-mining jobs have evaporated since 2011. Nearly every major coal mining company in the U.S. has filed for bankruptcy.
If this were any other industry, the U.S. government surely would have stepped in to help protect communities. But this is coal. Instead of recognizing a crisis, the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, has promised to put a lot more coal miners out of work if she’s elected president.
And here’s another irony: Richard Trumpka, former president of the United Mine Workers of America, spoke on Clinton’s behalf on the first night of the Democratic convention.
There’s a callousness about the hard times felt by coal miners and their families that Americans seem to only reserve for places like West Virginia, Kentucky and Wyoming. It seems to be an out of sight, out of mind attitude about our coal states — states that have provided so much for their country and have received little in return.
Coal, which has long been the mainstay of the national electricity system, still generates one-third of the country’s power. It has powered our way of life and been, quite literally, the lifeblood of our economy for a century. And yet, government policy has swept it aside.
Yes, there many reasons why the U.S. coal industry is struggling. Low-cost natural gas and bad bets on ever-increasing demand for coal in China, to name just two, have taken a toll. But it’s foolish to suggest coal’s decline and current predicament are not the result of calculated policy. One regulation after another has made it more expensive and more difficult both to produce and use coal.
Time and again, utilities have upgraded environmental controls on coal plants to meet stringent emissions standards only to see those standards tightened again. Anti-coal regulations are relentless. Even as the Supreme Court rejects an EPA rule, another takes its place.
To suggest the coal industry has been competing on a level playing field in the electricity marketplace with natural gas or renewable sources of energy defies logic. And yet, many in EPA do just that.
Take wind power. While the coal industry has faced a mounting wave of regulatory action, the U.S. wind industry has received $176 billion in government subsidies since 2000.
The coal industry is being systematically pushed aside. And since government money is being used to fund regulatory action and subsidize alternative energy sources, the very citizens who are hurt most by this anti-coal policy must help pay for their own demise.
It is past time to stop the assault on America’s coal communities. Environmental progress — the kind that has staying power and that can make a difference both here and overseas — takes technological progress, not regulation.
Tucked away in the Department of Energy is the National Energy Technology Laboratory whose mission is to develop technology options to enable continued use of the nation’s secure, abundant and affordable coal resources. Despite opponents claims that there’s no such thing as “clean coal,” with adequate funding there’s a lot that has been done and more than can be done to advance technologies that safeguard the environment.
While there may not be a new coal plant planned in the U.S., there are 1,500 in the pipeline worldwide. China alone uses more than half of the world’s coal.
Environmentalists and government regulators can pretend we can reduce global emissions by torpedoing our own coal industry or they can be intellectually honest. The U.S. and the world need the affordable, reliable power generated from coal. Helping to advance the technology that will allow the world to burn coal more cleanly is the kind of government leadership we need. Destroying American coal communities is certainly not.
See the article here.
- On September 8, 2016