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Big Bird vs. Coal

“If you don’t have a record to run on… you make a big election about small things.” – Barack Obama, 2008.

In 2008, Barack Obama made the above comment.

In 2012, he is proving it to be true, attempting to refocus this year’s presidential election on the weighty topic of… Big Bird.

But while Obama attempts to eke out a win by spotlighting a muppet, Mitt Romney is focusing on more substantive issues including American energy independence and affordability.
This may strike Democrats as an odd approach, but with swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin heavily reliant on coal, either for jobs or for cheap energy, and with so many Americans out of work or struggling to make ends meet in a tough economy, it makes sense for Romney to take the position he did in last week’s debate:
I like coal. I’m going to make sure we continue to burn clean coal. People in the coal industry feel like it’s getting crushed by your policies. I want to get America and North America energy independent, so we can create those jobs.
The Obama presidency has had a crushing impact on a number of industries, but few have felt the weight of its onerous regulatory policies like coal.

This past summer, Patriot Coal became the first U.S. coal company to file for bankruptcy in quite a while.Others have laid off a significant portion of their workforces.

The NY Times notes a few policies that further indicate that a second Obama term would be bad for the coal industry:

Mr. Obama postponed a decision in 2011 on a stricter new standard for smog-causing ozone pollution that would have thrown hundreds of cities out of compliance with clean air rules, requiring costly new plans for limiting pollution from transportation and industry. But the president said he intended to allow the rule to go forward in 2013 or 2014.

[...]

The Obama administration has also signaled that it intends to regulate the disposal of coal ash from power plants and to continue efforts to limit mountaintop-removal coal mining…

[...]

Mr. Romney has also said that he will reverse the Obama administration’s proposed regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants that contribute to climate change. In his acceptance speech at the Republican convention, he described such rules as an ‘assault on coal and gas and oil’ that is driving up energy costs.

In addition to resulting in layoffs at coal companies, the Obama approach is likely to result in more pain for consumers, as higher energy prices cut deeper into our paychecks (for those of us receiving them).

Romney has a plan to prevent that, but in case you were tempted to think that every policy direction this country takes is entirely dependent on who occupies the Oval Office next February, don’t forget that if the Senate stays under Harry Reid’s control, that will play a big role in the way energy policy plays out, too.
Again, the NY Times piece notes that

Cutting the regulatory state down to size has been a mainstay of Republican campaign oratory for years, and the basis of an avalanche of bills passed over the past 18 months by the conservative House Republican majority, all of which have died in the Democratic-led Senate‘It’s not just Obama he’s attacking, but past acts of Congress,’ said Rena I. Steinzor, a specialist in administrative law at the University of Maryland and the president of the Center for Progressive Reform. ‘This does not all spring from the frenzied imagination of Obama’s E.P.A. It all comes down from statutes.’

She noted that the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, and that while many conservatives and business lobbyists believe some of its provisions are costly and onerous, there is no groundswell to repeal it. Mr. Romney advocates changing one of its key provisions, requiring that human health standards be set without regard to cost, a shift supported by many House Republicans. But such a change would probably fail in the Senate if Democrats retained their majority there, and it would certainly be challenged in court. (emphasis mine)

In other words, without control of the Senate, it’s going to be hard for Mitt Romney to get the job done. Should he lose, having the votes to block President Obama becomes even more important.

There are five races that are going to make the difference here – Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Virginia, and Wisconsin. All are coal-producing or coal-reliant states, and all could potentially be represented by Democratic Senators hell-bent on crushing our nation’s energy infrastructure: Sherrod Brown, Bob Casey, Claire McCaskill, Tim Kaine, and Tammy Baldwin.

Brown, Casey, McCaskill and Baldwin have all cast recent, significant anti-coal votes.
Kaine was, of course, Obama’s DNC Chairman. In Tuesday night’s Virginia Senate debate he said shockingly little about energy issues, despite the prominence of the energy sector– and coal, in particular– in his state’s economy
Should Obama and/or these candidates end up winning, it will have a big effect on energy policy going forward.
This election is about jobs.  The Obama administration and Democrats seem intent on targeting sectors and destroying them to fulfill their green dreams which, as of yet, have cost tax payers billions of dollars with no results.  And while they pursue that Snuffleupagus and American’s suffer the consequences, the Obama campaign’s wants to talk about Big Bird.

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