The 2012 Democratic platform touts an “all-of-the-above” energy policy to develop America’s energy resources, including wind, solar, biofuels, geothermal, nuclear, oil, clean coal, and natural gas.
Yet this stated goal is difficult to mesh with President Obama’s record.
Early in 2008, then Senator Obama told the San Francisco Chronicle that “if somebody wants to build a coal plant, they can — it’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”
Energy Secretary Steven Chu repeatedly said in a 2008 speech, “Coal is my worst nightmare,” according to the Wall Street Journal. And last year, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson encouraged college students to keep campaigning against coal-fired power plants.
“It’s so important that your voices are heard, that campuses that are supposed to be teaching people aren’t meanwhile polluting the surrounding community with mercury and costing the children a few IQ points because of the need to generate power. It’s simply not fair,” Jackson told college environmental activists.
“Make sure we don’t lose what we have already in trying to keep stretching forward,” Jackson said. “Because it would be tragic if we take one step forward and then we end up taking five or six steps back.”
“We need to make continued investments in clean coal technologies and advanced biofuels,” Obama said in a 2010 speech at Andrews Air Force Base.
In his 2011 State of the Union address, the president set a new goal to generate 80 percent of the country’s power from clean energy sources, including clean coal. However, clean coal was not specifically mentioned in his address this year, instead he called for an “all-of-the-above” energy policy.
“This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy,” Obama said in his 2012 State of the Union address. “A strategy that’s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.”
In May, it was reported that Obama added a “clean coal” section to his website after an inmate received 40 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary in coal-heavy West Virginia and criticism from Republicans for his administration’s strict environmental policies.
A recent political ad from the Obama campaign even attacks Mitt Romney for saying that coal ‘kills people” in 2003. The ad also says that Obama has a history of supporting clean coal.
However, the EPA has been ramping up regulations that heavily impact coal-fired power plants and coal mines which casts Obama’s coal record into doubt.
The Energy Information Administration said in July that a record number of coal-fired generators would be shut down in 2012, and CNN reported in July that 111 — one-fifth — of the 500 coal plants in the U.S. were projected shut down as a result of low natural gas prices and EPA regulations, in particular the Utility MACT.
The Utility MACT has been reported to be one of the EPA’s costliest rules ever and aims to limit mercury emissions of and other hazardous air pollutants from coal-fired power plants.
The Institute for Energy Research estimates the Utility MACT and Cross-State Air Pollution Rule alone would shutter more than 10 percent of the coal-fired generating capacity of the United States.
Two GAO reviewed studies estimated annual costs of just four major EPA regulations inlcusing the Utility MACT and the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) to be $16 billion to $21 billion over the coming years.
Last month, a federal court struck down CSAPR for violating the limits imposed by the Clean Air Act, but the Utility MACT and other major regulation are still intact.
The EPA has also proposed rules to limit greenhouse gas emission that can be met by natural gas facilities, but not coal plants. This will effectively ban new coal plants from being built unless new coal plants would be required to have carbon-capture technology, which isn’t economically available yet.
Some states are already feeling the hurt from EPA regulations as mines and coal plants are shuttered and workers are laid off. In Pennsylvania, PBS Coals Inc. and its affiliate, RoxCoal Inc., laid off 225 workers working in deep and surface mines in Somerset County, citing low demand and aggressive regulations.
OhioAmerican Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Murray Energy Corp., announced layoffs in Jefferson County, Ohio last month, citing EPA regulations as the reason for the idlings. Consol Energy also announced it would lay off 318 employees in Brickmore, West Virginia due to EPA regulations. Arch Coal and Alpha Natural resources have also announced plans to cut their workforce in the state due to EPA regulations.
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