Monday, October 12, 2015

Coal Becomes Bipartisan -- At Least in Swing States

Democrat candidate for governor Jack Conway didn't always love coal. Back in the day, he drew support from the Sierra Club. Not this year, at least in terms of campaign contributions.

Conway is competing with Republican nominee Matt Bevin in a gubernatorial race that appears to be a statistical tie. One of the reasons that Conway is doing as well as he is in an increasingly red Kentucky is that Conway has been careful to reiterate his support for the coal industry. Indeed, Conway and Bevin appear to be indistinguishable on the issue.

Conway has opposed the Obama administration's Mercury and Air Toxics rule.  He also joined attorneys general of other states in lawsuits to halt new ozone rules. Conway says that he will not continue outgoing Democrat Gov. Steve Beshear's plan to implement Obama's anti-coal rules. (One has to wonder whether Beshear would have a change of heart on the issue if he were not term limited.)

It is no surprise that Conway has seen the light, so to speak. In Kentucky, coal literally keeps the lights on. The Obama administration's relentless attack on the coal industry has contributed to an economic crisis in Eastern Kentucky that long ago ceased to be a recession. It is a depression that has caused enormous suffering.

Conway is not the only Democrat to have an epiphany regarding coal. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, like Conway is the Democrat nominee for governor. Koster recently announced that he will join more than a dozen states that are suing the Environmental Protection Agency to halt new rules that are supposed to cut carbon emissions -- rules that are designed to kill the coal industry once and for all.

Koster's reasoning applies with equal force to Kentucky:  coal keeps utility rates down, and that gives the state an advantage in luring new businesses. (Unfortunately, Democrats' opposition to right to work, tax reform and tort reform negates that advantage regarding energy on job creation.)

Conway and Koster demonstrate that coal is becoming a bipartisan issue. Not in states on the East or Left Coasts, perhaps. But in states where the two parties are competitive, the economic impact of the rules has transcended the political. As voters have come to the realization that the EPA regulations would raise their own utility rates, Democrats have likewise come to understand that policies that kill the coal industry can also kill their political aspirations.

Moreover, voters -- and candidates -- have begun to realize that Obama's carbon rules are regressive:  they hurt poor people disproportionately.

As Harry Alford, President of the National Black Chamber of Commerce testified before Congress, Obama's Clean Power Plan would raise energy costs by 16 percent for blacks and by 19 percent for Hispanics. Minorities are slipping further and further behind in the Obama economy; the new carbon rules just makes it that much harder for people to escape poverty.

All those people who complain that we need more bipartisanship should be pleased to see that opposition to the Obama war on coal is becoming bipartisan.

For those who haven't thought deeply about coal or climate change, here's an additional reason to oppose Obama's regulations:  they run 1,560 pages and contain 76 different acronyms,  How can any business, in any sector, survive that kind of regulation?  If Obama really cared about the environment he'd tell the EPA to stop killing so many trees.

Consider, too, that these regulations are not part of a statute that Congress passed. It is a safe bet that not a single member of Congress has read all 1,560 pages. Anonymous bureaucrats -- unelected an unaccountable -- drafted the carbon regulations. Anyone who cares about limited government and transparency in the democratic process therefore should oppose the anti-coal regulations on that basis alone.

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