Reality Check. “The War on Coal” is kind of like the “War on Christmas”

October 11, 2017

reaganswar

In other words, as real as Santa Claus.

Nevertheless, Republicans have, apparently, declared war on Ronald Reagan’s War on Coal.
Don’t be misled.

Washington Post:

“Tomorrow, in Washington, D.C., I’ll be signing a proposed rule to withdraw the so-called Clean Power Plan of the past administration, and thus begin the effort to withdraw that rule,” Pruitt told a crowd.  In keeping with President Trump’s campaign rhetoric that promised a revival of the fossil-fuel industry, Pruitt vowed: “The war against coal is over.”

Indeed, coal jobs have been declining for a long time. Three decades ago, there were three times as many miners in the United States as there are now. That means coal miners should be a less powerful voting bloc than they were in the 1980’s.

But Trump’s success suggests that may not be the case. Even if there are fewer coal miners overall, there appear to be more GOP voters who take coal miners’ priorities to heart. Instead, opposition to environmental priorities of Democrats has been on the rise among Republicans.

Take, for example, the big gap in concern about climate change between Democrats and Republicans that widened further over the course of Obama’s presidency.

In 2007, 55 percent of Democrats said they worried “a great deal” about global warming, again according to a Gallup survey, versus 24 percent of Republicans who were worried, too. In 2017, that gap grew to a 66-to-18-percent split between Democrats and Republicans.

Popular Science:

The Trump administration is following a familiar pattern with today’s proclamation that it will try to rescind the carbon-cutting Clean Power Plan: Announce a major policy shift without offering any details or scientific support. At a staged event in Hazard, Kentucky, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt reached for well-worn anti-regulatory rhetoric: “The war on coal is over,” he said, trying to make it sound like the rollback is a done deal.

In fact, undoing an established EPA regulation is a daunting task that includes a rigorous rule-writing process with several stages of review and public comment. And multiple groups, as well as state governments, will be sure to challenge the EPA in court, which potentially means several more years of regulatory uncertainty for industry.

Several other recent Trump administration efforts to undo environmental rules have been reversed or rebuffed by courts, including a mandate to cut methane leakage. Other big-picture coal-related rules are still in litigation, including coal-mine leases in Wyoming. Altogether, the attempted reversals, appeals, and lawsuits have created a chaotic regulatory landscape—and that’s not good for communities or for businesses.

The 2015 Clean Power Plan aimed to cut cut CO2 emissions in the United States by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. It was adopted after long consultation with states, and gave them a great deal of self-determination in reaching the goals of the plan. The Supreme Court put the plan on hold last year, pending today’s announcement.

USAToday:

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration’s move to start dismantling the Clean Power Plan rule intended to curb carbon emissions that contribute to global warming will not be a quick process.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s announcementSunday to a group of coal miners in eastern Kentucky that he plans to sign a proposed rule Tuesday rolling back the Obama-era rule is simply the first of a number of steps the agency will have to take.

Proposing a rule to undo a regulation takes the same time-consuming, pain-staking, research-based, legally-defensible process used to adopt the very rule targeted for elimination.

“Today’s proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan just begins the battle,” David Doniger, a climate change expert with the Natural Resources Defense Council, wrote in a blog Monday. “Pruitt’s EPA must hold hearings and take public comment, and issue a final repeal — with or without a possible replacement.  He must respond to all legal, scientific, and economic objections raised, including the issues we lay out here.”

And then, Doniger said, “we will take Pruitt and his Dirty Power Plan to court.”

13 Action News Toledo:

There are a number of coal-fired plants in our region. The closest to Toledo is actually one of the largest in the United States, DTE’s Monroe Power Plant. In spite of today’s announcement, experts say abandoning the clean power plan probably won’t change the long-term outlook for coal.

Pruitt made the announcement in coal country, “People want to know that the EPA is no longer in the business of picking winners and losers or trying to use regulations to declare war on a certain sector of the economy. That’s not how a regulatory body should act.”

The clean power plan was a centerpiece of the Obama administration’s environmental policies. Ken Kilbert is an environmental law expert at The University of Toledo, “The idea was to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32% nationwide by the year 2020.”

There was opposition to it right away. Kilbert says dozens of states, Including Ohio, lined up against the rule, “The plan was challenged in court the year after it came out.The Supreme Court issued a stay, so the rule never took effect.”

The goal of the clean power plan was to restrict greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. The EPA is expected to declare the rule exceeded federal law by setting emissions standards that power plants could not reasonably meet. Kilbert says this is the first step in a proposal to rescind the plan, “What’s happening is a proposal to rescind the 2015 rule. At this point it is just a piece of paper. There is no force of law until the final rule after public comment. That will happen at the earliest in 2018.”

Kilbert says regardless of today’s announcement, coal is being phased out by a lot of power companies, and it all comes down to money, “Coal irrespective of any environmental regulations is phasing out because of cheap natural gas along with solar and wind and other alternative energy sources.”

We checked in with both First Energy and DTE. A DTE spokesman says this does not change the company’s plans to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by the year 2050. The spokesman adds that DTE plans to continue shifting energy sources from coal to natural gas.
The company also plans to continue increasing wind and solar power options as well.

 

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3 Responses to “Reality Check. “The War on Coal” is kind of like the “War on Christmas””

  1. Don Osborn Says:

    “A DTE spokesman says this does not change the company’s plans to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by the year 2050. The spokesman adds that DTE plans to continue shifting energy sources from coal to natural gas.
    The company also plans to continue increasing wind and solar power options as well.”
    Kinda says it all!!

  2. wpNSAlito Says:

    In West Virginia the *miners* have been warring on coal for generations, pulling out the most accessible material to ship off, meanwhile losing jobs to more profitable coal extraction of technology-dependent strip mining.

  3. Frank Price Says:

    It’s been going on for far longer than the graph implies: Starting in the early 1800s, the number of miners rose almost exponentially before peaking around 700,000 during late 1910s–early 1920s. It decreased from there to below 150,000 in the mid–1960s before rising to the small peak shown on the left of the graph above and dropping to less than 1/10th its peak.

    The main causes of the decline have been
    • the shift to oil as a major energy source;
    • increasing use of mining machinery starting in the 1920s. Before that employment tracked productivity. Starting around 1920, productivity increased or remained steady while employment declined;
    • shift to open–pit & mountaintop removal;
    • most recently, the natural gas boom.

    Coal jobs aren’t coming back; the Trump Admin. has picked a looser.

    With jobs in efficiency & renewables around 4,000,000 & increasing rapidly, we’d be better off pushing those sectors than coal.


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