Obama touts ‘all-of-the-above’ energy plan, makes no mention of coal

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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President Barack Obama used his State of the Union address to tout his administration’s “all-of-the-above” energy plan, praising increasing natural gas and green energy production.

But Obama once again left coal power out of his speech.

This is the third State of the Union address in a row that Obama has touted his “all-of-the-above” energy plan without specifically mentioning coal power — the largest source of electricity in the U.S.

“It’s not just oil and natural gas production that’s booming; we’re becoming a global leader in solar, too,” Obama said, praising U.S. energy production. “Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced.”

His omission sparked the ire of the coal industry, which has been fighting the administration’s regulations that make it nearly impossible to build new coal-fired power plants in the U.S. — despite the fact that coal generated 39 percent of U.S. electricity last year.

“The president ignored the opportunity to level with the American people about the damage his Climate Action Plan will have on the U.S. economy and jobs across the country,” said Mike Duncan, president and of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity in a statement.

“In a puzzling paradox, President Obama decried income inequality, while touting progress on his climate change initiative – bypassing the fact that increased energy costs place an outsized burden on lower and fixed income families and make it more difficult for businesses to succeed,” Duncan added.

The Environmental Protection Agency has piled on regulations in the past few years, culminating in proposed limits on carbon dioxide emissions from new coal plants which were published in early 2014. The emissions limits would effectively ban the construction of new coal-fired power plants unless they install carbon capture technology — which the coal industry says is not economically viable.

“Over 90 percent of Kentucky and nearly 40 percent of America get their electricity from coal-fired power plants,” said Kentucky Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield. “If we eliminate this primary source of electricity, we will only be sending more jobs overseas where coal fired power plants are being built every week.”

The recent cold snap that has hit large swaths of the country have highlighted concerns over whether or not power companies can keep the heat on in households where temperatures are dipping below zero.

In New England, power providers were forced to turn on older oil and coal-fired power plants to make up for natural gas plants that were suffering from problems due to the cold weather. Power companies had previously warned that over-reliance on natural gas could imperil the region’s energy markets.

“The United States is currently experiencing one of the coldest winters on record, and those Americans who cared to tune in tonight heard scarcely a word about the president’s plan to make sure they can continue to affordably heat their homes,” said Thomas Pyle, president of the free-market Institute for Energy Research.

“Rather, they heard more lecturing about an ‘all of the above energy plan’ that discounts the benefits of America’s vast coal reserves and the hundreds of thousands of jobs that coal-fired energy supplies,” Pyle added.

Update: Virginia Republican Rep. Morgan Griffith responded to President Obama’s failure to mention coal as part of “all-of-the-above” energy plan.

“I also note with interest that he again referenced an ‘all of the above’ energy policy, but for the third year in a row, he has failed to mention coal,” said Griffith. “He may not like coal, but America still relies on coal to keep the lights on, to keep the heat on, and to keep American jobs.”

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