Opinion

Defending Coal Takes Courage: Grimes Must Ignore Climate Change Political Correctness

Tom Harris Executive Director, Climate Science Coalition

Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes claims that, if elected, she will stand up for Kentucky’s coal sector in opposition to the regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This is presumably why the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) supports her Senate bid.

But Grimes’ approach should make coal proponents nervous and the UMWA reconsider their endorsement.

Grimes supports the main weapon being used by the EPA against the coal sector, the dubious notion that we can control the Earth’s climate simply by restricting our emissions of carbon dioxide.

She made this clear in her October 13th debate with Senator Mitch McConnell when she said that more money should be spent on “carbon capture and sequestration” (CCS), a multi-billion dollar research initiative to find ways to capture and store the carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Grimes seems unaware that it will be years before nation-wide CCS on coal-fired power stations is possible, if indeed it ever is. The technology has yet to be proven economically viable. Estimated costs for CCS are so high that much of the industry will be driven out of business if it is ever implemented. Customers of the few coal-fired power companies who might try to operate with CCS will see their rates soar and eventually seek other electricity providers.

This means that advocating CCS is advocating an end to coal-fired electricity in Appalachia, not to mention many other parts of the U.S. Yet Grimes, unwittingly or otherwise, boosts exactly that outcome whenever she promotes so-called clean coal, a synonym most people use for CCS.

Used in this way, the term ‘clean coal’ makes no sense. Carbon dioxide is not unclean and so removing it from a coal station’s effluents does not make the effluents cleaner. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant; it is an essential ingredient in plant photosynthesis, without which there would be no life on Earth. Some scientists say that we should intentionally increase carbon dioxide emissions so as to enhance crop yield, a benefit that has already been observed across the world as levels have gradually risen.

Coal supporters should also be concerned about Grimes’ support of two of the main ideas driving the EPA’s war on coal. Mirroring the views of two of her strongest boosters, former president Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, both of whom passionately promote ‘stopping climate change,’ Grimes asserted in the October 13th debate, “I recognize, unlike Sen. McConnell, the realities of global warming.” Like the Clintons, she apparently also supports the notion that most scientists in the field blame this supposed warming mainly on our carbon dioxide emissions.

Grimes seems to not know that there has been no overall global warming for the past 18 years. This should not have happened according to the models on which the climate scare is based. That is one of the reasons that there is no consensus among experts about the causes of climate change. They recognize that the field is highly immature and is anything but ‘settled science,’ as portrayed by the EPA.

Unless Grimes and the UMWA effectively contest the science, the main excuse for the EPA’s dangerous new carbon dioxide regulations, they will fail to prevent the coal industry’s collapse. The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change reports list thousands of peer-reviewed science references debunking the climate scare, so Grimes and the union have plenty of ammunition.

Otherwise, what happened here in Ontario will undoubtedly happen in the United States. Coal supporters in our province accepted the idea that carbon dioxide emissions are a serious climate threat. The result was predictable: in 2003, coal provided 25 percent of our electricity; today it is 0. Ontario’s electricity prices have soared with natural gas suppliers demanding higher and higher rates and the province’s debt per capita now at five times that of California. In a decade, Ontario changed from being a ‘have’ province, contributing to the wealth of the Canadian federation, to a ‘have not’ province, dependent on handouts from the rest of the country.

In June, when commenting on the EPA’s new carbon dioxide rules Grimes promised, “When I’m in the U.S. Senate, I will fiercely oppose the president’s attack on Kentucky’s coal industry.” If she is sincere about defending coal, then she must not be afraid to speak out against the primary threat to that industry — the increasingly improbable notion that carbon dioxide emissions from coal stations are in any way dangerous.

Rather than dodge the question, Grimes and the UMWA must explain that, despite rising carbon dioxide emissions across the world, today’s climate and weather are not extraordinary. There is no convincing evidence that human activity is causing dangerous climate change, now or in the foreseeable future. There is no legitimate reason for the EPA to take action against emissions of carbon dioxide from America’s coal stations.