Obama vs. Romney on coal

Early in the October 16 town hall debate, audience member Phillip Tricolla asked President Obama whether he agreed with Energy Secretary Steven Chu that his department is not concerned about lowering gasoline prices. This led to a broader discussion of energy policy, rife with claims and counter claims by the President and Governor Romney.

Let’s start with coal production. President Obama said, “We have seen increases in coal production and employment” during his term. Governor Romney retorted that, “I was in coal country. People grabbed my arms and said, ‘Please save my job.’ The head of the EPA said, ‘You can’t build a coal plant. You’ll virtually — it’s virtually impossible given our regulations.’ When the president ran for office, he said if you build a coal plant, you can go ahead, but you’ll go bankrupt. That’s not the right course for America.

 Let’s look at the facts. According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, coal production first hit 1 billion short tons in 1990, fell back for three years, but has held steady at above 1 billion short tons ever since, peaking in 2008 — President George W. Bush’s last year in office — at 1,171,809,000 tons. Under President Obama, production was 1.075 billion tons in 2009, 1.085 billion tons in 2010, and 1.09 billion tons in 2011; but the EIA says that US coal production through August 25, 2012, is down 5.4% from 2011 figures.

Coal industry employment is up, or down, depending on the source. The Mine Safety and Health Administration claims an average of 142,263 workers during 2011 compared with 133,827 in 2008, while the EIA says the numbers are 136,710 for 2011 and 136,574 for 2008. But MSHA also reports that the number of active U.S. coal mines has shrunk from 2,129 in 2008 to just 1,325 in 2011, with more to be closed and new mining permits much harder to obtain. Moreover, while U.S. recoverable coal reserves total 259.5 billion short tons, only 17.9 billon tons are recoverable from producing mines.

Coal exports, however, are a political football. In 2011, as the U.S. electric power industry used 119 million fewer tons of U.S. coal than in 2010, the U.S. exported 107 million tons, up 31% from 2010. But that could change. According to a report in The Hill (October 7), should Sen. Ron Wyden (D, Oregon) become chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, he would continue his push for restrictions on coal exports through expanded environmental reviews. Wyden has already called on President Obama to halt all U.S. energy exports “to allow more time for economic and environmental studies” – sounds like another Gulf oil moratorium, but this time on coal.

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About the Author: Duggan Flanakin

Duggan Flanakin

Duggan Flanakin is the Director of Policy Research at the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow. A former Senior Fellow with both the Texas and Arkansas Public Policy Foundations, Mr. Flanakin has a Master's in Public Policy from Regent University. During the years he spent reporting on environmental regulation in Texas and nationwide, Mr. Flanakin authored definitive works on the creation of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and on environmental education in Texas.

  • First) The saying is, “is rife with,” not, “is ripe with.” Rife means full of, riddled with, or laden with, to name a few similar-meaning words. Second) If you’re going to call it Obama vs. Romney on Coal, then it would be helpful to have side-by-side facts that show the differences between the two’s approaches to coal. You quoted one Romney statement that didn’t show his position at all. The rest was Obama, George Bush Jr and Sen. Ron Wyden statistics on oil production. How does this show us the difference between Obama and Romney on coal. Why don’t you mention the coal miners press conference http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2012/10/wow-ohio-coal-miners-to-obama-quit-lying-about-us/ or things Romney actually said about liking coal http://www.nasdaq.com/video/video.aspx?vid=Romney-I-Like-Coal-517496586

    • CFACT Ed

      Rife indeed. Corrected, thanks. Thanks as well for the appropriate links.

  • R. Samuel Mowery

    On Friday, October 19, I found a report from the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, “A Look Ahead to EPA Regulations in 2013” in a message in my personal e-mail. You can find it by typing this quotation into your e-mail browser. When I try to attach the link, Yahoo seems to “lose” my message. President Obama’s EPA has an ambitious regulatory agenda – destructive to our economy AND NATIONAL DEFENSE – on hold until after the November elections. Win or lose, they plant to implement these regulations once the no longer have cause to fear the voters. Gasoline prices will climb to $6 per gallon, possibly even to $8 or $9 as in parts of Europe. A radical and economically devastating regulatory agenda. Greenhouse Gas Regulations: Obama once said these would be worse than global warming cap-and-trade regulations, and an enormous burden on US taxpayers. Cost of $300 to $400 Billion; raise prices of gasoline at the pump (leading to skyrocketing food prices, and everything delivered by trucks) and energy at home. How will the poor survive? Not only coal plants will be affected/closed: The Clean Air Act will increase costs to churches, schools, restaurants, hospitals, farms (“Cow tax,” affecting 90% of livestock production in the US), and who knows what else. Requirements are so strict the essentially eliminate coal as a fuel options for future electric power generation; and will drive up electricity prices for existing plants. Ozone Rules: The New York Times reported last year that Obama would delay these rules until after his election this November, but certainly implement them in 2013. EPA estimates a cost of $90 billion a year; but other studies see upward or a trillion dollars, and destruction of 7.4 million jobs! EPA projects that it will put 650 additional counties into “non-attainment” – equivalent of “closed for business!” This will cause large numbers of plant closures. This was delayed to Obama would not lose votes this November!! Hydraulic Fracturing: In the Obama administration, 14 agencies – including EPA; Department of Energy; Bureau of Land Management; Center for Disease Control; Department of Agriculture; even the Securities and Exchange Commission (!!!!!!) are currently working to find ways to regulate fracturing at the federal level so they can eventually eliminate the art completely. This is a major source of the current massive new supply of gas, and would be devastating to the economy. Estimates of $1.4 to $1.6 billion in costs for new permits, and well workovers will happen. Many more rules in this publication. One look at this barrage of rules confirms that the Obama-EPA team is committed to a far-left environmental agenda rather that tackling real environmental problems. Obama had hired far left environmental activists to put this radical agenda above everything, ignoring sound science; jobs for our people; and the growth of our economy. Obama is working hard to stop the development of Oil, gas and coal.