(National Review, November 6) – Demonize coal. Keep the poor in the dark. And, above all, keep pushing the fantasy that U.S. government action (with or without the approval of Congress) is essential to dealing with climate change.
That — in a nutshell — is the climate-change strategy of the Obama administration and its environmentalist allies.
Evidence of the third point can be found by looking at the “Clean Power Plan” — the 645-page set of rules issued by the Environmental Protection Agency last June that, if it withstands legal challenges, will effectively outlaw the construction of new coal-fired power plants in the United States. The EPA made the move even though the proposed reductions in carbon dioxide emissions (about 720 million tons per year by 2030) are being dwarfed by the ongoing increases in global carbon dioxide emissions.
Further evidence for that third point was offered on Tuesday by White House press secretary Josh Earnest, who told reporters that, regardless of the outcome of the midterm elections, President Obama will continue to use his executive authority to push policies aimed at dealing with climate change. The reason? Earnest said there are “too many Republicans in Congress who even deny the basic scientific fact that climate change is occurring.”
Let’s set aside Earnest’s claim about “scientific fact.” Furthermore, let’s ignore the arguments as to whether or not climate change is occurring. Instead, let’s focus on the first and second points of the strategy: demonize coal and keep the poor in the dark.
Before going further, let me state the obvious: Demonizing coal is easy. Coal mining is often a dirty and dangerous business. Coal-production methods like mountain-top removal obliterate the landscape. Coal mining can be deadly: More than 1,000 Chinese coal miners died on the job in 2013 alone. And of course, coal combustion creates air pollution. Furthermore, combustion of the carbon-heavy fuel now accounts for about 44 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.
So it’s beyond easy for the Sierra Club (one of America’s oldest and most influential environmental groups) to push its “beyond coal” campaign. And it’s easier still for super-wealthy Democrats to support it. A major backer of the Sierra Club’s campaign is former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who gave the environmental group $50 million to help it “end the coal era.”
But the Sierra Club’s “beyond coal” slogan also illustrates the absurdity of the Left’s climate-change strategy. The coal era isn’t ending. Not by a long shot.
Coal is the world’s fastest-growing form of energy and it has been since 1973. In 2013 alone, coal use grew by about 2 million barrels of oil equivalent per day. That was about three times the growth seen in natural gas (which grew by about 700,000boe/d), four times the rate of growth in wind (up by about 500,000 boe/d), and 13 times the growth in solar (which was up by about 150,000 boe/d).
Coal demand is booming because the fuel is perfectly suited for electricity production, it’s abundant, its reserves are geographically dispersed, prices are not affected by any OPEC-like entities, and — above all — it’s cheap. Coal consumption will continue rising in the years ahead. More than 500,000 megawatts of new coal-fired capacity is either being built or is planned in countries ranging from Germany to Pakistan.
Of course, China has led the rush toward coal and now accounts for fully half of global coal consumption. But other Asian countries, including Indonesia and India, have also dramatically increased their coal consumption, and in doing so they have improved living standards and brought hundreds of millions of people out of darkness. For instance, since 1990, about 500 million Indians have gained access to electricity, and life expectancy in that country has increased by nearly eight years.
And that brings us to the most revolting tenet of the Left’s climate-change strategy: their desire to keep the poor in the dark.