Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bankrupting the Coal Industry

On November 2 I posted the widely circulated YouTube video of the Chronicle interview where Obama promises to bankrupt the coal industry (there were some lively comments on that post, also!).

Now it seems as if this is a promise Obama is determined to keep. You might remember that he said this:

What I’ve said is that we would put a cap and trade system in place that is as aggressive, if not more aggressive, than anybody else’s out there.

I was the first to call for a 100% auction on the cap and trade system, which means that every unit of carbon or greenhouse gases emitted would be charged to the polluter. That will create a market in which whatever technologies are out there that are being presented, whatever power plants that are being built, that they would have to meet the rigors of that market and the ratcheted down caps that are being placed, imposed every year.

if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.

That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel and other alternative energy approaches.
The only thing I’ve said with respect to coal, I haven’t been some coal booster. What I have said is that for us to take coal off the table as a ideological matter as opposed to saying if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it.

So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can.
It’s just that it will bankrupt them.

Right. So last month the EPA, striking fear in Appalachia, announced they will review 150 to 200 coal mine permit applications. They singled out two proposed mines in West Virginia and Kentucky (McCain won in West Va., 53% to 46% and McCain carried Kentucky 58% to 41%).

The National Mining Association estimates these reviews could threaten 77,500 jobs. How's that for a stimulus? Of course, environmentalists see it differently - they see it as an "opportunity" to spark new green jobs.

In addition, Ed Morrissey writes today about the EPA decision to "renege on a permit already granted to open a coal-generator plant" in New Mexico:

"In a dramatic move yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) withdrew the air quality permit it issued last summer for the Desert Rock coal-fired power plant, which is slated to be built on the Navajo Nation in the Four Corners region just southwest of Farmington, New Mexico. …

"Jeff Holmstead, former head of the air program at EPA and now head of the Environmental Strategies Group at Bracewell & Giuliani, the law firm representing the plant’s developer, Sithe Global, said in a statement that he has “never seen anything like it.”

"'I don’t think anyone ever imagined that the new team at EPA would seem to have such little regard for due process or basic notions of fairness,' Holmstead said. 'Everyone understands that a new Administration has discretion to change rules and policies prospectively. But I’ve never seen any Administration try to change policies and rules retroactively.'"

Yesterday, the WSJ had an article about the Obama administration attempting to reverse a Bush rule regarding mountaintop mining. The coal industry defends this practice as a safer and cheaper alternative to underground mining, but the environmentalists argue that it damages water quality and stream habitats.

This reversal will affect the central Appalachia region in West Virginia which produces about 10% of U.S. coal.

I honestly don't know enough about the mountaintop mining issue to pass judgment; I do know that the coal industry is required to restore much of the land that they damage, but this can't be done in it's entirety. I also know that you can't have it both ways. We are a nation dependent on the coal industry; you can't simply cut that off overnight because the new administration decides that some streams and fish are getting the short end of the stick.

Taken all together, however, these recent decisions by the Obama administration against the coal industry appear to advance his promise to bankrupt the coal industry.

Overall, this seems to me a reckless policy when also taken with his decision to limit offshore drilling and the long-standing position of restricted domestic drilling (ANWAR, for example). We do not have these fantasy renewable energy policies in place.

If Obama wants to go tilting at windmills and build wind farms, lets get those things in place and running effectively before we decimate our other sources of energy and put thousands of people out of work.

1 comment:

yukio ngaby said...

The only viable way to decrease coal usage is with nuclear power, but no one wants to do that.

Wind farms and solar energy are pipe dreams. They simply do not produce enough power. The enviromental ramifications of putting huge solar collecting plants in the southwest deserts (they have to be coooled with water) make it comepletely unfeasible and windmills break down all the times and couldn't produce even close to the amount of energy we need when they're running flawlessly.

If this nonsense continues, what we're looking at in the future is hugely increased electric and heating bills, along with brownouts, and an increase in the cost of consumer items since the costs of production and transportation will skyrocket.