Press Archive


Commentary by Chris Hamilton, WV Coal Forum Co-Chair

On June 2, President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency issued unprecedented climate rules which, if implemented, will have no real effect on climate change or in the reduction of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.  None −  ZERO effect on Planet Earth’s carbon emissions.

The entire coal-fired power generating fleet in the U.S. is responsible for less than 4 percent of our planet’s carbon emissions while China and India alone account for over 90 percent of today’s emissions.  The president’s plan calls for a 30 percent reduction in coal use, which in essence can be boiled down to reducing less than 1 percent of our emissions.  Stop and think about that for a moment − less than 1 percent of global emissions reduced, and at what cost?

Who will pay for this? I submit to you, the American people will pay for this through skyrocketing electric power utility bills and as-yet untold increases in manufactured goods because of increases in production and transportation costs. Our nation is still crawling out of a recession and yet the president and his EPA choose to deal a death blow to the American economy.

There have been several preliminary estimates of the economics of the Presidents’ plan. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce calculated a $10 billion dollar impact on the southeastern states alone and hundreds of thousands of jobs lost across the country.  The United Mine Workers of America completed an assessment that concludes Obama’s plan will result in the loss of 75,000 jobs by 2020 and twice that by 2030.

Again, these disastrous economic consequences are being levied in exchange for a reduction of less than 1 percent of global emissions.  Rest assured, we all pay, every single West Virginian and every American. Higher utility bills, fewer taxpayers, fewer tax dollars and the thousands who will lose their jobs and ability to take care of their families.

By the way, 1 percent of global emissions equates to a temperature decrease of about 0.015 percent and a sea level decrease of 1/20 of 1 percent − or the thickness of three sheets of paper.

It is pure nonsense, bordering on ludicrous to think for a moment that other countries will follow our lead in reducing CO2 emissions.  The media may try to paint a picture that the whole world automatically will do what America does, but in reality, it simply will not happen.

When I hear President Obama, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and their supporters rant about the United States providing climate leadership for other countries to follow, I shake my head. This is akin to following “F” Troop into battle or McHale’s Navy at sea or the Keystone Cops in a street fight.  It simply will not happen!

For the sake of this writing we’ll not examine the leadership qualities or the ill-conceived plan in question.  I will, however, simply observe that the U.S. electric utility industry has continuously made improvement through costly upgrades to its entire fleet over the past 30 plus years to reduce sulfur, ground level ozone, nitrogen dioxides, mercury and particulate matter to the tune of achieving over a 90 percent reduction in total air emissions while tripling the percentage of coal combustion throughout this same period. Has the president even bothered to acknowledge this incredible progress? Of course not.

The cost of these upgrades has been in the hundreds of billions of dollars that domestic consumers already have paid for because these dollars have been channeled back through the rate base. Since 2005 alone, American Electric Power customers have seen a 50 percent increase in their electric power rates, according to the leadership at AEP subsidiary Appalachian Power.

But while America’s industrial bedrock has made real progress in reducing air emissions over the last couple decades, the real kicker in this summation is that China India and other large consumers of coal have not followed our lead by making any of these improvements designed for reducing pollution to improve human health. Not the first filter or scrubber, not the first after-treatment system of any dimension to control or mitigate pollutants, nothing even close to the level of progress achieved in the United States.

In Europe, Germany is a shining example of a country that tried to move away from coal-fired power, and the results were a near economic disaster. That nation now is switching back to using coal as much as possible as quickly as it can.

Germany’s experiment shows us a valuable lesson and explains the hubris that is the downfall of the Obama administration. The president will have the United States risk is entire economic structure, electric grid security and the health and welfare of its most vulnerable citizens for such questionable, minute results.  And Obama expects other nations to follow us? To put it plainly, it ain’t gonna happen!

While the United States government shuts down its most reliable and affordable energy source, other nations will continue to burn coal happily – and they’ll probably develop even cleaner ways to burn it than we have now and outpace our economy entirely.

I believe climate change is occurring. But to believe changes in weather patterns and storm severity are because the United States uses coal-fired power is preposterous. Weather does not recognize geopolitical boundaries. Global climate change is a global challenge requiring a global solution.  It simply does no good for one country to risk so much for such little result.