There was a time in America—and it wasn’t even so long ago—that liberals actually cared about working class people. They may have been misguided in many of their policy solutions (i.e., raising the minimum wage) but at least their heart was in the right place.
Then a strange thing happened about a decade ago. The radical leftwing environmentalists took control. These are people who care more about the supposed rise of the oceans than the financial survival of the middle class. The industrial unions made a catastrophic decision to get in bed with these radicals and now they—and all of us—are paying a heavy price.
The latest evidence came last week when another coal giant in America, Peabody Energy Corp., declared bankruptcy. This is the same fate suffered by Arch Coal Inc., Alpha Natural Resources Inc., and other coal producers that have filed for Chapter 11 protection from creditors.
Peabody has stated that the lower cost of natural gas may have been a factor in their decline, and I am all for market competition, but this isn’t a result of free market creative destruction. This was largely a policy strategy by the White House and green groups.
They wanted this to happen. This was what Clean Power Plant rules from the Environmental Protection Agency were all about.
The EPA set standards by design that were impossible to meet and even flouted the law that says the regulations should be “commercially achievable.” This was a key component of the climate change fanaticism that pervades this White House.
Ideas have consequences. Obama has succeeded in decimating whole towns dependent on coal—in Wyoming, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.
Progressive liberals don’t seems to care that an estimated 31,000 coal miners, truckers, engineers, construction workers and others have lost their job since 2009 as a result of this global warming fanaticism. Another 5,000 or so could be given pink slips at Peabody.
To the left, the families whose lives are ruined are collateral damage to achieve their utopian dream of saving the planet. The Stalinists who now run the green movement believe the ends justify the ruthless means.
Investors have gotten crushed too as a result of coal’s demise. The coal industry has lost tens of billions of dollars in stock value since 2009—with many of these losses in union pension funds and 401k plans.
What is maddening about all of this is that coal is much cleaner than ever before. EPA statistics show that emissions of sulfer, lead, carbon monoxide, and smog from coal plants have been reduced by 50 to 90 percent in the last 40 years.
(The air we breathe is cleaner than ever. Carbon dioxide, by the way, is not a pollutant—it doesn’t make you sick.)
Global warming fanatics should ask themselves what they are accomplishing. For every coal plant we shut down, China and India build another 10 or so. Our coal is much cleaner and our environmental laws much stricter than China’s and India’s, so this shift of output and jobs from the U.S. to our rivals succeeds in making us poorer and the planet dirtier.
America is the Saudi Arabia of coal. We have an estimated 500-year-supply. So for economic and ecological reasons, we should want American coal to dominate the world market, but the mindless environmentalists’ rallying cry is: “keep it in the ground.”
Do liberals care that the demise of coal could lead to major disruptions in America’s electric power supply?
Coal still supplies more than one-third of our electricity, because it is cheap and highly reliable—much more so than wind and solar energy. Perhaps the Millenials will realize their mistake when they won’t be able to power up their Play Station 4s, their iPhones, and their lap tops.
Republicans in Congress aren’t blameless here. They have controlled the House for five years and both chambers since 2015. But they have sat by while the EPA destroys an iconic American industry.
Why has Congress not overruled EPA rules on carbon, which is not a pollutant? Every poll shows Americans care most about jobs and the economy—and only about 3 percent care most about climate change. Yet, they refuse to stand up to Obama and take the side of the American worker.
It’s not too late to revive American coal, but that strategy starts with putting jobs first. I thought that’s what both parties have been promising.
Stephen Moore, who formerly wrote on the economy and public policy for The Wall Street Journal, is a distinguished visiting fellow for the Project for Economic Growth at The Heritage Foundation.
Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by The Daily Signal.