Mike Myer’s Saturday column is supposed to be about “clean coal” – it’s really about getting Trump re-elected
When in doubt, blame Obama
In his Saturday opinion column about “clean coal,” local Ogden editor Mike Myer begins by rewriting the history of the Obama administration’s “clean coal” initiatives:
What angered many Americans about former President Barack Obama’s war on coal was that it was intended as a campaign of extermination. Obama and others who hate the very idea of coal knew, but didn’t care, about efforts to develop “clean coal” technology. . . .
Obama, once elected, oversaw a dramatic decline in federal funding for research into how coal could be burned with lower emissions of pollutants, including carbon dioxide. During the last few years of his administration, the Department of Energy requested only about $500 million a year for all fossil fuel research. Clean coal technology got . . . zero.
That is simply a lie. Here is what Inside Climate News reported in February of 2010 at the beginning of the second year of Obama’s presidency:
President Obama has issued marching orders for the rapid national adoption of "clean coal" technology. Last week, shortly after his budget address, he ordered a high-level task force to deliver a plan within 180 days determining how "to overcome barriers to the widespread, cost-effective deployment of CCS within 10 years, with the goal of bringing 5 to 10 commercial demonstration projects on line by 2016."
Obama's executive office memorandum looks like a big victory for the coal industry, which was already handed $3.8 billion in last year's stimulus act for carbon capture and storage (CCS) research and development and deployment. He did not simultaneously order a similar plan for a big roll-out of solar or wind energy to level the playing field. (Emphasis mine.)
As for the decline in spending (let alone, to zero), I could find no evidence that it occurred (and Myer provides none). Instead, Undark another energy news source, wrote in August of 2016 (Obama’s last year as president):
[T]he Obama administration continues to invest billions of dollars toward the development of so-called “clean coal” technologies designed to make coal-fired plants more climate friendly by capturing carbon dioxide emissions and storing them before they are released into the atmosphere.
Yes, blame Obama. (The only surprise, here, was that Hillary didn’t get a mention.)
But look who did cut the research budget for clean coal
In the process of researching this post, I found this New York Times report on the Trump administration’s funding for clean coal research back in the summer of 2017:
The Trump budget for the fiscal year that begins in October also seems to have given up on clean coal. It would cut research and development for carbon capture and storage technology to about $35 million from more than $200 million.
This is not about clean coal; it’s about reelecting Trump
Like his blaming of former president Obama, Myer does not mention Trump’s earlier cuts in clean coal research because his column is not about providing an accurate recent history of clean coal research; it’s about supporting Trump. The political strategy behind Trump's current support for coal was explained earlier this month by economist Walter E. Block in an op-ed for the New York Times. (Note -- Block is no wishy-washy, liberal, green economist; he’s a self-described, pro-markets Austro-Libertarian.) Here’s his conclusion:
Given the clear evidence of where the energy market is heading, the president’s insistence on protecting coal feels uncomfortably like crony capitalism. . . . The reason seems to be clear: To fortify support in the Appalachian states that mine coal and the industrial states that burn it — key parts of his electoral victory in 2016.
A footnote on how America’s business press viewed Trump’s replacement of Obama’s Clean Power Plan with his own Clean Energy Rule
Okay, we can probably guess how the environmental press reacted to Trump’s most recent effort to save the coal industry. But what about the conclusions of America’s business press? Here, then, are the most recent headlines and quotes about Trump’s efforts to save the coal industry from business media.
From Fortune Magazine:
Why Trump's EPA Rollback to End 'War on Coal' Won't Rescue the Industry
From yesterday’s Barron’s:
Trump’s New EPA Plan Is Unlikely to Revive the Coal Industry, Analysts Say
From Energy and Environment:
Trump to toss lifeline to coal plants. Will it work?
The Trump administration's much-anticipated rule to replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan may not be the long-term lifeline for coal that some hoped it would be, analysts say.
That concept was reinforced yesterday when an analysis showed the U.S. power sector methodically moving away from coal-fired generation, without any rule in place, to energy options such as solar and wind that do not produce carbon dioxide emissions.
Finally, Forbes Magazine had an analysis that pointed out that both the public and major corporations are moving on:
Trump Is Lighting A Fire Under Coal But Voters Are Electing For Clean Energy
Right now, 48% of the Fortune 500 and 63% of the Fortune 100 are vowing to cut their greenhouse gases, up their use of green energy or improve their energy efficiencies, according to David Gardiner and Associates. Consider the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, which is made up of such companies as Google, Facebook, Walmart, General Motors, Disney and Salesforce: They are targeting 60,000 megawatts of non-utility renewables deployments by 2025.
It also notes:
According to E2’s Opportunity Lost report from 2017, eliminating the Clean Power Plan could cost the United States as many as 560,000 jobs and $52 billion in foregone gross domestic product, or lost wealth.
Yes, Trump’s action (and Ogden’s support for them) are not about saving the coal industry (as most economists point out, it can’t be saved) and they are certainly not about doing something about climate change. Simply put, they’re about getting Trump reelected.