In July, the Murray Energy Corporation announced that it would be closing an Ohio coal mine. Fifty-six people were still working at the mine, which had employed 239 in its heyday. Some of the employees would be transferred to other positions in the company, but that meant new people wouldn’t be hired to fill those positions.
“The many regulations that he and his radical appointees and the U.S. EPA have put on the use of coal . . . have closed 175 power plants,” Murray added.
In the 2008 campaign, Obama told the San Francisco Chronicle that the “notion of no coal . . . is an illusion,” but he added that he favored a cap-and-trade system. “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can,” Obama continued. “It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.” In 2007, Joe Biden told Grist.org, “I don’t think there’s much of a role for clean coal in energy independence” in the United States — though he added that he favored cleaning up China’s coal plants.
Under the Obama administration, coal has faced a punishing regulatory environment. “I think the Obama administration should be ashamed for putting out of work these middle-class coal miners in the state of Ohio and throughout the country,” says Josh Mandel, Ohio state treasurer and Republican Senate candidate. “These coal miners and their families live in some of the poorest counties in America, and the Obama war on coal is killing jobs in parts of America that can least afford it.”
The Obama administration has imposed regulations on the coal industry “that have huge economic costs, but questionable and minimal environmental benefits,” says Nicolas Loris, an energy-policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation.“The administration has made the construction of new coal-powered utility plants exceedingly difficult, if not almost impossible, and it has shut down mines or made it much more difficult to keep them open.”
“The Obama administration has done everything it possibly can to destroy the American coal industry,” says Mike Carey, chairman of the Ohio Coal Association and vice president of government affairs at the Murray Energy Corporation. “Under Obama’s leadership, we have gone from producing 1.2 billion tons to somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 million tons. It’s disingenuous at best for Obama to say that he supports the coal industry when we have lost one-third of our production.”
Now Republicans are hoping that coal workers will look at what is happening to their industry and vote for Romney — and Mandel and other Republican Senate and House candidates — in November. When Alpha Natural Resources announced last week that it was laying off 1,200 employees, the Romney campaign swung into action. “For four years, President Obama has waged a war on coal that has devastated the middle class and American workers,” said Romney spokesman Ryan Williams.
“Today’s news that the president’s policies are killing another 1,200 jobs in states like Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania is just the latest evidence President Obama hasn’t delivered for middle-class families.” Meanwhile, the Romney campaign released two ads featuring Romney’s approach to coal.
The Republican National Committee, too, is making the case for Romney’s coal policies. RNC press secretary Kirsten Kukowski points out that coal is a significant part of the economy “in Ohio, Pennsylvania, parts of Virginia, even parts of Colorado.”
“It’s a narrow group of voters you’re looking at it,” she says. “But in those areas, it’s a big deal because it affects entire communities. It’s really their whole livelihood.” People who work in the coal industry — and their family and friends — could well become single-issue voters this year.
In the Democratic primaries, there were signals that some Democrats have had enough of Obama’s coal policies. In West Virginia, where the coal industry is huge, 42 percent of Democrats chose felon Keith Judd over Obama in the primary. In many Pennsylvania counties, more than 30 percent of Democrats voted for candidates other than Obama or left the presidential line blank, according to an analysis by Politics PA.
“I hear about it all the time, especially in Appalachian Ohio,” Mandel says of discontent with the administration’s coal policy. “In Ohio, coal equals jobs, and over 80 percent of our economy is powered by coal. There are direct coal jobs in eastern and southeastern Ohio, but there are also a ton of manufacturing jobs throughout the state that are made possible by affordable, reliable, dependable coal energy. The Obama war on coal is putting folks out of work.”
And the voters understand that. “When we started this campaign, we were losing in southeastern and eastern Ohio — Appalachian Ohio,” Mandel says. “Now we’re winning there, and a lot of it is based on energy issues.”
One of the regulations that has hurt the industry most, according to Heritage’s Loris, is the MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) Standards, which relate to mercury and other chemicals. “This one regulation, combined with the cross-state air-pollution rule, has the potential to knock out anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of the electricity generated by coal power plants,” Loris says. The cross-state air-pollution rule, he explained in a paper earlier this year, “targets pollution that crosses state boundaries, and it aims to reduce sulfur dioxide 73 percent below 2005 levels and nitrous oxide 54 percent below 2005 levels by 2014.” What is critical to note is that “these costs come with little added environmental benefit,” Loris adds. “The EPA is ignoring the remarkable achievements in reducing nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions over the past four decades. . . . The industry has reached a threshold where the additional emissions reductions are marginal and do not justify the costs.”
Jason Hayes, communications director for the American Coal Council, emphasizes that point. “The industry over the past few decades has invested over $100 billion in cleaning up emissions, and it’s already been effective,” he says. “All of the important noxious pollutants have decreased markedly over the last 30 to 40 years, at the same time that we’ve been using more and more coal, and the expectation is that we’re going to continue investing.” In the next ten years, the industry anticipates spending “another $100 billion cleaning up and building newer, more efficient power plants, and we’re doing all of this on top of dealing with all the other things.”
“The environmental benefits that we’re hearing about are questionable,” Hayes adds. “The job losses are real. They’re happening right now.”
— Katrina Trinko is a reporter for NRO.
This revelation came when Steve Kroft mentioned that the national debt has climbed 60% on the President's watch. "Well, first of all, Steve, I think it's important to understand the context here," Mr. Obama replied. Fair enough, so here's his context in full, with our own annotation and translation below:
"When I came into office, I inherited the biggest deficit in our history.1 And over the last four years, the deficit has gone up, but 90% of that is as a consequence of two wars that weren't paid for,2 as a consequence of tax cuts that weren't paid for,3 a prescription drug plan that was not paid for,4 and then the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.5
"Now we took some emergency actions, but that accounts for about 10% of this increase in the deficit,6 and we have actually seen the federal government grow at a slower pace than at any time since Dwight Eisenhower, in fact, substantially lower than the federal government grew under either Ronald Reagan or George Bush.7"
***Footnote No. 1: Either Mr. Obama inherited the largest deficit in American history or he won the 1944 election, but both can't be true. The biggest annual deficit the modern government has ever run was in 1943, equal to 30.3% of the economy, to mobilize for World War II. The next biggest years were the following two, at 22.7% and 21.5%, to win it.
The deficit in fiscal 2008 was a mere 3.2% of GDP. The deficit in fiscal 2009, which began on October 1, 2008 and ran through September 2009, soared to 10.1%, the highest since 1945.
Mr. Obama wants to blame all of that on his predecessor, and no doubt the recession that began in December 2007 reduced revenues and increased automatic spending "stabilizers" like jobless insurance. But Mr. Obama conveniently forgets a little event in February 2009 known as the "stimulus" that increased spending by a mere $830 billion above the normal baseline.
The recession ended in June 2009, but spending has still kept rising. The President has presided over four years in a row of deficits in excess of $1 trillion, and the spending baseline going forward into his second term is nearly $1.1 trillion more than in fiscal 2007.
Federal spending as a share of GDP will average 24.1% over his first term including 2013. Even if you throw out fiscal 2009 and blame that entirely on Mr. Bush, the Obama spending average will be 23.8% of GDP. That compares to a post-WWII average of a little under 20%. Spending under Mr. Bush averaged 20.1% including 2009, and 19.6% if that year is left out.
Footnotes No. 2 through 4: Liberals continue to claim that the main causes of the current fiscal mess are tax rates established in, er, 2001 and 2003 and the post-9/11 wars on terror. But by 2006 and 2007, those tax rates were producing revenue of 18.2% and 18.5% of GDP, near historic norms.
Another quandary for Mr. Obama's apologists is that he has endorsed nearly all of these policies. The 2003 Medicare drug benefit wasn't offset by tax hikes or spending cuts, but Democrats expanded the program as part of ObamaCare.
The President also extended all the Bush tax rates in 2010 for two more years in the name of helping the economy, and he now wants to continue them for people earning under $200,000, which is where 71% of their "cost" resides. The Iraq campaign was won and beginning to be wound down when he took office, and he himself surged more troops in Afghanistan.
Footnote No. 5: Mr. Obama keeps dining out on the excuse of the recession, but that ended halfway through his first year. The main deficit problems since 2009 are a permanently higher spending base (see Footnote No. 1) and the slowest economic recovery in modern history. Revenues have remained below 16% of the economy, compared to 18% to 19% in a normal expansion.
The 2008 crisis is long over. The crisis now is Mr. Obama's non-recovery.
Footnote No. 6: Even at face value, Mr. Obama's suggestion that he is "only" responsible for 10% of what the government does is ludicrous. Note that in addition to his stimulus, what he calls "emergency actions" include his new health-care entitlement that will cost taxpayers $200 billion per year when fully implemented and grow annually at 8%, even using low-ball assumptions.
But the larger point concerns executive leadership. Every President "inherits" a government that was built over generations, which he chooses to change, or not to change, to suit his priorities. Mr. Obama chose to see the government he inherited and grow it faster than any President since LBJ.
The pre-eminent political question now is whether to reform the government we have to make it affordable going forward, or to keep growing the government and raise taxes to finance it, if that is even possible.
Mr. Obama favors the second option, though he pretends he can merely tax the rich to do it. Nobody who has looked honestly at the numbers believes that—not his own Simpson-Bowles commission and not the Congressional "super committee" he sanctioned but then worked to undermine.
At every turn he has demagogued the Romney-Ryan proposals to modernize the entitlement state so it is affordable, and he personally blew up the "grand bargain" House Speaker John Boehner was willing to strike last summer.
Footnote No. 7: Mr. Obama's posture as the tightest skinflint since Eisenhower is a tutorial in how to dissemble with statistics. The growth rate seems low because he's measuring from the end of fiscal 2009, after a one-year spending increase of $535 billion. That is the year of his stimulus and thus spending is growing off a much higher base. The real annual pace of government growth is closer to 5%, and that doesn't count ObamaCare.
***In another news-making bit with "60 Minutes," which the program decided not to air, Mr. Obama conceded that "Do we see sometimes us going overboard in our campaign, mistakes that are made, areas where there's no doubt that somebody could dispute how we are presenting things, that happens in politics."
Note the passive voice, as if the President's re-election campaign is disembodied from the President. If Mr. Obama's campaign seems dishonest enough that even Mr. Obama is forced to admit it, this is because it's coming from the top.