Energy Blog

Energy Blog

US Chamber of Commerce Blog

Sean Hackbarth Coal mine in Oakland City, Indiana.Coal mine in Oakland City, Indiana. Photo credit: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg.

Michael Kinsley, a long-time observer of national politics, explained 30 years ago in The New Republic that “a ‘gaffe’ occurs not when a politician lies, but when he tells the truth.”

In 2008 President Barack Obama, when he was running for the highest office in the land, committed one when he said, “[E]lectricity rates would necessarily skyrocket” because of his energy policies. If EPA’s Clean Power Plan goes into effect after withstanding legal scrutiny, that’s what will happen.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently committed her own gaffe for saying, “We’re going to put a lot of coal companies and coal miners out of business.”

Hillary Clinton: "We Are Going To Put A Lot Of Coal Miners & Coal Companies Out Of Business"

As politicians often do, she claims she was misunderstood and wants to replace those coal jobs with ones in renewable energy. But she, along with her opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders endorses an extreme and unworkable “keep it in the ground” energy strategy. Dan Byers at the Institute for 21st Century Energy points out, “Secretary Clinton proudly supports those regulations that destroy coal jobs, and has every intention to see they are implemented and even further tightened under her watch.”

Moving past parsing political speech, we face a hard truth: The American coal industry is being driven into extinction.

The Sierra Club boasted that’s its efforts have helped to shut down a remarkable 100 gigawatts of coal-fired electricity capacity since 2010 (roughly 1/3 of the country’s coal generation). Of course, the Sierra Club’s “success” means pain for most Americans, in the form of fewer jobs and higher energy prices. The National Mining Association estimates that 100 gigawatts gone equals at least 170,000 jobs lost [subscription required].

One way to see the results of the Obama administration’s so-far-successful “war on coal” is the jobs losses. As I wrote a few months back, there are 23% fewer coal mining jobs since 2008.

u-s-coal-mining-jobs.png  2007-2015U.S. coal mining jobs: 2007-2015

Another way is looking at what types of power plants have been shutting down. Spoiler alert: Wind and solar aren’t being tossed aside.

eia_powerplantretirements_2015.jpg  Power plant retirements in 2015.Energy Information Administration chart: Power plant retirements in 2015.Source: Energy Information Administration.

“[T]he country lost roughly the same total capacity of all of Kentucky’s electric sector coal plants that year,” Morning Consult’s energy writer Jack Fitzpatrick points out.

SNL Financial looks at the harm being done to the coal industry from another angle. The market capitalizations—how much stocks are worth—of the four largest coal companies have fallen by 99% since 2011.

snl_financial_coal_market_caps_2016.gif  Changes in market capitalization for coal companies.SNL Financial: Changes in market capitalization for coal companies.Source: SNL Financial.

Some of this is market-driven. The shale boom has produced an abundance of natural gas that has been replacing coal in electricity generation.

However, regulatory hits such as the Clean Power Plan have made it more expensive to operate coal-fired power plants, forcing them to shut down, pushing down coal demand, and costing mining and power plant jobs. These losses ripple into communities.

If history is any indication, innovations and global events will alter the supply and demand of energy in unexpected ways. No one knew the shale energy boom would happen until it did. It’s why we need policies that keep all types of energy sources on the table. It’s ludicrous to abandon coal, when the United States has so much of it—over 260 years of reserves.

Whoever wins the election this November must change the trajectory we’re on and stop using regulations to pick energy winners and losers. Our economy needs an “all of the above” energy strategy. Because when families and businesses pay more for electricity but get less, no spin will help the next president explain away that blunder.

Pete V. Domenici An oil jack near Corpus Christi, Texas.Photo credit: Eddie Seal/Bloomberg.

To the 45th President of the United States
From: Pete V. Domenici

Dear 45:

You’ll be entering the Oval Office at a time of tremendous challenges. As a former chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, I’ve been vocal about our nation’s deficit and the need for serious solutions.

Fortunately, you also have an incredible opportunity: You have the ability to make America an energy superpower.

When I led the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, we knew the future was bright, but we had no idea that America had such vast shale oil and gas resources right under our nose. Through proven technologies and innovation, we’ve begun to take advantage of those resources, putting thousands to work and generating billions in investment.

dear45-logo.jpg Dear 45 logo Even though our entire energy landscape has changed, our policies haven’t. The last major update to our energy policy was in 2005, when I helped pass a bipartisan Energy Bill. The time has come for another look — one that recognizes that we now have the ability to be a global leader in oil and gas production, as well as other opportunities in areas like nuclear energy, which I’ve long advocated for. We also need to reform our permitting process to build energy infrastructure — it shouldn’t take years (or even decades) to get a pipeline or transmission line built.

We also shouldn’t throw away one of our greatest strengths — our energy diversity. Coal is still the largest source of electricity in America, providing affordable and reliable energy to over 30 percent of Americans.  Efforts to put coal out of business will only hurt us and drive manufacturing and jobs overseas.

Instead, we should continue to invest in technologies that improve all of our resources, including renewable sources like solar and wind. If our nation is to become the energy superpower that we can be, we’ll need all of it.

Energy may not be a big issue in this campaign. But when you take office, you’ll realize it is one of our nation’s most important assets. It gives us a competitive advantage in the global economy, allowing us to attract more manufacturing and create jobs.

Solving our challenges won’t be easy. But with the right leadership, we can be the envy of the world. 

Former U.S. Sen. Pete V. Domenici
New Mexico, served six terms (1973-2009)
Sean Hackbarth Instruments used to perform bariatric surgery.Photo credit: David Maxwell/Bloomberg.

Oil and natural gas not only fuel our economy, they provide the basic materials for making health care products that save lives and keep us healthy.

Step into a hospital or clinic, and you’re surrounded by objects that come from petroleum.

Plastics derived from natural gas go into items like MRIs, IV bags and tubes, lights, monitors, stethoscopes, prosthetics, and hearing aids. Chemicals derived from petroleum become soaps, antiseptics, aspirin, and pharmaceuticals.  

If we listened to “keep it in the ground” dreamers who think we can live without fossil fuels, we’d not only be left in the dark, we'd be without these life-saving items.

Energy In Depth created the infographic below showing how prevalent and important oil and natural gas are to the health care products.

petroleum_hospital_infographic_1600px.png  Oil and Gas Materials Used in Hospitals to Save LivesEnergy In Depth infographic: Petroleum Products and You: Oil and Gas Materials Used in Hospitals to Save Lives

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