Sunday, September 23, 2012

Stop Obama's War On Coal

The Presidency is an extremely powerful position. And like any position of power, it is a double edged sword. If used wisely it can be used to do great things to enhance the world around you.

One really good example of that was Franklin Roosevelt's Rural Electrification project.

The Rural Electrification Act of 1936 provided federal loans for the installation of electrical distribution systems to rural areas of the United States.

When the Rural Electrification Act was passed, not all Americans enjoyed the conveniences that having something like electricity brings. And though it might be hard to imagine now, there was a time when great expanses of America simply did not have even the smallest power that it took to light a 60 watt bulb.

Electricity was commonplace in cities, but it was largely unavailable in rural America. Farms and ranches, mines and lumber mills, small towns and bergs like Glencoe where I live now simply did not have electricity.

Rural America was in need, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt saw the need.

He issued Executive Order 7037 on May 11, 1935, which established the Rural Electrification Administration.

Technically, in the 1930s, the provision of power to remote areas was not thought to be economically feasible. A 2300 volt distribution system was used in cities back then. This relatively low voltage could only be carried about 4 miles before the voltage would drop and became unacceptable.

The Rural Electrification Administration cooperatives was the economic answer answer.  Funding was channeled through cooperative electric power companies, most of which still exist today.

These member-owned cooperatives purchased power on a wholesale basis and distributed it using their own network of transmission and distribution lines.

Using a 6900 volt distribution network, which could support much longer runs up to about 40 miles, the overall system cost became manageable. That's even despite requiring more expensive transformers at each home.

Rural America was about to get light, and wiring homes and farms and ranches and everything out beyond the cities was the task at hand. Small towns were about to get electricity for the first time. That meant stores, and schools, and fire stations, and hospitals would move from the dark to the light and more.

Besides light, electrical equipment could be used in many instances for the very first time. It was a great undertaking where resolve and commitment worked hand in hand to get the job done.

Rural Electrification Administration crews travelled through the American countryside, bringing teams of electricians and workmen along with them. Many times, the Rural Electrification Administration would hire local workers hard hit by the Great Depression to work as well.

The electricians added wiring to houses and barns, mines and mills, stores and others places, all to utilize the newly available power provided by the line crews.

A standard Rural Electrification Administration installation in a house consisted of a single 60 amp, 230 volt fuse panel, with a 60 amp range circuit, a 20 amp kitchen circuit, and two or three 15 amp lighting circuits.

A ceiling-mounted light fixture was installed in each room, usually controlled by a single switch mounted near a door. At most, one outlet was installed per room. Since plug-connected appliances were expensive and uncommon, it was believed that only one electrical outlet was needed in any one room.

Wiring was performed using type NM nonmetallic sheathed cable, insulated with asbestos-reinforced rubber covered with jute and tar. Many of these installations still exist today in some of the farmhouses that dot rural America.

Back in the early 1980s, I worked with a man who was about the same age as my father. He was from Arkansas. And yes, he remembered the year that his family's home in Arkansas got it's first electric light. It was 1942, during World War II.

After coming back from the war, like many others, he added more outlets to support a greater number and variety of appliances.

Later amendments to the Rural Electrification Act included one in 1944 to make loan terms increase to 35 years. Another that same year made the act permanent. One amendment in 1949 extended the act to allow loans to telephone companies wishing to extend their connections to unconnected rural areas in the same why that electric companies did.

Yes, the Rural Electrification Act is a perfect example of a president using his powerful position to make America better than he found it. It gave light and electricity to places that had never had such a convenience, it created jobs to build the substations and plants and dams to generate the power. And yes, it enhanced America. It made America better.

On the other hand, the president can use his powerful position to stifle progress, hurt America's economy, and bring horrors unimagined by Americans who have been brought up to respect our government.

It is a tough thing see it happen, because it is really unbelievable.

I mean really, how many people would really think that the President of the United States would wage war on Americans and an industry that has created much of the power that has fueled our economy since its conception more than 200 years ago.

Coal has many important uses worldwide. The most significant uses are in electricity generation, steel production, cement manufacturing, and as a liquid fuel.

Throughout history, coal has been a useful resource. It is primarily burned for the production of electricity and for heat.

It is also used for industrial purposes such as refining metals. Without American coal, besides America's Energy Industry becoming totally reliant on other sources already stretched to their limits, America's steel manufacturers will have to buy it's coal from overseas. 

Steel is an essential material for modern life. From building highway overpasses to buildings to towers to vehicles to trains, just name it, the manufacture of steels delivers the goods and services that our societies needs. 

Global steel production is dependent on coal. It is a fact that 70% of the steel produced today uses coal.

The largest coal producing countries are not confined to one region - the top five hard coal producers are China, the USA, India, Australia and South Africa. Much of global coal production is used in the country in which it was produced; only around 15% of hard coal production is destined for the international coal market.

Besides steel production, coal is the largest source of energy for the generation of electricity worldwide

Coal is primarily used as a solid fuel to produce electricity and heat through combustion. World coal consumption was about 7.99 billion short tons in 2010 (7.25 billion tonnes) and is expected to increase 48% to 9.98 billion short tons (9.05 billion tonnes) by 2030.

China produced 3.83 billion short tons (3.47 billion tonnes) in 2011. India produced about 637.1 million short tons (578 million tonnes) in 2011. 68.7% of China's electricity comes from coal.

America consumed about 13% of the world total in 2010, i.e. 1.05 billion short tons (951 million tonnes), using 93% of it for generation of electricity. Right now, 46% of total power generated in the USA is done using coal.

Modern life is unimaginable without electricity.

It lights houses, buildings, streets, provides domestic and industrial heat, and powers most equipment used in homes, offices and machinery in factories. Fact is, improving access to electricity worldwide is critical to alleviating poverty.

Coal plays a vital role in electricity generation worldwide. Coal-fired power plants currently fuel 41% of global electricity. In some countries, coal fuels a higher percentage of electricity.

So why is President Obama waging war on the American coal industry?

Because of Obama's power and sense of allegiance to radical environmentalist groups, he has instructed the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to overtly impose impossible to meet regulations and restrictions on the mining and use of coal in America.

For Obama, the EPA has become his weapon of choice to achieve the unrealistic agenda of radical environmentalist groups financially supportive of re-election campaign.

The EPA is being used by President Obama, and because of the green light given by the White House - the EPA is in a position of unbridled power while it force its will on the American people.

Among those being adversely effected: farmers, ranchers, manufacturing, the energy industry, and yes coal producers among others.

In 2008, Obama, then just a presidential candidate, signaled his intent to bankrupt the coal industry. Now almost 4 years later, the President's energy policies is a "War on Coal." And yes, he is having the exact effect on the industry that he said he wanted back in 2008.

On January 26th of this year, 2012, Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who is the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said that FirstEnergy’s announcement that it will shut down six power plants in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland due to EPA's Utility MACT rule.

It is a prime example of President Obama aggressively working to shut down American oil, gas, and coal development.

"Today, hundreds of Americans learned that they will be losing their good-paying jobs because of the Obama EPA’s destructive regulatory agenda," Senator Inhofe said.

"Due to EPA’s forthcoming Utility MACT rule, FirstEnergy will be closing six power plants, which will put 529 Americans out of work in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland - states that have already been hit hard by the recession."

“Meanwhile, President Obama has been taking his State of the Union campaign speech on the road in an effort to distance himself from his cap-and-trade agenda, which no longer sells. Knowing that Americans want the good-paying jobs, the increased energy security, and the stronger economy that domestic fossil fuel development brings, the President has begun peddling an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy approach - but today’s announcement tells us the real story."

Senator Inhofe continued, "President Obama’s regulatory agenda is the most harmful, aggressive and expensive in history and it is aimed squarely at shutting down the development of oil, gas and coal. That’s why the EPA’s Utility MACT rule is unnecessarily burdensome and costly - it’s intended to undermine the viability of coal, one of our country’s most abundant and reliable energy sources."

“The 529 jobs lost today are just the tip of the iceberg, as economic analyses predict up to 1.4 million American jobs will be lost by EPA’s rules for power plants. Utility MACT will cost $11 billion, which contrasts sharply with the mere $6 million in direct benefits EPA projects will be gained from the rule’s implementation.

“In the weeks ahead I will be introducing a resolution under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) that will give Congress the ability to stop EPA from destroying jobs with Utility MACT. Several Democratic members of the Senate have said that they would like to rein in EPA - with my CRA, they will have the chance to do so.”

In July, not surprisingly, the Patriot Coal Company filed for bankruptcy. It was a move prompted in part by the impact that regulations instituted by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) had on the company.

According to the Institute for Energy Research (IER), EPA rules targeting the coal industry helped to account for a dramatic drop in Patriot's share price.

Those rules have also contributed to the slide in the share price of coal other companies, such as Alpha Natural Resources, Inc., Arch Coal, Inc., and Peabody Energy Corp, says the IER.

Alpha Natural Resources, Inc., has indicated its intent to cease mining at various sites in Kentucky, and lay off about 150 workers.

In July, in Pennsylvania, layoffs were also announced by two coal companies which also blamed Obama's "War on Coal" for the job losses.

"The escalating costs and uncertainty generated by recently advanced EPA regulations and interpretations have created a challenging business climate for the entire coal industry," said the President and CEO of PBS Coals, Inc., D. Lynn Shanks, in a statement to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Meanwhile, July also saw the announcement by the Ohio Valley Coal Co. that it would be laying off workers.

Ohio Valley Coal's General Manager Ronald Koontz accused the Obama administration of engaging in "a war on coal seeking to destroy the coal industry and the jobs of our own employees and the livelihoods of their families."

By the end of July, Ohio American Energy, Inc., a subsidiary of Murray Energy, announced that it would be closing down mining operations that employed over 200 workers.

The founder of Ohio American attributed the layoffs to Obama policies affecting the coal industry, and predicted that more job losses would occur as a result of them.

“There will be additional layoffs, not only at Murray Energy, but also throughout the United States coal industry due to Mr. Obama’s ‘War on Coal’ and the destruction that it has caused to so many jobs and families in the Ohio Valley area and elsewhere,” said Robert Murray.

According to Andrew Morriss, a University of Alabama law professor, the effects of these job losses might be more grave than the Obama administration has anticipated.

Setting aside the inexpensiveness and ready availability of coal as an energy source, Morriss notes that according to National Mining Association data, a typical coal miner earns in excess of $70,000 per year. Moreover, about 60,000 people work in high-skilled, well-paying jobs in US coal-fired power plants.

Those statistics hint at the economic impact that coal workers have as consumers within their own communities, as well as wage-earners in their own right.

A more immediate concern for Obama, however, may be their geographical location - after all, Obama is all about getting money and votes.

Even though coal-heavy states like West Virginia and Kentucky are not in play this Presidential Election year, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia are expected to be among the most hotly contested.

That my friends, means that Obama's coal policies could end up having unintended effects, beyond the layoffs of well-paid, high-skilled workers. It make come back at him!

Yesterday, September 22nd, a report came out saying that the Republican controlled half of Congress, the House of Representatives, passed 5 bills to stop Obama's war on coal.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a group of five bills collectively referred to as H.R. 3409, and known informally as the “Stop the War on Coal Act,” on Friday. They passed the bill with a 233 to 175 vote.

Yes, Democrats see nothing wrong with lay-offs and Obama's war on coal.

"It took some time, but it’s done," Jason Bostic, vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association said. "This bill now becomes our main focus in the Senate as we move forward."

H.R. 3409 is made up of five separate bills including the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act, a bill introduced in 2011 by U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.

In addition, other provisions of the Stop the War on Coal Act include provisions to prevent the Interior Department from instituting new regulations that would eliminate coal mining jobs, language that would push back EPA Clean Air Act regulations and more.

"The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has run roughshod over my state and others in central Appalachia to impose its own ideological agenda," Rep Rahall was quoted as saying in a news release concerning H.R. 3409.

Talking about the EPA, Rahall said, "It usurped the legal authorities of other federal agencies. It brazenly misused and abused its regulatory powers to put a stranglehold on coal mine permitting.”

U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., was also among the 233 House members who voted for H.R. 3409.

"It’s important that the American people are made aware of the fact that this assault, though aimed at the coal industry, affects us all," Rep Griffith was quoted as stating in a press release.

"When coal jobs are cut, the people who supply materials to the coal mines, the people who operate the trains, that carry the coal, and the people who work in the ports that ship the coal are all impacted.

"Current EPA regulations for coal-fired power plants are not even commercially available today and are threatening to send our electricity rates skyrocketing," Morgan was quoted as stating.

Jason Bostic, vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association, took a more philosophical look at the House’s action on Friday saying, "I think this vote that attempts to control the EPA and the Office of Surface Mining shows that these agencies are unworthy of the public trust."

He went on to say, "The EPA has been trampling the states rights in the process. Our charge, as the Coal Association, is to protect our industry from the regulatory coma that that is holding our industry back."

He expressed the fear that if that situation persists, the coal industry’s infrastructure may experience challenges similar to the problems that crippled the U.S. steel industry several years ago.

Americans can only hope that the effort to stop Obama is a success. The President has an extremely powerful position, but like other elected officials - we must make sure that he does not abuse his power to install an agenda contrary to the good of the American people.

In my opinion, we must hold Obama in check because he has proven himself to work against what is good for America.

Story by Tom Correa

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