These days, the pundits are offering a lot of different reasons why America’s coal industry is faltering: Natural gas is taking the place of coal; Demand in China has slowed; A warm El Nino winter has meant less power use. The list goes on.
However, we never hear much about the big elephant in the room— the Obama Administration’s deliberate efforts to strangle the nation’s coal sector.
President Obama came into office with a well-expressed desire to cut carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants. In a 2008 interview he explained, “If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they’re gonna be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.” However, he added a hopeful caveat: “If technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it. That I think is the right approach.”
Unfortunately, the president never followed through on the possibility of clean coal. And that’s a shame because the technology is there.
America’s coal fleet already utilizes 15 different mechanisms to scrub emissions. And carbon capture technology is currently in development. But the administration has simply bypassed carbon storage in favor of heavy-handed mandates to rapidly cut carbon dioxide. And so, despite his comments in the same 2008 interview, when he was “opposed to us saying at the outset here are the winners that we’re picking,” it does indeed look like the president has been hell-bent on eliminating coal from day one.
This would explain the recent double-speak of the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Clinton blundered in March, saying, “We’re going to put a lot of coal workers and coal companies out of business.” It’s possible that she was indeed referring to existing Obama Administration policies aimed at transitioning to “renewable” energy. But in the same exchange, Clinton also said, “Now, we’ve got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels.” Thus, Clinton is peddling the same agenda as the president, and with the same child-like zeal to see what will happen when the nation buys a lot of shiny new solar panels and wind turbines.
The simple fact is that the Obama Administration has already taken very successful aim at coal.
The president’s Clean Power Plan aims to eliminate 40 percent of America’s coal fleet in order to achieve a theoretical 0.02 degree Celsius reduction in global temperatures by 2100. The Stream Protection Rule could be extended to the elimination of half of existing U.S. coal mines. And, the recently announced leasing moratorium could simply lock future federal coal reserves underground.
Any wonder that coal has seen better days?