In a Wednesday column, the president of a major coal industry group defended coal energy against recent attacks from the environmentalist left. The current drive to drastically redcuce coal power in the United States, he claimed, would deal a body blow to the American economy.
“There are challenges inherent with using every energy resource,” wrote Steve Miller, president and CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. “But if the United States backs away from any of our domestic resources because it poses challenges, we will soon find ourselves with fewer, more expensive supplies of energy.”
Miller specifically addressed the recent donation by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg to the environmentalist group Sierra Club. The donation specifically funded the group’s anti-coal campaign, which Miller claimed would, if successful, drastically reduce the country’s “jobs, economic growth, energy security and global competitiveness.”
The Sierra Club claims it has prevented 150 coal power plants from opening, and seeks to shut down a third of the country’s older power plants in the next decade. Bloomberg’s donation, the Sierra Club said, will aid in that campaign.
New York City is far less dependent on coal that the country generally. The United States gets about 45 percent of its electricity from coal, while coal provides only about 10 percent of New York City’s electricity. And of course few New Yorkers are directly or indirectly employed by the coal industry. So a major reduction in the country’s coal power generation will have little effect on Bloomberg or the city where he lives. Other regions may not be so lucky.
While he focused on the economics of the issue, Miller also addressed environmental concerns:
Another fact that the Sierra Club and Mayor Bloomberg ignore is the dramatic reductions in coal-fueled power plant emissions over several decades. Since 1970, emissions of sulfur dioxide from power plants have been reduced by more than 56 percent and emissions of nitrous oxides have been reduced by more than 38 percent. During this same time period, the use of coal to generate electricity more than tripled. The promise of clean coal technology is already being realized.
Ironically, Bloomberg’s $50 million may have hurt the environmentalist cause more than it helped, as the Heritage Foundation’s Derek Scissors noted.
But what will actually come out of the Bloomberg gift?
1) The Sierra Club is likely to be more effective in attacking the U.S. coal industry;
2) U.S. coal production will therefore not reach the level it might have without the gift;
3) U.S. coal exports are then unlikely to reach the level they might have;
4) Top importers, such as China and India, will have to mine more of their own coal or import more from non-American sources;
5) Top exporters, such as Indonesia and Russia, are likely to export more…
The punch line: Coal production in China, India, Indonesia, and Russia (as well as some other major producers) is dirtier than American production. Cut our output and raise theirs and you get more “climate disruption” and other environmental consequences.
One result of the Bloomberg gift to the Sierra Club: greater ecological risk.