The Cost of Washington’s
War on Coal
It may still be a little outside the box thinking, but you need to start educating yourself about alternative energy sources for your home. We believe that at some point the country will get its energy act together – but for the foreseeable future Washington’s war against market-driven energy options suggests significant disruptions ahead.
Energy is nature’s currency – that’s what a friend and colleague with a physics degree said that to me the other day. I gave the notion some thought, and it makes perfect sense. It’s no wonder that politicians and bureaucrats go to such lengths to control our energy resources.
Their latest target? Coal.
With the Energy Sector’s Workhorse
When it comes to energy resources, coal isn’t hip. It’s one of our oldest, most abundant energy resources. And since coal mining started long before modern safety and environmental protections were ever conceived of, many people still think of coal as dirty, dangerous to mine, and hopelessly behind the times. Anti-energy bureaucrats exploit these fears to gain political cover for increasingly draconian regulations.
But coal is not the energy of the past. In fact, coal produces more of the electricity we use today than any other energy resource. A full 42% of the electricity used every year in the United States comes from coal.
Not only does coal play a crucial role in our own energy production, it also plays a vital role in our economy. The U.S. mines so much coal every year, that we’re able to export it to other nations. Think about that – while we pay through the nose for OPEC oil, the U.S. is a major coal exporter!
Without coal, we’d put a bigger strain on our other resources, making them more expensive. Electric bills have already spiked higher in recent years, but imagine seeing them go up as sharply as gasoline prices have.
Any attack on the coal industry is also a raid on your wallet.
Shutting Down Coal Production
In West Virginia, one of the nation’s top coal-producing states, the economy of entire regions is based almost completely on coal production. But, regulations by the EPA are forcing coal-fired power plants and coal-mining operations to close.
It’s become nearly impossible for those in the coal industry to get permits to mine or burn coal. Many of those with existing permits have had them revoked.
The result? In the just four months in 2012, unemployment in some West Virginia counties has jumped five percent! Five percent in four months… can you imagine?
Hamstring the Coal Industry
The EPA’s attack on the coal industry is two-pronged.
First, the EPA has passed regulations that change the way coal-fired power plants have to handle mercury. The regulations require “Maximum Achievable Control Technology” to reduce the amount of mercury released from these plants.
The regulations actually require levels of mercury emissions so low that they are not achievable. In addition, the economics don’t make sense. The cost of the modifications needed to meet the new regulations will drive the price of energy produced by the plants past the point where people would be willing to pay for it. Yet the plants have three years to comply. Their only other option is retooling for natural gas.
This single measure is expected to cost the coal industry $21 billion per year and will likely destroy 183,000 jobs annually, while making the U.S. even more dependent on energy imports.
In addition to the new mercury regulations, the EPA is also requiring coal plants to reduce so-called greenhouse gas emissions. New emission standards are so stringent that technology does not yet exist to make the required modifications, at least not in any sort of cost effective way. Coal-fired plants must meet the new standards or shut down.
If these regulations are enforced, you can expect your monthly power bill to go up by at least 10 percent – if not 20 – no matter where you live in the nation. Your bills will go up even more if you live in a state that relies heavily on electricity produced from coal. Non-coal-burning states will also feel the pinch as competition and demand increase for other forms of energy.
Clean Air and Clean Water
People who dare to notice the energy mess that Washington has created are all painted by the political class as “pro-pollution.” But never have we met a real person who is “against” clean air or clean water.
But, we’re also not against abundant, affordable power – something that makes our lives infinitely better. And the truth is our coal-fired power plants are cleaner and more efficient than ever.
The bottom line is that a responsible energy policy would recognize the desirability of both and work toward balance. Encouraging power plants to produce power as efficiently and cleanly as possible is a laudable goal. So requiring them to produce power more efficiently and cleanly than what is possible based on existing technologies is ludicrous. Forcing them to shutter their doors if they fail to meet such ridiculous goals… it goes beyond reason.
These mandates have extraordinary costs – especially when it comes to sparking job losses and higher energy prices.
And not only do such policies raise your power bills now, cost hundreds of thousands of jobs, and wreck entire communities… they also ensure that the technological advances needed to further improve coal-fired power production will never happen. Without a thriving coal industry, the risks of exploring such technologies just become too high.
What You Should Expect
The United States has enough coal resources to secure our energy independence for the next 250 years. But, bureaucrats will continue to use coal production as a political bargaining chip.
If everyone who gets an electric bill would tell their Congressman to rein in the EPA and work for energy policies that make good use of our resources while balancing a commitment to sensible environmental concerns, we could turn this issue around very quickly.
On a personal level, recognize that becoming more self-reliant can help you weather the fluctuations in energy prices that you can expect to continue for the foreseeable future.