NO-bama: coal industry hits back at CAP

COAL mining companies and associations have responded fiercely to President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, warning the proposal will threaten thousands of jobs, damage the nation’s economy and have little impact on global climate change efforts.

Staff Reporter

The world's largest private-sector coal company, Peabody Energy, said that reducing coal-fired generation would impact the economy and increase electricity prices.

“Any actions that would reduce coal-fueled generation [would] harm Americans, who would feel the same pain at the plug that we all feel at the pump,” Peabody said in a statement following the president’s speech Tuesday at Georgetown University.

The coal giant said that it agreed with Obama’s push for an increased use of clean coal, but that this must be a global action undertaken with increased investment in order for it to be effective.

Appalachian producer Consol Energy joined the fight, with an angry statement emailed to the Pittsburgh Business Times saying that cutting carbon emissions is not in the country’s economic or national security interests.

"We are not aware of any credible assessment showing unilateral action or fuel switching in the United States will materially change the global atmospheric concentrations of carbon-dioxide," Consol said.

"The plan put forth today ignores this stark reality and advocates policies that induce more expensive energy that will choke off economic activity, impair our global competitiveness and ship manufacturing and other jobs overseas with no material change in global CO2 concentrations."

The National Mining Association and the United Mine Workers of America focused on the impact the proposals would have on coal jobs and companies, highlighting the contributions that coal made to the nation’s economy.

“Americans are looking for jobs and economic security. Coal power plants generate more electricity and create and sustain more jobs than any other energy source,” NMA president and CEO Hal Quinn said.

“So policies that shut off coal energy damage the nation's job and economic engine, while also raising costs to American consumers.

“Our policies need to be aligned with our national interest so that coal continues to create jobs and keeps America competitive,” he added.

UMWA took a similar stance, urging lawmakers to consider the people affected by the plan if it was implemented.

“It was disappointing that, as this initiative was being developed over the past several months, no one from the White House reached out to the representatives of the workers who will face the worst of the impacts of these proposals to get our input. I hope we will have that opportunity in the near future, before the language of the rules the administration is proposing is finalized,” UMWA president Cecil E Roberts said.

“We continue to believe that coal must be part of a realistic path forward as a reliable source of energy in a reduced-carbon future. We are concerned that this plan fails to include the kind of incentives needed to build that path. That, too, will be a topic of discussion that we intend to have with the administration and members of Congress.”

The most aggressive responses came from some of the states sitting in the proposal's direct firing line. West Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania all have a lot to lose from Obama’s CAP.

“By announcing imminent restrictions on carbon emissions from power plants that exceed the capabilities of current technology, this administration will impose bureaucratic mandates with no regard for the people and communities of West Virginia that depend on coal and the inexpensive energy it creates for their very existence and survival,”West Virginia Coal Association president Bill Raney said.

“This administration’s new climate initiative will negatively impact West Virginia coal jobs, result in higher electric bills for consumers and businesses, and lead to America’s economic disarmament via US manufacturing jobs relocating to other nations.

“America needs a common-sense energy plan that recognizes the limits of current emission control technology, protects jobs, builds our economy and secures our country,” he said.

Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell had much to say to the President while on the Senate floor Tuesday morning, just hours before Obama’s remarks began.

“Declaring a ‘war on coal’ is tantamount to declaring a war on jobs. It’s tantamount to kicking the ladder out from beneath the feet of many Americans struggling in today’s economy.”

McConnell said if the White House moved ahead with this “war” on jobs and raised the cost of energy, it would almost certainly raise the cost of doing business – and that would likely put jobs, growth, and the future of American manufacturing at risk.

“He [Obama] cannot declare a war on jobs and simultaneously claim to care about manufacturing,” the Kentucky senator said.

“And he cannot claim to care about states like mine, where an energy tax would do great damage to the countless Americans employed in energy sectors like coal.

“This is the reality of the Obama economy. Even in the best of times, imposing an energy tax would be a bad idea. But in an era of unacceptably high unemployment – an era when Americans are desperate for the president to finally focus on growing the middle class, rather than throwing scraps to his wealthy supporters – ideas like this border on the self-defeatingly absurd.”

The CEO of the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance was also up in arms about the damage the plan would do to his state.

John Pippy said global coal usage trends would make coal the world’s No.1 energy source within three to four years. He called the proposed Obama policy to decimate coal usage “shortsighted and destructive to the nation’s fragile economic recovery.”

“In recent decades, the coal industry has made major strides in reducing pollution,” Pippy said, noting that advances in technology had enabled new, coal-fueled power plants to produce 70-80% fewer conventional emissions than older plants.

He said a plan that applied only to the US could not constitute a solution to global greenhouse gas emissions and would amount to unilateral economic disarmament with limited environmental benefit.

The US has more than 1142 coal-fired plants and 3967 gas-fired plants across the country, with many coal-fired units transitioning to the latter.

About 37% of all of US electricity is generated from coal. States such as West Virginia rely almost totally on coal for electricity generation, giving the plan the potential to whip the coal industry, both in the US and across the globe, into a frenzy.

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