If there was a commodity that brings $16 billion to the American economy through exports and directly and indirectly employs around 1.5 million American workers, this would be a commodity that would naturally be supported by everyone.
That commodity is coal — which is not supported by at least one group: the Obama administration, which has literally declared war on the American coal industry, and the jobs that come with it.
Last week the Obama administration proposed new measures that will force new electricity generation plants to cut CO2 emissions by 50 per cent and also mandate investment in unaffordable technologies to bury carbon emissions underground. The new proposals would also set the stage for existing coal burning plants to come under the same arrogant EPA mandate whereby compliance would effectively shut them down.
Groups like the Edison Electric Institute have previously warned that the new rules eventually will cost utilities up to $129 billion and force them to retire one-fifth of coal capacity, leading to a surge in coal plant shutdowns and loss of jobs. Americans will be hit with substantially more energy rate hikes even as they struggle to pay their energy bills now.
This is yet another example of the Obama administration circumventing Congress, which in 2010 successfully defeated Obama’s disastrous Cap and Trade climate bill that would have imposed similar measures.
So as his custom, Obama has turned to a regulatory body to do his bidding when Congress fails to support his actions. His latest power grab involves the EPA which has declared CO2, the life-giving gas that plants breathe, to be a deadly poison.
Poison? The Earth’s atmosphere contains roughly (by volume) 78.09 percent nitrogen, 20.95 percent oxygen, 0.93 percent argon, 0.039 percent carbon dioxide, and small amounts of other gases. If carbon dioxide was a poison, mankind would have ended with the Neanderthals.
Should we be surprised by his actions? Not if you were paying attention to Obama’s days as a Senator, when during a 2008 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, he is quoted as saying: “If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can, it’s just that it will bankrupt them.”
So it’s OK for Obama to bail out the then bankrupt and dying domestic auto industry while bankrupting a thriving coal industry?
An Associated Press story reported that U.S. coal exports reached their highest level in two decades in 2011 as strong demand from Asia and Europe offered an outlet for a fuel that is now under attack here in America.
U.S. Department of Energy data analyzed by The Associated Press reveal that coal exports topped 107 million tons of fuel worth almost $16 billion in 2011. That's the highest level since 1991, and more than double the export volume from 2006.
Much of the increase went to satisfy power-hungry markets in Asia, especially South Korea (up 81 percent to 10 million tons); India (up 65 percent to 4.5 million tons); and Japan (up 119 percent to 7 million tons).
Exports also were up in Brazil, China and several European nations seeking high-quality coal for steelmaking, according to the Energy Department data.
Peabody Energy calls this increase a "global coal super cycle" that heralds renewed interest in the fuel.
Companies including Arch Coal Inc. have taken a bullish stand on coal, predicting export capacity could reach 245 million tons by 2015. And even the Energy Department forecasts that while coal exports will drop slightly over the next two years, it will reach about 130 million tons annually by 2030. Countries worldwide consume more than 6 billion tons of coal annually.
But this isn’t going to happen if the EPA beats the coal industry into submission.
The U.S. has an unprecedented opportunity to maintain its position as the worldwide leader in coal exports. Competition is down and demand is up. Rich Roffman, radio commentator and cohost of the nationally syndicated radio show Made In America, characterizes the U.S. as “the Saudi Arabia of coal.”
The American public and Congress should be outraged that this war on coal will cause oil prices to continue to rise as electricity generation from coal diminishes.
We all support the war to create jobs, the war to reduce regulations, and the war to reduce taxes. But no one in good conscience should support the war on coal.
More Posts by Neal Asbury
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