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OPINION

Elected Officials Admonish Coal at Their Own Peril

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Christmas is around the corner. And President Biden being a peddler of decarbonization should land him the coveted No. 1 spot on Santa’s Naughty List. 

A lump of coal, however, simply won’t be enough. Only a looming heating oil shortage in the Northeast and rising fuel prices elsewhere, which will bring coal into the forefront again, could force him to moderate.

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Biden’s recent coal comments set off a firestorm of epic proportions. 

“Folks, it’s also now cheaper to generate electricity from wind and solar than it is from coal and oil.  Literally cheaper.  Not a joke,” he remarked. “No one is building new coal plants because they can’t rely on it, even if they have all the coal guaranteed for the rest of their existence of the plant.  So it’s going to become a wind generation. And all they’re doing is — it’s going to save them a hell of a lot of money, and they’re using the same transmission line that transmitted the coal-fired electric on.  We’re going to be shutting these plants down all across America and having wind and solar.” 

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre botched her clean up of his comments, tweeting, “@POTUS knows that the men and women of coal country built this nation: they powered its steel mills and factories, kept its homes and schools and offices warm. They made this the most productive and powerful nation on Earth.”  

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who probably regrets endorsing the sham Inflation Reduction Act now, strongly rebuked Biden, saying, “Comments like these are the reason the American people are losing trust in President Biden and instead believes he does not understand the need to have an all in energy policy that would keep our nation totally energy independent and secure.” 

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He added, "It seems his positions change depending on the audience and the politics of the day. Politicizing our nation’s energy policies would only bring higher prices and more pain for the American people." 

Industry groups joined the chorus condemning Biden’s obtuse remarks. 

Rich Nolan, President & CEO, National Mining Association (NMA), strongly rebuked the president: “President Biden’s comment on our nation’s coal capacity – which provides stability for millions of American households and businesses in a time of energy-driven inflation – is completely incompatible with the state of the U.S. electricity grid, which is teetering on the edge in many parts of the country. U.S. consumers face an upcoming winter with some of the highest anticipated electricity prices in history. The nation’s foremost electricity reliability experts agree that forcing essential coal capacity off the grid – without reliable alternatives and the infrastructure to support them – will only deepen reliability and economic challenges. Look to our friends in Europe, who blindly rushed to close coal plants at a rapid pace and are now working from Germany to Denmark to bring those same plants back online. The global energy crisis is real and imposing costly burdens on people around the world and here at home; taking deliberate steps to intensify that crisis is reckless and unthinkable.”

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Democratic hostility to coal isn’t a new phenomenon. It escalated during the Obama-Biden administration. 

Throughout his eight years, former President Obama raised royalty rates on federal coal leases and issued a moratorium on exploration. 

His Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who once ran mega outdoor retailer REI, carried out secretarial orders to force coal phaseouts.  

Jewell said in a January 2016 press release, “Given serious concerns raised about the federal coal program, we’re taking the prudent step to hit pause on approving significant new leases so that decisions about those leases can benefit from the recommendations that come out of the review.” 

The Government Accountability Office confirmed raising royalty rates will “decrease oil, gas, and coal production on federal lands.” But despite Obama’s War on Coal, coal still remains king. The natural gas revolution did lessen our dependence on it, but it still accounts for 22 percent of our electricity generation. Globally, it’s 36 percent. 

A sizable number of elected officials, including some Republicans beholden to unreliable clean energy interests, have written off coal altogether. That is unwise. 

Coal has undoubtedly lessened energy poverty across the globe. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) says common uses include “cement production, carbon fibers and foams, medicines, tars, synthetic petroleum-based fuels, and home and commercial heating.” 

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In Virginia, metallurgical coal is making a comeback in the Commonwealth’s southwestern region. That’s just one domestic example. Across the Atlantic Ocean, Europe has shifted back to coal again to stave off rolling blackouts after their dalliance with “green” energy, compounded by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, resulted in energy insecurity. 

And much to the chagrin of Democrats and environmentalists, electric vehicle charging derives from coal. Talk about an inconvenient truth.

When President Biden promises to end coal production, believe him. Lest we forget his former running mate helped usher in its demise, too. 

Remember: Elected officials admonish coal at their own peril. 

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