I see the wingnuts and fossil fuel industry puppets like Virginia Teapublican Attorney General nominee Mark Obenshain ranting and raving about their mythical, fever-dream “war on coal.” Of course, there is no such thing, as EIA statistics clearly indicate. Instead, what we have is a war on the truth, by the coal industry and its bought-and-paid-for politician puppets. In reality, of course, for decades we’ve allowed the fossil fuel companies to treat our air and water as a common sewer where they can dump their carbon pollution with impunity, and without any cost. That’s completely insane in and of itself. But it gets worse.
In fact, according to Professor Michael Hendryx of West Virginia University, “[coal] mining is a loser economically, environmentally, and in terms of public health,” with “mountaintop removal mining’s economic cost to Appalachian communities totaled roughly $42 billion per year in lost health and lives,” and with “the full ‘lifecycle cost’ of coal to the U.S. public…upwards of $500 billion a year.” Hendryx adds: “There still is a very strong presumption…that [coal] mining is important to jobs. I just shake my head that we still don’t understand that it’s not.” (Note: see here for statistics indicating that “coal mining jobs amount to only about 2 percent of employment in the central Appalachian region“) Last but not least, Hendryx asserts (correctly) that “We need to get serious, stop wasting billions of dollars a year on the beyond absurd concept of clean coal.” Why? Because, to put it very simply, there is no such thing as clean coal – that is an utter, laughable absurdity.
Meanwhile, to the extent that coal has been facing difficulties competing in the United States, it’s overwhelmingly because of something conservatives claim to love – competition! That’s right, coal is being undercut by cheap natural gas (thanks to government R&D, which essentially created the “fracking” industry in the first place) and plummeting prices for solar and wind power, plus the biggest bang for the buck – energy efficiency. All the whining in the world by the coal industry and its bought-and-paid-for lackeys like Mark Obenshain won’t change that, as loudly and wildly as they wail.
So, in the end, what is this “war” rhetoric all about? Basically, it’s typical right-wing tactics at work: distract, throw out red herrings and put up straw men, try to stir up anger, etc. And, of course, never EVER allow people to focus on what’s really going on here: an entrenched, heavily subsidized, terribly destructive, but highly profitable incumbent industry is fighting to stave off its inevitable replacement by clean energy sources, even if it means destroying the planet in the process. But wait, you say, nobody would possibly put their own greed and profit ahead of the future of life on our planet, right? Sadly, they would, and they do, every single day – people like Ken Cuccinelli, Mark Obenshain, James Inhofe, ExxonMobil, the Koch brothers, etc, etc. The only real question is, how do these people sleep at night, look themselves in the mirror, or have any self respect whatsoever?
In the end, what this “war” is really about is simple: it’s a war against pollution, against childhood asthma, against destroying the planet, against greedy people putting their own profits ahead of our air and water. To quote a smart friend of mine, this is “a war to protect our health, our land, our climate, our nation’s future,” and “any energy sources that threaten those should not be part of America’s future.” Got that, Senator Obenshain?
P.S. MediaMatters completely demolishes the claim Obenshain’s making about “the President’s own advisors…declaring it a ‘war on coal.'” Four Pinocchios-level FALSE!!!