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Obama’s bad tryst with coal is going to hurt him

We all know about the Obama administration’s ‘War on Coal.’  It’s an egregious regulatory onslaught against American enterprise.  However, it’s a story that’s often buried by some in the media.  Last month, I wrote about how The Washington Post pushed another event in Obama’s war on coal to page 16 of their September 19 edition.  It was when “Alpha Natural Resources [planned to] lay off 160 mineworkers and abandon eight mines in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia this week.  Alpha is ‘the largest coal producer by revenue and third-largest in production.’ Talk about President Obama being on the side of workers.”  Furthermore, Investors Business Daily had quoted “Steven Miller, CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, [who] warn[ed] of job losses totaling 1.4 million over the next eight years and a 23% jump in electricity rates in states dependent on coal-fired plants.”

Katrina Trinko at National Review wrote on September 26 that:

The Obama administration has imposed regulations on the coal industry ‘that have huge economic costs, but questionable and minimal environmental benefits,’ says Nicolas Loris, an energy-policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation.’The administration has made the construction of new coal-powered utility plants exceedingly difficult, if not almost impossible, and it has shut down mines or made it much more difficult to keep them open.’

‘The Obama administration has done everything it possibly can to destroy the American coal industry,’ says Mike Carey, chairman of the Ohio Coal Association and vice president of government affairs at the Murray Energy Corporation. ‘Under Obama’s leadership, we have gone from producing 1.2 billion tons to somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 million tons. It’s disingenuous at best for Obama to say that he supports the coal industry when we have lost one-third of our production.’

Although, there was that frivolous “clean coal” ad in 2008 where he supposedly supported burning coal in the U.S., but also said to the San Francisco Chronicle that he would advocate new regulations that would make running new coal plants immensely expensive and bring them to the point of bankruptcy.  Saying one thing and doing another – which will be one of the enduring characteristics of this administration.  I would say incompetence, but that’s axiomatic.

Trinko wrote that Republicans have eyed using coal to undercut Obama this year.  For example, she noted how felon Keith Judd won 42% of the vote in West Virginia’s Democratic primary.  It’s not like coal isn’t part of that state’s life’s blood or anything. (sarcasm)   These economically damaging policies, coupled with an anemic economic recovery, surely influenced West Virginia Democrats last spring, however, WaPo’s Chris Cillizza had another reason: racism.

Robert Stacy McCain at The American Spectator wrote on October 8 that Romney is ‘counting on coal country.’  At a campaign rally for Romney/Ryan in Abingdon, VA, Romney said, ”the head of the EPA has… said that the regulations on burning coal are now so stringent it’s virtually impossible to build a new coal-fired [electrical power] plant…well, I don’t believe in putting our coal under the ground forever. I believe we should take advantage of it, put American workers back to work and use a resource that’s abundant and cheap and can be burned in a clean way.”  A message that surely resonated with McCain noticing all of the pro-coal paraphernalia in the crowd that day.

McCain noted that:

Cap-and-trade legislation passed the House of Representatives during Nancy Pelosi’s speakership before stalling in the Senate, but the failure to pass that law hasn’t prevented Obama from pursuing his anti-coal agenda by other means, namely the regulatory authority of the EPA. Under the leadership of administrator Lisa Jackson, new rules have forced the closure of several existing coal-fired power plants while making it practically impossible to build new coal plants. This radical environmentalist policy enraged Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers, who said that the regulations represent a “decision by the EPA that we’re never going to have another coal-fired facility in the United States that’s constructed.” For a Democratic president so closely allied with the labor movement, Obama’s abandonment of the mine workers is stunning, considering that the head of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka, began his career with the UMW.

However, United Mine Workers don’t have to be overly aggressive in their opposition to Obama’s coal policy for the time being since the job cuts to Alpha – which McCain also mentions – doesn’t affect union membership.

McCain reported that “a strong turnout for Romney in southwest Virginia’s coal country could help put the Old Dominion’s 13 Electoral College votes out of reach for Obama, and GOP margins in the coal-mining regions of southeast Ohio may prove pivotal in the all-out fight for the Buckeye State’s 18 Electoral College votes. But the issue has potential political reach beyond the coal fields, as nearly half of the electrical power supply in the United States (and 90 percent in Ohio) comes from coal-fired plants, making Obama’s war on coal a “pocketbook” issue for the many millions of voters who would pay higher electric bills because of the EPA’s squeeze.”

Although, if you live in Texas, not only are you feeling higher electric bills, but the danger of rolling blackouts since the EPA ordered the state to cut down on their carbon dioxide emissions by 47% from 2010 levels.  These regulations put a strain on “the Lone Star State[‘s] power grid… [and] its Public Utility Commission asked the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the grid, about the impact of the new EPA rules. ‘We expect to see 1,200 to 1,400 megawatts of generation capacity unavailable that was available this year,’ responded ERCOT representative Warren Lasher.”  This comes after the state struggled to meet energy demands under the brutal heat of last summer.

Yet, are these regulations necessary?  Trinko quoted “Jason Hayes, communications director for the American Coal Council…[saying] ‘the industry over the past few decades has invested over $100 billion in cleaning up emissions, and it’s already been effective… ‘all of the important noxious pollutants have decreased markedly over the last 30 to 40 years, at the same time that we’ve been using more and more coal, and the expectation is that we’re going to continue investing.”  Furthermore, Hayes noted that “in the next ten years, the industry anticipates spending ‘another $100 billion cleaning up and building newer, more efficient power plants, and we’re doing all of this on top of dealing with all the other things.” The environmental benefits that we’re hearing about are questionable, Hayes adds. ‘The job losses are real. They’re happening right now.”

Just like how Obama put the kibosh on the Keystone pipeline, which would have increased consumer spending and created thousands of jobs, he decides to engage in a needless war against the American worker to placate the insufferable environmental wing of his party.

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Matt Vespa

I'm a staunch Republican and a politics junkie who was recently the Executive Director for the Dauphin County Republican Committee in Harrisburg. Before that, I interned with the Republican Party of Pennsylvania in the summer of 2011 and Mary Pat Christie, First Lady of NJ, within the Office of the Governor of NJ in 2010. I was responsible for updating his personal contact list. My first political internship was with Tom Kean Jr's. U.S. Senate campaign in 2006.

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