Former EPA Region 6 Administrator Al Armendariz, who resigned earlier this year after video surfaced of a speech in which he compared the agency’s enforcement policy to Roman crucifixions, abruptly changed the subject Thursday when a “Twitter town hall” questioner asked him about the Obama administration’s record on coal.
Armendariz now advocates for wind, solar and other alternative energy sources on behalf of the Sierra Club.
“What grade would you give President Obama on stopping coal production in the United States?” the press office of Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe tweeted at Armendariz. Inhofe is the ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and is an outspoken opponent of the environmentalist lobby.
Armendariz responded only that he was “proud of the work of the Administration, thru EPA, to keep the rivers and lakes of Oklahoma Clean.”
Inhofe blasted the environmentalist movement after the Twitter event for what he said was its silence on “this administration’s failed energy policies.”
“[W]hat was interesting is that Dr. Armendariz refused to answer the simple question about what grade he would give his old boss, President Obama, on killing coal in the United States,” the senator said.
“The radical environmental left has been silent on Obama’s environmental record lately, allowing him to take an ‘incomplete’ grade while he’s looking for votes, undoubtedly because they know he will do everything possible to earn an A in their books if he gains a second term.”
In his press release Inhofe also criticized Obama’s handling of Solyndra, the failed solar energy company that received hundreds of millions of dollars in loan guarantees backed by taxpayers. Thursday marked the first anniversary of Solyndra’s collapse.
Armendariz also said Thursday that the United States will “soon” derive only 10 percent of its energy from coal, and expressed hope for a “nearly coal-free grid” in Texas within 10 years.
Institute for Energy Research President Thomas Pyle, however, told The Daily Caller that a sudden rush into wind and solar technology could make Texas’ energy supply less predictable and more expensive.
Alternative energy supplies are less reliable and require natural gas as a backup, he said, adding that wind energy requires power to travel great distances to consumers.
“There’s a role for wind and there’s a role for alternative energy, but they’re not going to replace the energy sources that work and are efficient,” Pyle told TheDC. “The reason there is a big market share for fossil fuels is because they work: They’re affordable, reliable and transportable.”
Clean Coal USA spokeswoman Lisa Miller told TheDC that, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, wind power plants are just as expensive to build as coal plants.
“If the production tax credit for renewables expires at the end of this year,” she added, “it’s impossible to believe wind would be a reality in Texas.”
Worse, Pyle said, a complete shift from coal production to alternative energy sources could be a drag on the U.S. economy.
“When you knock out 20 percent of the energy generated in this country arbitrarily through a government fiat, you’re going to increase the [cost] of every single good and every single service in the economy, and you’re going to drive manufacturing out of it,” Pyle said.
“When you increase the cost of electricity, you increase the cost of everything. Our economy will go down the tank and we’ll never get out of the anemic growth rate we have now.”
The online event was hosted by the Texas Tribune.
A total of 23 Twitter users asked Armendariz questions, and Sen. Inhofe’s wasn’t the most adversarial of the bunch. “Does the EPA have any clue what the 10th Amendment to the Constitution says?” asked Twitter user TJ Scott.
Scott’s Twitter profile describes him as a “Right Wing Extremist that clings to my Guns and Jesus.”
Neither Al Armendariz nor the Sierra Club responded to TheDC’s requests for comment.