Numbers Tell War on Coal Story

After the Environmental Protection Agency announced its newest assault against the coal industry, West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said he would “not stand for it.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he would “fight it every step of the way.”

West Virginia’s other senator, Jay Rockefeller, said we ought to “grab hold of our own future by working together to drive clean coal technology forward.” He refused to criticize either the EPA or President Barack Obama, who drives the agency’s anti-coal agenda.

Rockefeller has been an apologist for Obama and the EPA, but let’s take him at his word. It would be a good way to gauge whether Obama really thinks coal ought to have a place at the nation’s energy table.

You may recall the news a few months ago about Solyndra, the failed California solar energy company. Taxpayers lost about $535 million in that fiasco.

That happens to be nearly twice the total amount Obama’s Department of Energy plans to spend on all coal-related technology this year. The DOE’s FY 2013 coal technology budget totals $275.8 million.

“Renewable” energy such as Solyndra-style projects, along with energy efficiency, is slated to spend $2.33 billion. There’s much, much more hidden away in corners of the budget. For example, the “Recovery Act” included a whopping $16.8 billion for the DOE office handling energy efficiency and renewables.

White House bias against the coal industry is even more apparent when you look at past federal budgets. Funding for coal technology is being trimmed down, slowly but surely. The amount provided for the current year is less than in any year since 2005. In fact, in FY 2010, the DOE received $404 million for coal projects.

Wind energy provides about 3 percent of the nation’s electricity, with solar coming in at less than 1 percent. Meanwhile, coal still generates 42 percent of the power we use (other major sources are natural gas, 25 percent; and nuclear, 19 percent).

Obama’s strategy is clear: Mandate draconian new air pollution rules that make it prohibitively expensive to use coal for power generation. Then starve the industry of federal clean coal development funds. He outlined it in 2008 when he told a San Francisco audience, “So, if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them …”

During the administration of former President George W. Bush, it was a priority to help the utility industry find cleaner ways to burn coal. Then, the DOE touted a $1 billion Clean Coal Power Initiative. The Obama administration’s plan is to spend not one dime on it this year. Nothing.

Not to worry, insists Obama. His energy plan won’t inflict serious damage on Americans’ budgets.

But Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., has pointed out the EPA’s numbers are wrong – very wrong. The agency claims its new limits on coal-fired power plants will, in the long term, remove only 4 gigawatts from the nation’s power generation capacity. Other experts say 50-80 gigawatts, McKinley pointed out during a recent congressional hearing.

McKinley buttressed his contention with evidence the EPA frequently downplays the cost of its regulations. A decade ago, the agency claimed new regulations on heavy trucks would cost only $3,400 per vehicle, he noted. The actual cost by 2010 was $9,000.

It’s clear Obama has no intention of using coal as part of his national energy policy. His DOE spending and EPA regulatory war make that clear.

But if you need more evidence, go to the DOE website. The agency still has posted a facsimile of its brochure on clean coal technology.

Part of it reads, “Accelerating development of coal technology … has been a cornerstone of the Bush Administration’s energy policies since 2000.”

That’s right: They haven’t even updated the brochure. Why bother? It’s not part of the new boss’ thinking.

Myer can be reached via e-mail at