The Hollow “Evolution” of Obama’s Views on Coal

May 11, 2012

After several Energy and Commerce Committee members called attention to coal’s exclusion in President Obama’s new energy infographic, the website was quickly changed to replace “fuel efficiency” with “clean coal.”

But is the president truly singing a different tune than he was four years ago, when he said his policies would bankrupt the coal industry? Over the past three years, the Obama administration has issued a series of costly new regulations that will effectively end coal-fired power generation in the U.S. EPA’s recently proposed New Source Performance Standards for power plants would prevent the construction of any new coal-fired power plants. In EPA’s own analysis of the rule, it assumes no new coal plants will be built in America. In addition, EPA’s other power sector rules, such as the Utility MACT rule, are intended to accelerate shut down of a significant portion of the country’s existing coal fleet. Already, numerous power plants across the country have announced closures due to EPA’s actions.

”Well, at least the President is finally acknowledging our most abundant energy resource, coal. However, I’m skeptical he will actually do anything to draw on this resource. His EPA has shown time and again that they intend to stop the use of coal. Just look at the actions they have taken since President Obama took office. Even Vice President Biden has said that in the Obama Administration there would be ‘No coal plants here in America.’ They are certainly trying to do that,” said Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY). “We are already seeing job losses due to plant shutdowns in the industry, and if President Obama doesn’t truly change his tune on coal, we will see many more job losses and increases in electricity prices.”

The president's waffling on coal policy isn't new news. The president has gradually been erasing coal from his energy vision over the course of his term. Once touting the U.S as "Saudi Arabia of coal," President Obama has seldom even mentioned coal in any of his recent energy speeches. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review noticed this trend, reporting, “Yet it is the one energy resource about which President Obama dares not speak. In fact, Obama has not mentioned it since last year -- and then, only in passing at a news conference.” The Washington Times noted, “In the first three years of his presidency, Mr. Obama consistently included coal whenever speaking about the need to harness all of America’s multiple energy resources. But as environmental regulations have ramped up against the coal industry this year, the president has not mentioned coal in remarks or speeches.”

Voters in coal states are frustrated with the president’s abandonment of coal and are starting to speak up, forcing the president to add coal back into his energy vocabulary. Have the president’s views really evolved in two days? It may be politically convenient for the president to pay lip service to coal, but his actions speak differently. President Obama is effectively setting our nation’s energy policy through his environmental policies—creating a future for American energy that doesn’t include coal.

Watch Whitfield’s remarks on the president’s exclusion of coal at Wednesday’s hearing: