Stiff opposition to cap-and-trade legislation could push bill from 2009 calendar, while election-wary midwestern Democrats in 2010 could remove it altogether
Nearly every day, it seems, I expound upon the importance of involvement in our political process. I know that it gets repetitive at times, but there’s a reason for it. I came back from a few weeks’ time overseas to see the beautiful sight of concerned Americans coming together to stand firm in defense of their freedom, confronting the elected officials–who work for the people and should be doing so rather than working against them–at town hall meetings from coast to coast. That those Americans are being derided by sitting senators as being “too well-dressed to be sincere” and by the press as being “thugs” makes it all the better.
Now, we see in a report today from the folks at Politico that our dissent could very well have struck a decisive blow against cap-and-trade legislation — despite its passage in the House of Representatives. Now, I’m quite skeptical as to any assurance from Democrats that any bill is off the table (especially a bill like this one, which has been carefully designed and crafted over the course of three decades by those on the left pining for the end of American exceptionalism), yet I cannot help but rejoice at the idea that, indeed, the majority may have been beaten back on one of their priorities.
If, as the Politico report suggests, the legislation is off the table for this year, then I really don’t see it being a priority for 2010, especially if polls suggest as they do now that the mid-term elections could be difficult for the Democrats. Because of their own overreach, the Democrats will be in the fight for their political lives next year, and seeing that they still want to prevail on healthcare and still want to address amnesty for illegal immigrants, I can’t see something so politically detrimental as cap-and-trade being at the forefront of the agenda. In advance of the election, they will likely push more populist measures — perhaps even a second or third round of the “Cash For Clunkers” program so wildly popular among the politically and fiscally ignorant.
In the meantime, however, since I don’t want to take at face value any promises or assurances that the energy legislation is dead in the water, and since I believe that this agenda will be advanced, one way or another in one form or another, I want to run an interview I conducted with William Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, shortly after the House voted in favor of the Waxman-Markey legislation.
This interview has been in “draft” format for a long time now. I even left it with Robert to run should the Senate have been preparing for a vote on cap-and-trade. With the news that the bill could be pushed back, I figure–and hope–that I won’t have any better occasion than this to include the interview here at America’s Right.
Waxman-Markey is an absolute disaster for our economy. Listen to the words of Mr. Raney, and think about the political implications, too, of such a damaging piece of legislation. That’s why, if the article is correct that cap-and-trade will be bumped from this year’s calendar, it’s return will only come in 2010 if the Democrats are confident, or in 2011 if Republicans make little or no gains in the mid-term election.
Without further ado, Mr. William Raney:
AMERICA’S RIGHT: Now that the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill passed the House, how does it make you feel?
WILLIAM RANEY: Well, frankly, from a West Virginia standpoint it’s just a terrible piece of legislation, and you can forget whether you’re debating about whether climate change is man-made or a danger. If you look at the disparity of signs that are out there, then someone has got to drive a stake in the ground and say “here is the threshold we need to achieve.” Are you going to trust Al Gore to tell you what that is? Are you going to trust a consortium of people who are experts and who can agree? Either way, there’s no agreement on the science, so we don’t even know what the target is, nonetheless the solution to get there.
Then, we’ve got a bill that was written by . . . who knows? And a bill that’s supposedly an answer to this unknown target. And then you look at the punitive nature of this bill from a coal industry standpoint or a fossil fuel standpoint, and it’s awful. According to the Congressional Budget Office, when you begin to do all these things with the allowances, how many are allotted, how many are given away, and how many will have to be purchased by the utilities making electricity here, it’s going to end up costing West Virginians $684 million.
And then you’re going to turn around and, again according to the CBO, send that money from some 40 states to ten states. It’s going to cost us here in West Virginia 684 million, but in the rest of these states it will cost them something less. As a result of this bill, we’re going to send $385 million to California, and we’ll send $204 million to Washington, and $88 million to Oregon. So there’s ten states that get money, and the citizens of 40 states that will end up costing them more. That’s just absolutely crazy.
AR: I was watching the debate and, well, I’ll tell you that I don’t think I’ve ever watched C-SPAN like I did on Friday. And—
WR: Well, I tell you – they live in a magical world, don’t they?
AR: They really do, they really do. Anyway, during that debate, Nancy Pelosi took to the podium and said that the Waxman-Markey legislation was about four words: “jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs.” In your industry, what is the best and worst case scenario in terms of the impact of cap-and-trade on employment?
WR: I don’t know that anybody has a good number. The crazy thing about this is that, what you’re doing is diminishing the perception of coal being used as the base fuel for making more than half the electricity in America. Coal is the very fuel on which this country’s strength was founded in the Industrial Revolution and in the two world wars.
So, now, we want to turn our back and say that we’re going to double renewables, and go from two percent to four percent. Well, people are going to demand and want and absolutely insist upon having electricity available; if it’s off for more than two hours already, everyone gets all in a dither about it.
AR: What a great point. Just wait until the electricity isn’t there, and until the cost of electricity has skyrocketed just as the president predicted it would. Now, in terms of jobs, even if there are no specific numbers, what else could this legislation affect down the line. For instance, the recent turmoil in the auto industry has adversely affected everyone from the factory workers on down to spark plug manufacturers and suppliers for leather and stitching for upholstery; where will we feel the consequences of this legislation and its disastrous effects upon the coal industry?
WR: It’s enormous. Beyond anyone’s perception. You can take it to whatever extreme you want, but but even using the reasonable numbers, we have 20,000 miners today digging coal in West Virginia, and we have about 35,000 people we call “specialty contractors” — they’re electricians, they hang conveyor belts, they do things of a very specific nature as it relates to the infrastructure of the coal industry. So you have 55,000 people that directly depend upon a mine operating.
And that’s only in West Virginia.
Multiply that by what the economists use—it’s somewhere between three and six depending upon how close you are to the operation—to assess impact upon other jobs in the local economy such as convenience stores, food stores, the local car dealers, and so you start to multiply that out and you see quickly that, in a state with approximately 1.8 million in population, how goes the coal mining in West Virginia, also goes the state.
And, again, that’s only in West Virginia.
AR: Exactly how much of America’s energy is derived from coal?
WR: Well, they say that 52 percent of the electricity made in this country comes from burning coal.
AR: And what makes it such a great energy source, as opposed to renewables such as solar, wind, or tidal?
WR: Well, first of all, it’s dependable. You can store it. You can burn it when you need it. We know how to mine it; we have the best coal miners in the world who know how to do that. It’s American; we don’t have to import it. So, it’s secure fuel, it’s one that is available and of reasonable geographical convenience with regard to where the generating plants are. It’s not subject to the whims of the weather, whether the wind is blowing or the sun is shining, and these plants have gotten so good over the last thirty years that coal usage has tripled and air emissions have dropped by something greater than 80 percent.
When it comes to environmental concerns, we’re getting better with each passing day. And you want to know what amazes me? I watched the same debate you did in the House on C-SPAN, and maybe you watched a little more than I did, but everybody kept on talking about energy security — tell me: how you get the energy security with what this legislation proposes?
And the other side of the legislation, with regard to the permits for the extraction of coal from the Appalachian states — we have the best coal in the world, we have plants that are designed to burn it, and we can’t get the federal agencies to issue the permits that allow our extracting operations to go forward. Between that and the new equipment to be required and all of the other pieces coming together, they’re going to raise the price of mining coal to the point where they’re going to almost force these plants to take imported coal. And, at that point, we’ll be in the same situation we’re in now with oil.
It’s a whole lot of moving blocks around. And I’ll ask you: who wrote this thing? Who came up with this scheme?
AR: See, that’s the thing. It’s not about the environment, this “scheme.” Everybody says it’s about the planet, about the Earth, but it’s not. They go after your industry because of the emissions and such, but it’s not about the emissions. For them, I feel as though it’s about taking a powerful nation down a peg because justice demands that we give other nations a shot. If we really are the “Saudi Arabia of Coal,” they don’t want that distinction for us. They don’t want America to be a superpower, economic or otherwise. This bill has been written over a process of about three decades. It has been taken apart and put back together and is being advanced brilliantly by politicians who have been waiting patiently for the chance to do so. They want to redistribute wealth, and in this trumped-up cause of “global warming,” they’ve found the perfect vehicle from which to do so.
WR: Absolutely right. We have twice as many coal reserves as China does, and yet we could be put in the situation where we are importing coal. Importing coal.
And consider India and China — do you suppose that they’re going to do everything that the United States does in the name of saving the environment? Of course not. They’re trying to get a light bulb in every home over there. They’re not concerned about the effects of carbon dioxide on the world. They’re not going to ruin their growing economy for it, even if they were concerned.
If we had this same bunch in power during the Industrial Revolution, we’d still be driving horse-drawn buggies.
AR: Exactly right. It’s a War on Success and Prosperity, and your industry and the people of your state will bear the brunt of the losses.
WR: Oh, but I guarantee you that everyone who had a hand in writing this bill, their bellies have been full their entire life.
AR: Now, going back to environmental concerns, real or imagined, what effect would this legislation have on the ability of your industry to research and develop new technologies?
WR: Well, I haven’t read the bill, but it comes down to the focus of the many dollars in this legislation. What is the target of these measures? Who do we trust to tell us what the target is? I don’t think it’s [NASA climatologist James] Hansen. It’s not [Al] Gore. It’s not [Bill] Raney. It’s not [Jeff] Schreiber. I don’t know who it is, but somebody needs to figure out what that target is so you’re not punishing the American people.
But any money that’s in this thing ought to be focused on energy security and taking the fuels that we have here — the natural gas, the oil in ANWR. Let’s take care of ourselves, and then we can reach out and take care of everyone else.
You know, I don’t know how much money is in there. But whatever it is, it needs to be very specifically directed to get through research and to the point where it can be commercially used.
AR: Most of it, I believe, has been earmarked for solar and wind projects. But I would imagine that the effect that this would have would leave your industry unable to do what a free market prospers and allow you to get better and more efficient on your own.
WR: Well, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of interest in making it better. There seems to be a whole lot of interest in taking our people’s jobs.
They talk about “green” jobs. I don’t know what those are. I’ve never seen a definition of what a “green” job is. But, as I said to an associate on Friday as we watched someone in Congress say that “green” jobs would be created, “That is great. We’ll take all the ‘green’ jobs you want; they can work right here next to the coal miners who are providing fuel for America.”
We’ve got plenty of room in West Virginia. We don’t need to trade a coal mining job for a “green” job; there is more than enough room here for everyone to come down. They can twist the ratchet on the windmill . . . I don’t know what they’ll do, but there’s plenty of room for them to do it alongside our coal miners. Whatever those “green” jobs may be, we’ll welcome them here in West Virginia, and we can be the energy state that we truly are – the Lord blessed us with all kinds of resources.
AR: What can be done better within the coal industry in terms of energy efficiency or environmental impact?
WR: As I say, we’re getting better every day. No one has all the answers.
I don’t understand anyone wanting to take another person’s job. We have 20,000 coal miners in West Virginia, and they’re here mining coal because that’s what they want to do. They want to be here close to where they grew up. They want to be close to their children and their grandchildren. They want to hunt the hills they hunted as a young man or young woman, and they’re mining those hills, and they’re going to do everything they can to protect them. Why anybody, whether you’re in West Virginia, in Boston, Chicago, Miami, or Atlanta, wants to take a West Virginia coal miner’s job when their very life depends on them mining coal every day is beyond me.
I would never, ever suggest taking another person’s job, another family’s livelihood. If I don’t like what they’re doing, then we sit down and work something out. But we cannot get to that mature point, for some reason.
These 20,000 people, Jeff, that are mining coal today, if they wanted to be retrained and go on to do something else, they would have done that. And that just absolutely befuddles me, that those in Congress would specifically write a bill that would take jobs from West Virginians.
AR: President Obama, on the campaign trail, boasted that he would “bankrupt” the coal industry. Is that what you’re seeing here?
WR: Yes. It seems like they’re just trying to force our death by a thousand cuts. What we’re dealing with are policymakers who are driven by personal opinion as opposed to national good, and we’ve got to get the point where we have leaders that are worried about the good of this nation and its people as opposed to their personal opinions or agendas.
AR: Is there a place for renewables?
WR: Absolutely. We need all kinds of energy sources. But we see places like California, which is supposedly leading the pack with regard to renewable energy, all the while sucking coal from Nevada. Coal is reliable. Coal is dependable. Coal is there to be stored. Yet instead of pushing for the incorporation all kinds of energy sources, they look to replace coal with something else. In the end, we’ll be importing oil, importing coal, and shaking our heads and wondering what happened.
Why can’t the smart people sit down and figure out a way to make America truly secure rather than importing tremendous amounts of oil from the most unstable parts of the world?
AR: Am I exaggerating when I argue that this bill could pose perhaps the greatest threat to our nation’s economy of any single piece of legislation in our nation’s history?
WR: I’ve mentioned what it will do to the coal industry. We know how it will increase energy prices for everybody. But that’s not even the half of it. I’ve heard that a provision in this bill requires that anybody looking to sell their home submit for an energy inspection. Do you suppose every American wants to have an energy inspection? And who is going to do them?
The effects of this bill will reach far and wide, in and out of the American coal industry. It’s just unbelievable, and I’m not certain that the people in Washington even know everything that this bill will do.
AR: Is there a particular part of this bill which bothers you more than another?
WR: Well, as I said, I haven’t read it. But look, the most important person in this equation is the elderly person on fixed income that’s lived their life and made this country great, and now all of a sudden they’ll need to figure out how they’ll pay their energy bill.
This bill in itself, and the intention behind it, really galls me. And while I’m certainly not without sin, while I certainly should not be throwing stones from inside my glass house, I’m of the opinion that we must get past the hypocritical stage. The ones flying in their jet planes, the ones leaving their mansions to attend rock concerts that consume more electricity than you’ll ever use at your home, and then preaching that we must “go green,” that we must save the planet – we’ve got to get beyond all of that.
We’ll survive. West Virginia will survive. America will survive. We just need to get to the point where there’s some honesty, and where we’re not working against ourselves anymore.
AR: Thank you, Mr. Raney. Let’s hope this thing gets shot down in the Senate, or canned before it even gets there.
WR: Yes, indeed. You’re welcome, Jeff.