At last night’s Democratic town hall in Columbus, Ohio, Hillary Clinton bluntly declared her intention to shut down the American coal industry in order to fight global warming pollution. Clinton went on to say that “we’ve got to move away from coal, and all the other fossil fuels.” Her declaration of war on the fossil-fuel industry was in the context of her plan to support job transitions into renewable energy and other sectors for the coal miners:
“I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity — using clean, renewable energy as the key — into coal country. Because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business. And we’re going to make it clear that we don’t want to forget those people. Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives, to turn our lights and power our factories. Now we’ve got to move away from coal, and all the other fossil fuels. But I don’t want to move away from the people who did their best to produce the energy we rely on.”
By stating that “we’ve got to move away” from all fossil fuels, Clinton recognized the first law of climate policy: global warming won’t end until we stop burning fossil fuels.
However, in this campaign she is promoting a long glide path towards that goal, which involves increased domestic and international fracking as a “bridge” to a zero-carbon pollution future. She has not set a date for such a transition; like her Democratic opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, she has set a goal of an 80 percent reduction in domestic greenhouse pollution by 2050. Unlike Sanders she supports continued domestic production of fossil fuels for domestic use and for export, which threatens the climate goals set by President Barack Obama and her successor at the State Department, John Kerry.
Clinton misspoke when she claimed to be the “only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity — using clean, renewable energy as the key — into coal country.” In fact, in December Sanders introduced legislation with that specific aim, the Clean Energy Worker Just Transition Act (S. 2398). The 2007 climate legislation introduced by Sanders and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and 2013 Boxer-Sanders climate legislation had similar provisions.
In fact, in 2007 Clinton co-sponsored a Sanders amendment which successfully allocated $100 million for green-collar job training and resources, including for displaced energy-industry workers.
In short, coal has been a bedrock component of our economy and energy policy for decades. The Proposed Rule, which manifestly proceeds on the opposite premise, thus represents a dramatic change in directions from previous Democratic and Republican administrations.
"It is a remarkable example of executive overreach and an administrative agency’s assertion of power beyond its statutory authority," Tribe and Peabody Energy wrote, in strident language reminiscent of Fox News rhetoric. "Indeed, the Proposed Rule raises serious constitutional questions."
Tribe and Peabody put great weight in the past history of coal's importance to the U.S. economy, as opposed to its future. Hillary Clinton, John F. Kennedy, and Jimmy Carter get special mention.
Both Democrats and Republicans should stand in strong support of the rule of law. And both Democratic and Republican Administrations have promoted the prudent use of domestic coal in order to reduce dependence on imported oil. In contrast, the Proposed Rule will require a dramatic decline in coal-fired generation of electricity, in order to implement EPA’s system of state-by-state mandates. In fact, under EPA’s plan, the agency envisions that coal generation would be eliminated altogether in 12 states. The Proposed Rule thus reverses policies that reach back to John F. Kennedy. As Hillary Clinton observed in 2007, “I think you have got to admit that coal — of which we have a great and abundant supply in America — is not going away.”
[The rule] retroactively abrogates the federal government’s policy of promoting coal as an energy source. Private companies – and whole communities – reasonably relied on the federal government’s commitment to the support of coal.
The Proposed Rule represents a reversal of decades of a bipartisan federal policy emphasizing increased use of domestic coal to achieve U.S. energy independence, reduce imported foreign oil, and provide the Nation with reliable and affordable electricity. As Hillary Clinton observed in 2007, “I think you have got to admit that coal — of which we have a great and abundant supply in America — is not going away.”
Both Democratic and Republican Administrations championed coal throughout the 20th century. John F. Kennedy explained, “It would be the height of folly for this nation to permit its coal mines to be abandoned – to permit the skills of our miners to be scattered throughout the country, in other industries – and to neglect further research and development in this major American industry. … We need intensive research on the development and use of our coal resources.”
Coal has been a central tenet of energy policy for every president since Jimmy Carter, who urged a “shift to plentiful coal” in order to reduce dependence on foreign oil. President Carter promised a certain and consistent policy to provide industry with the confidence necessary to make investments to move the U.S. toward energy independence.
Harvard Law School's conflict-of-interest policy requires only that professors like Tribe disclose outside work to the Dean. Tribe's public conflict of interest report discloses his work opposing the offshore wind project Cape Wind on behalf of fossil-fuel billionaire Bill Koch.
As Tribe fights in the pay of fossil-fuel polluters, seven Harvard students have filed a lawsuit against the University pushing it to divest from fossil-fuel investments.
The full submission can be read here.
Speaking at a right-wing conference in Steamboat Springs, Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) claimed climate policy is a conspiracy to attack workers in the fossil-fuel industry.
“You know what? This is more than a war on coal, this is a war on workers,” he said. “This is a president who has decided he doesn’t like those jobs, he doesn’t like what they’re doing, and he’s going to put them out of business and out of work.”
“It’s a war on the kind of energy we use every day — fossil fuels — whether it’s gas, coal, oil,” he continued, “because they want to tell us how we live our lives, how we heat our homes, we drive our cars.”
Dick and Liz Cheney were the featured stars at the Steamboat Institute Freedom Conference, which took place in Steamboat Springs, Colo., on August 23, 2013. Gardner was the first speaker at the conference.
Refusing to accept the reality of fossil-fueled global warming, Gardner described policy attempts to reduce fossil-fuel pollution as part of a liberal conspiracy against hard-working Americans.
“It’s about the kind of work that thousands and thousands of men and women are doing each and every day,” Gardner claimed President Obama opposes, “working hard each and every day, to make our lives better, to give us a chance to build a way of life for our families.”
In reality, the coal industry, whose carbon pollution remains unregulated, has been marked by reduced employment and higher corporate profits, as labor protections and regulations have been blocked or eliminated by conservatives.
Gardner went on to criticize Obama and his scientific advisors for explanations they made of how market forces would encourage fuel-switching away from coal given a price on carbon pollution. In doing so, he misidentified Harvard geochemist Dan Schrag, a member of the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, as Obama’s top science advisor, who is in fact Harvard physicist John Holdren.
Both Schrag and Holdren have publicly described the need to dramatically reduce carbon emissions to reduce the catastrophic impacts of climate change.
CORY GARDNER: You know what? This is more than a war on coal, this is a war on workers. This is a president who has decided he doesn’t like those jobs, he doesn’t like what they’re doing, and he’s going to put them out of business and out of work.
This is a president who said when he ran for office, ‘Under my plan, electricity rates would necessarily going to skyrocket.’
This is a president whose Secretary of Energy said he’d like to see European-style energy prices.
This is a president whose top science advisor said, ‘A war on coal is exactly what we need.’
It’s more than a war on coal, though. It’s a war on the kind of energy that we use every day, fossil fuels, whether it’s gas, coal, oil, because they want to tell us how we live our lives, how we heat our homes, how we drive our cars.
But make no — it is not just about coal, though. It’s about the kind of work that thousands and thousands of men and women are doing each and every day, that we don’t do, because we’ve chosen other options in life, but they’re in a mine, deep under the ground, in a pit, working heavy equipment, working hard each and every day, to make our lives better, to give us a chance to build a way of life for our families. This president has decided he doesn’t like those jobs. And that’s simply wrong. And we’ve got to hold him accountable for it. I hope you’ll — In northwestern Colorado let’s make sure every — every rotary club, every school, every chamber, everybody knows about it, and that the voices are heard in Washington DC.
Thank you very much, Steamboat Institute, and have a great, great rest of the weekend.
The Obama administration’s Bureau of Land Management auctioned a major tract of Wyoming coal to Peabody Energy at a bargain-basement price of $1.10 per ton today. The North Porcupine coal tract in the Powder River Basin went to the single bidder, Peabody subsidiary BPU Western Resources, for $793,270,310.80 for 721 million tons, BLM representative Beverly Gorny stated in a telephone interview. This sale, made under the provisions of the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, represents a massive fossil-fuel subsidy based on the assumption that the use of the coal benefits the American public. However, it is likely this coal is intended for the Asian market, where sub-bituminous coal fetches a much higher price. The non-competitive leasing program is under federal investigation.
Moreover, the costs of the carbon pollution from mining and burning this coal were not taken into consideration. The 721 million short tons of sub-bituminous coal in the lease sale will generate approximately 1.1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide when burned. With a modest estimated social cost of carbon at $65 per ton of CO2, the global-warming impacts to society of this lease sale exceed $70 billion—90 times the price paid for the lease. More than 27,000 people signed a Credo Action petition opposing the fire sale of Wyoming’s sub-prime carbon reserves.
The lease sale still has to be approved by the BLM post-sale panel, which rejected Peabody’s original offer of $0.90 a ton for the coal.
In a corporate statement released today, coal company Massey Energy criticized President Barack Obama for saying that “owners responsible for conditions in the Upper Big Branch mine should be held accountable for decisions they made and preventive measures they failed to take.” Massey called the President’s remarks “regrettable,” and say that Mr. Obama “has been misinformed.”
Today’s statements by the White House about the Upper Big Branch tragedy are regrettable. We fear that the President has been misinformed about our record and the mining industry in general.
As to our record, we note that in 2009, under this administration, MSHA presented Massey Energy with three “Sentinels of Safety” Awards – the highest number of such awards ever received by one company in a single year.
There has been criticism regarding the backlog of violations that have been appealed. There have been violations at Upper Big Branch that the Company does not agree with and a number of those violations have been appealed. The percentage of violations appealed at UBB and Massey is similar to that for the industry as a whole.
The enormous backlog of appeals waiting to be heard has been frustrating to all involved. We urge Congress to appropriate the funds necessary to enable this system to work better by helping government regulators to resolve the enormous backlog at MSHA. Regardless of the backlog, however, it’s important to understand that all violations must be fixed and are fixed to the satisfaction of state and federal agencies before mines are allowed to continue operating. Most violations are fixed the same day they are discovered.
Massey believes in safety, accountability and responsibility. We seek the truth in the ongoing investigations and are cooperating with federal and state agencies to determine the cause of the tragic accident at Upper Big Branch Mine. Unfortunately, some are rushing to judgment for political gain or to avoid blame. Our goal is to communicate transparently as the facts unfold.
Today, President Barack Obama discussed the initial findings of an investigation by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Mine Safety and Health Administration chief Joe Main, and MSHA Administrator for Coal Mine Safety and Health Kevin Stricklin:
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. On April 5th, the United States suffered the worst mine disaster in more than a generation. Twenty-nine lives were lost. Families have been devastated. Communities have been upended. And during this painful time, all of us are mourning with the people of Montcoal and Whitesville and Naoma and the Coal River Valley. The people of West Virginia are in our prayers.
But we owe them more than prayers. We owe them action. We owe them accountability. We owe them an assurance that when they go to work every day, when they enter that dark mine, they are not alone. They ought to know that behind them there is a company that’s doing what it takes to protect them, and a government that is looking out for their safety.
In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, I asked the officials standing with me – Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, and Joe Main and Kevin Stricklin with the Mine Safety and Health Administration – to lead an investigation into what caused the explosion at Massey Energy Company’s Upper Big Branch mine. I asked them to report back with preliminary findings this week.
We just concluded a meeting, where they briefed me on their investigation. I want to emphasize that this investigation is ongoing, and there’s still a lot that we don’t know. But we do know that this tragedy was triggered by a failure at the Upper Big Branch mine—a failure first and foremost of management, but also a failure of oversight and a failure of laws so riddled with loopholes that they allow unsafe conditions to continue.
So today I’ve directed Secretary Solis, Assistant Secretary Main, and Administrator Stricklin to work closely with state mining officials to press ahead with this investigation—so we can help make sure a disaster like this never happens again. Owners responsible for conditions in the Upper Big Branch mine should be held accountable for decisions they made and preventive measures they failed to take. And I’ve asked Secretary Solis to work with the Justice Department to ensure that every tool in the federal government is available in this investigation.
But this isn’t just about a single mine. It’s about all of our mines. The safety record at the Massey Upper Big Branch mine was troubling. And it’s clear that while there are many responsible companies, far too many mines aren’t doing enough to protect their workers’ safety.
From the Wonk Room.
“At a time when our country is struggling with a deep economic recession, the last thing I want the EPA to do is start regulating greenhouse gases without specific direction from Congress,” Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) said about the EPA budget plan that allocates $56 million for global warming regulation.
Indiana officials will not require insurance companies to complete a nationally approved climate risk survey, because it seems to advance a “politically driven agenda,” said Doug Webber, the state’s acting insurance commissioner.
EPA is closely examining the company’s compliance with all legal requirements.
As the EPA conducts its legal investigation, the blasting continues.
From the Wonk Room.
“House Democrats filed a 1,201-page energy package late Monday night,” the latest version of the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), “and said they are confident that they will resolve all outstanding issues in time for a vote Friday.”
The Charleston Gazette reports: “Coal mining costs Appalachians five times more in early deaths as the industry provides to the region in jobs, taxes and other economic benefits, according to a groundbreaking new study co-authored by a West Virginia University researcher.”
“Switzerland’s glaciers shrank by 12 percent over the past decade, melting at their fastest rate due to rising temperatures and lighter snowfalls, a study by the Swiss university ETH showed Monday.”
From the Wonk Room.
Global warming “could lead to the greatest human migration in history” uprooting between 200 million and 700 million people by 2050, according to the International Organization for Migration.
“New green jobs sprouted faster than the overall workforce expanded across the nation from 1998 to 2007,”according to a study released Wednesday by the Pew Charitable Trusts,” and “California led the nation in all categories measured.”
The Obama administration “plans to announce Thursday a proposal to eliminate the expedited reviews that have made it easier for mining companies to get approval” for mining “the Appalachians by blasting off mountaintops and discarding the rubble in stream valleys.”