Poor Hillary Clinton. She continues to create controversy, thanks to her recent pledge to “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” Campaigning in coal country this week, she certainly got an earful from angry residents.
Particularly poignant were the remarks of Bo Copley, a 39-year old father and laid-off coal miner. He asked Mrs. Clinton, “How could you say you are going to put a lot of coal miners out of jobs, and then come in here and tell us how you’re going to be our friend?”
The veteran campaigner’s response was classically Clintonesque. Her remarks were simply taken out of context because, in actuality, she wants to “help” coal country. Her humble apology: “I don’t know how to explain it other than what I said was totally out of context for what I meant because I have been talking about helping coal country for a very long time.”
And so, she offered her plan— $30 billion in government aid for folks lost amidst the Obama Administration’s all-out War on Coal.
Sorry, ma’am, that ain’t no plan.
Mrs. Clinton just doesn’t get it. The coal industry doesn’t want a hand-out. It simply wants to halt the ideologically-driven, federal assault on coal.
Last fall, John Stilley, the president of Amerikohl Mining in Butler, Pa., testified at a state hearing: “We do not want federal money to fund training for new jobs that pay half of our current salaries. We want fair regulations so investors will continue to fund research and development.”
Stilley is absolutely right. The coal industry provides good, family-supporting jobs for hundreds of thousands of people in the United States. These jobs can’t simply be replaced by government welfare and unemployment payments.
The truth is, America needs coal to generate the reliable and affordable electricity that has been powering our economy for nearly a century. In fact, coal’s greatest strength may be its central role in anchoring a stable, reliable mix of electricity for U.S. consumers. A study by IHS Energy found that the current base load generation mix centered on plentiful coal saves ratepayers roughly $93 billion in annual electric bills.
Let’s be clear about something. The energy policies that Mrs. Clinton supports—more “renewables” like wind and solar, less coal—will increase electricity prices and endanger the reliability of the nation’s electric grid. This matters because higher utility prices hurt consumers, particularly low-income families. And costly energy hurts the overall economy.
It is important to understand that today, modern coal plants are very clean. Consumers are already paying for the “scrubbers” and other environmental equipment that reduces emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, mercury, and other gases by 90 to 99.9 percent. And promising new technologies now in development can make coal virtually carbon-free.
Lesson for Mrs. Clinton and other elected officials and candidates of her ilk: Rather than denigrate coal, try supporting the reliable and affordable power that it provides. Hard-working coal miners and coal companies cannot afford the type of “help” that Hillary Clinton has in mind. But neither can America. As long as coal continues to provide affordable, reliable power, this is a fight that should matter to the American people…and even to Mrs. Clinton.
Terry Jarrett is an energy attorney and consultant, and a former commissioner on the Missouri Public Service Commission.