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Threats to Coal Production By Thomas J. Pyle, Institute for Energy Research

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uring difficult economic times, it stands to reason that government would do everything in its power to create the conditions that allow businesses to compete, expand or, more fundamentally, simply keep the lights on. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the U.S. government’s policy toward coal currently lacks reason. The U.S. has the largest coal reserves in the world and coal is a low-cost, domestic energy source. Using inexpensive energy helps keep American jobs here at home and allows families and businesses to affordably cool or heat their homes and businesses. Still, coal faces attacks like never before. Amazingly, it is harder to dig a mine in the U.S. than in any other country in the world. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that it takes an average of seven years to get the necessary permits and approvals to start mining. By comparison, in Australia it only takes an average of one to two years to navigate the approval process. Many of the problems with the mining approval process predated President american coal council

The Administration wants to eliminate tax credits for coal, oil, and natural gas because, according to the Administration, it “encourg[es] the overproduction of coal” and promotes “more investment in fossil fuel production than would occur under a neutral system.” Obama, but none of that should absolve this Administration’s coordinated attack on coal. Even the president’s supporters are beginning to have second thoughts. West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller recently told a reporter that, “I just wonder whether they really do understand the importance of coal, the fact the nation can’t exist without it.” He went on to say that the president’s commitment to coal is “beginning to not be believable to me.” Last year Sen. Rockefeller blasted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for threatening to revoke a permit for a mountaintop removal mine after the agency had previously granted approval for the mine. The EPA also held up more than 70 mining permits because of water

quality concerns. West Virginia state regulators have grown frustrated with EPA’s reluctance to answer their questions. Not only is the Administration making it more difficult to get the coal out of the ground, it’s making it harder and more expensive to use it. One of the Administration’s signature proposals is cap-and-trade. The very point of cap-and-trade is to make using coal and other fossil fuels expensive; as President Obama put it, cap-and-trade will make the price of electricity from fossil fuel sources “necessarily skyrocket.” The Administration continues to push for cap-and-trade, even though its prospects currently look bleak. Maybe even more important than capand-trade is the White House’s continuing 41

Profile for American Coal Council

American Coal Issue 1 2010  

American Coal Issue 1 2010  

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