Obama administration denies waging a ‘war on coal’

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor

Despite President Barack Obama’s new plan to target the coal industry by imposing strict limits on carbon dioxide emissions, the administration denies that there is a “war on coal.”

The president “expects fossil fuels, and coal specifically, to remain a significant contributor for some time,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told Reuters. It is “all about having, in fact, coal as part of that future. I don’t believe it is a ‘war on coal.'”

Last week, Obama announced his new plan to tackle global warming, including carbon emissions from new and existing power plants, which critics say would cripple the coal industry.

Ahead of the president’s speech, a member of a White House’s advisory panel of outside scientists told The New York Times that a “war on coal” is needed.

“Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they’re having a war on coal. On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what’s needed,” said Harvard geochemist Daniel P. Schrag.

Since last year, the Obama administration has been accused of waging a “war on coal” as the industry argues that current and pending EPA regulations are forcing coal plants to shut down. More than 280 coal-fired units will be shuttered in the coming years, according to industry estimates.

“The regulations the President wants to force on coal are not feasible. And if it’s not feasible, it’s not reasonable,” said West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin “It’s clear now that the President has declared a war on coal. It’s simply unacceptable that one of the key elements of his climate change proposal places regulations on coal that are completely impossible to meet with existing technology.”

However, Moniz said that the administration believes that coal will play a critical role in the country’s energy future.

The administration’s view is “what does it take for us to do to make coal part of a low carbon future,” Moniz said. “We expect that [carbon dioxide limits] is going to be positive for the economy.”

The Obama administration’s new coal plant regulations would effectively ban the construction of new coal-fired power plants unless they utilized carbon capture technology which is “relatively new, expensive and unproven,” reports Reuters.

Carbon capture is included in the $8 billion in loan guarantees the administration is offering to develop new carbon-cutting technologies.

“It will also include some advanced technologies for using coal very different from today’s technologies that will enable much less expensive carbon capture in future,” Moniz said.

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