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Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Obama War on Coal Inflicts Long-Term Damage

Coal is a key energy source for the U.S. economy. Nearly half of our electricity is produced from coal, and the U.S. has enough coal to last more than 200 years at current consumption levels, according to the Energy Information Administration.

The EIA summed up: “The United States has more than 1,400 coal-fired electricity generating units in operation at more than 600 plants across the country. Together, these power plants generate almost half of the electricity produced in the United States and consume about one billion short tons of coal per year. The share of our electricity generated from coal is expected to decrease by 2035. However, our growing demand for electricity is expected to lead to an increase in the actual amount of coal used…”

On the international stage, the World Coal Association reports that coal provides 29.6 percent of global primary energy needs and supplies 42 percent of global electricity. In addition: “At current production levels, proven coal reserves are estimated to last 118 years, with recoverable reserves in around 70 countries.”

The bottom line is that coal is a plentiful and affordable source of energy. But the Obama administration has been anything but friendly towards coal. And that point was made loud and clear at the 33rd annual conference of the Eastern Coal Council, held in Kingsport, Tennessee, on March 20 and 21.

A key point was the hostility of the Obama EPA towards coal. A May 22 report opened: “Speakers at the Eastern Coal Council’s annual conference charged Monday that President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency is at war with the coal industry and killing the economy with burdensome regulations.”

The report quoted U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) noting, “It is, in fact, a war on all fossil fuels. ... Coal just happens to be the first one in a long list… Coal is taking the brunt of the hit right now from the current administration and its (EPA) administrator, Lisa Jackson.”

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President Bill Kovacs said, “The regulatory process has become so out of whack in the last several years. ... The regulations are so broad and so sweeping and Congress literally has no ability to control it. No one is getting out of this alive. If we want jobs, we have to get control of the regulatory system.” For good measure, it’s reported: “The Sierra Club, said Kovacs, has taken credit for retiring more than 100 coal-fired power plants and preventing another 150 from being built.”

An International Business Times report quoted Evan Tracey, a spokesman for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, saying, “America has centuries of a coal - a proven energy source - yet the EPA has spent the past three years enacting heavy-handed regulations that are attacking the coal industry, destroying jobs and increasing the cost of electricity for millions of American families and businesses.”

What can be done? Well, it’s obviously all about changing the minds and actions of our elected officials and their appointees.

But in another story, energy analyst Dan Roling warned, “We heard yesterday there’s a war on against coal and actually all fossil fuels... This (Obama) administration is governing via regulations and guidance. If they cannot get the legislation passed, they will issue regulations and guidance to achieve their goal. It’s very difficult to fight that.”

In fact, according to a report, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., speaking during the morning keynote session, added, “My worry is that if we move down this path for three or four or five more years that we'll do so much damage to the industry that this is going to be hard to overcome.” That’s extremely troubling.

Policy matters, and that has been very clear on the energy front in recent years. If we want affordable energy, then the regulatory assault on fossil fuels, including coal, must be stopped. If not, energy uncertainty and increased costs will plague consumers, entrepreneurship, small businesses, and overall economic and employment growth.


Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council. His new book is “Chuck” vs. the Business World: Business Tips on TV.

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