An April 14 article in The Wall Street Journal looked at the challenge that some Democrats face on the issue of affordable, coal-generated power, while also favoring policies focused on climate change that will limit the use and/or raise the costs of coal.
The article highlights U.S. Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY), both running for president, and Virginia Governor Tim Kaine (D). Regarding Obama and Clinton, the Journal reported:
The race for the Democratic nomination hinges on a handful of states where coal is still king. That puts Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in a bind: how to attack global warming without threatening an industry that provides half the U.S.'s electricity and more than 80,000 mining jobs…
"Coal is going to remain a major player in American energy," Senator Clinton told the Pittsburgh Business Times last month.
"We are the Saudi Arabia of coal, and it could be a very important way for us to meet our long-term energy needs," Senator Obama told voters Wednesday in Levittown, Pa.
The candidates' comments reflect a broader challenge for Democrats, as efforts to build coal-fired plants pit Democrats in struggling rural areas against city and suburban dwellers worried about climate change.
Regarding Gov. Kaine:
In Virginia, Democrats at opposite ends of the state are clashing over a $1.8 billion coal-fired power plant proposed for the state's impoverished southwest corner. Governor Tim Kaine backs the plant even as he vows to cut greenhouse gas emissions -- a stance that has confounded many supporters in the state's affluent northern suburbs.
The article later adds:
Some, such as Reps. Henry Waxman of California and Edward Markey of Massachusetts, want to put an immediate halt to construction of any new coal-burning plants that lack technology to sequester carbon dioxide emissions. Many experts say that the technology is years from widespread commercial viability. The Energy Department withdrew its support for a project to test such technology in January after huge cost overruns.
Given real-world technology and economics, reducing carbon-dioxide emission in the name of fighting global warming will require either a cap-and-trade regulatory scheme or the imposition of carbon taxes. Either way, energy costs will rise dramatically – indeed, that is the point: to raise costs, so that energy consumption declines – and that spells big trouble for consumers, businesses and, despite the rhetorical gymnastics of Obama, Clinton and Kaine, coal.