Obama’s Coal Industry Gutting Initiative: the transcript.

Too busy a title?

To follow up my earlier post about how Obama is lying to somebody about planning to gut the coal industry… Jake Tapper, who is on the short list of journalists who will be ending this election with their honor essentially intact, has gotten a response from the Obama campaign. It’s about what you’d expect: the statement’s wildly taken out of context, Barack Obama loves coal so much that he wants it to stand godfather to his next kid, he’d never ever cross coal in a million years.

Jake’s response was to publish the entire original passage and invite his readers to make up their own minds: which, if you follow the man’s blogging, is his way of using a nice, Anglo-Saxon word meaning “nonsense.” Read it after the fold, and you’ll see what I mean.

“I voted against the Clear Skies Bill. In fact, I was the deciding vote — despite the fact that I’m a coal state and that half my state thought that I had thoroughly betrayed them. Because I think clean air is critical and global warming is critical.

“But this notion of no coal, I think, is an illusion. Because the fact of the matter is, is that right now we are getting a lot of our energy from coal. And China is building a coal-powered plant once a week. So what we have to do then is figure out how can we use coal without emitting greenhouse gases and carbon. And how can we sequester that carbon and capture it. If we can’t, then we’re gonna still be working on alternatives.

“But … let me sort of describe my overall policy. What I’ve said is that we would put a cap and trade policy in place that is as aggressive if not more aggressive than anyone out there. I was the first call for 100 percent auction on the cap and trade system. Which means that every unit of carbon or greenhouse gases that was emitted would be charged to the polluter. That will create a market in which whatever technologies are out there that are being presented, whatever power plants are being built, they would have to meet the rigors of that market and the ratcheted-down caps that are imposed every year.

“So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. 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. That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel, and other alternative energy approaches. The only thing that I’ve said with respect to coal — I haven’t been some coal booster. What I have said is that for us to take coal off the table as an ideological matter, as opposed to saying if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it, that I think is the right approach. The same with respect to nuclear. Right now, we don’t know how to store nuclear waste wisely and we don’t know how to deal with some of the safety issues that remain. And so it’s wildly expensive to pursue nuclear energy. But I tell you what, if we could figure out how to store it safely, then I think most of us would say that might be a pretty good deal.

“The point is, if we set rigorous standards for the allowable emissions, then we can allow the market to determine and technology and entrepreneurs to pursue, what the best approach is to take, as opposed to us saying at the outset, here are the winners that we’re picking and maybe we pick wrong and maybe we pick right.”

Sounds all right, right?

Wrong. What Obama isn’t mentioning there is that there is no clean coal technology that can replace existing coal plants. That technology is decades away, and until it appears, what we have is what we have to use. So when he says that a no coal policy is an illusion what he means that he’s not going to fight for eliminating existing coal plants; but if you believe this interview, if Obama is elected he will regulate and tax out of existence any attempt to build new ones. Put another way: the coal industry will not be permitted to expand under an Obama administration. It will, in fact, contract: because coal plants do not last forever, and when one finally grows too old to operate at a profit Obama will make sure that a new one isn’t built to take its place.

There is a reason why 49% of our electrical power generation comes from coal: it’s reliable, cheap, and plentiful. As I noted before, there may be a reason why Obama wants to cut our electrical power generation by 15%, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what it is. It seems counter-intuitive to have a program where we’re deliberately creating less wealth (yes, energy represents a form of wealth), particularly when there’s an economic mess unfolding, but apparently that’s what he wants. Unless he was lying in that interview, of course. I’d be pretty much hoping that he was, except that the idea’s kind of appalling in its own right. Slightly less appalling is the notion that the Democratic candidates are simply repeating the talking points that have been handed to them; given that neither is an expert in energy policy, this is entirely possible. It would explain the rather drastic lack of message discipline on this one.

But that’s a different post. Let me sum up this one: you have two options in this election.

Four years from now, do you want to be poorer, colder, and increasingly in the dark? Then by all means, vote Obama/Biden.

Or are you quite selfishly addicted to the sensation of seeing the lights turn on when you flip the switch? Then I suggest McCain/Palin.

Moe Lane

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