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President Obama’s war on coal, a resource that provides 35 percent of America’s power, likely won’t end when he leaves office in January 2017. That’s because both Democratic presidential candidates are passionately opposed to coal.
“We have to move away from coal, everybody understands that there’s no doubt about it,” Hillary Clinton told the League of Conservation Voters in November 2015.
It’s a position that her campaign has affirmed, again and again, including when Obama placed a moratorium on the issuance of coal leases on public land.
“Hillary Clinton supports President Obama’s efforts to ensure our energy priorities align with our imperative to combat climate change, including today’s announced review [by Obama] which she would see through to conclusion as president,” Clinton’s spokesman, Ian Sams, stated on January 16 of this year, the same day Obama made his announcement.
Her opponent in the Democratic race, Bernie Sanders, also opposes coal.
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“To he– with the fossil fuel industry,” Sanders told a crowd in North Charleston, South Carolina, in November 2015. “Worry more about your children and your grandchildren than your campaign contributions.”
Sanders said in December, “It’s time for a political revolution that takes on the fossil fuel billionaires, accelerates our transition to clean energy and finally puts people before the profits of polluters.”
Clinton, the former Secretary of State and former first lady, also published a blue print for what would happen after coal plants are shut down. She proposed a $30 billion plan to help coal miners, families and others who will be hurt as coal is phased out and plants closed.
“She will not allow coal communities to be left behind — or left out of our economic future,” the document states.
Among other things, the money will cover benefits to ex-miners, will finance schools in former coal mining communities, and will help miners transition to other jobs. But it will not help the coal plants.
“Hillary Clinton is committed to meeting the climate change challenge as President and making the United States a clean energy superpower,” the document states.
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Her plan on coal plants is virtually identical to Obama’s proposals.
The coal industry in the United States has collapsed since Obama took office in 2009. Coal company stocks lost 90 percent of their value between January 2009 and August 2015, CNN Money reported.
Additionally, more than one in five coal-related jobs in the US has disappeared since Obama was inaugurated, Politico said. Several major coal mining companies also have declared bankruptcy.
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Obama’s regulations on power plants have made it uneconomical for many of them to stay open.
“The administration has systemically eviscerated a high-wage industry, coal … and then offers welfare money,” Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association told Politico. “And rather than see opportunity to distance herself, [Clinton] now appears to embrace those policies.”
Officials in coal mining communities haven’t forgotten what the Obama administration has done. It has impacted how the communities view Democrats in general.
“People look at these folks and say, ‘They’ve completely abandoned us, it’s like we don’t live in America,’” United Mine Workers of America Vice President Ed Yankovich said of coal-country attitudes towards Democrats. “There’s a distinct bitterness about it.”
He added, “If you were a Democrat running for town supervisor, they’d treat it like you and Barack Obama were making decisions together. The question is whether Hillary Clinton can do something to assuage that and [have them] say, ‘You do care for us.’”
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Yet the jobs that Clinton’s plans would create pay less than mining jobs, coal experts say. That could make the economic crisis that coal country is already facing even worse.
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Critics have long complained that Obama’s energy plans would raise electricity rates for the average consumer. There seems to be some evidence that those predictions are coming true.
The retail price of electricity increased by 9.2 percent between August 2009 (his first year in office) and August 2014, according to government data. In fact, it is expected to increase even further by 2017. By September of that year, electricity will have increased by 15 percent since Obama’s first year in office, according to the same data.
“EPA completely ignores the fact that building new power plants is far more expensive than maintaining existing ones,” Travis Fisher, with the Institute for Energy, told The Washington Times. “We have a situation where EPA is forcing the closures of perfectly good and affordable power plants and trying to replace them with new, more expensive plants.”
Fisher continued, “This means higher electricity rates for Americans. EPA’s claim that its regulation will lower electricity bills is misleading. In reality, electricity rates will skyrocket under the proposed rule. The only way power bills will go down is if EPA succeeds in making Americans use substantially less electricity than we currently do. It’s like telling people that their grocery bill will go down if they’re forced to stop buying the food they need to feed their family.”
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Utilities will be forced to shut down coal-burning power plants that generate around 73,000 megawatts of electricity a year because of EPA rules, industry leaders told The Times. An additional 50,000 megawatts of electricity will have to shut down if the EPA’s new Clean Power Plan rule goes into effect.
In February 2014, an official within the Department of Energy said electricity rates in coal areas could rise by 70 to 80 percent as plants close, Off The Grid News previously reported.
That same month, US Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) warned that the shutdown of older coal-burning power plants because of Obama’s EPA restrictions would result in electricity shortages and power outages.
“If this recent cold weather occurs again in a year or two when these plants are shut down there simply will not be enough electricity available to keep homes and businesses warm,” Inhofe said. “It could result in massive blackouts. When Americans need their electricity it will not be there. It will be as if we’re living in the 1600s and everyone will be cold.
“… These coal-fired power plants which were critical to keeping homes all around the country warm during the cold temperatures are going to be shut down because of Obama’s environmental regulations,” Inhofe added.
With Hillary Clinton pledging to continue Obama’s policies, it may be time for Americans to consider generating their own electricity.
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