President Ronald Reagan once said, "If you want more of something, subsidize it; if you want less of something, tax it." In continuing with that famous thought, one might declare, "If you want to eliminate something altogether, regulate it." Such could certainly be said of the fate coal seems to be facing as it goes head-to-head with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Regardless of the hundreds of thousands of jobs created by and dependent upon coal, not to mention the millions of Americans who rely on coal production to keep electricity costs low, some at the EPA seem determined to put coal out of business. Their actions have prompted eleven members of the Ohio congressional delegation to send a letter to President Barack Obama expressing their concerns over the proposed New Source Performance Standard (NSPS). As they said in their letter to the president:
This New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) virtually ensures that no new coal-fired power plants will be built in the United States again due to the extremely high economic costs of feasible technology required to meet these unrealistic standards. The great state of Ohio receives nearly 80% of its power from coal-fired power plants, and this proposed rule will endanger our economy and grid reliability.
In Ohio, coal provides power for the equivalent of more than 4.5 million homes and 200,000 businesses. Based on the cost of electricity, Ohio ranks #27 in the nation in energy affordability, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Ohio ranks #10 in the nation in coal production and #4 in the nation in coal use. Direct and indirect employment generated by U.S. coal mining in Ohio accounts for 27,540 jobs, for a combined payroll of $1.6 billion.
Ohio is not alone.
Next door in Pennsylvania, coal provides 44% of electric power generation, providing power for the equivalent of more than 2.4 million homes and 131,000 businesses. Based on the cost of electricity, Pennsylvania ranks #36 in the nation in energy affordability, according to the EIA. Pennsylvania ranks #4 in the nation in coal production and #5 in the nation in coal use. Direct and indirect employment generated by U.S. coal mining in Pennsylvania accounts for 62,990 jobs, for a combined payroll of $4.1 billion.
In addition, according to Count on Coal, American coal provides 43% of U.S. electric power generation, providing power for more than 60 million homes and 3.4 million businesses. Direct and indirect employment generated by U.S. coal mining accounts for 555,270 jobs, for a combined payroll of $36.3 billion.
What these statistics cannot show is the human factor behind the numbers. In communities across Ohio, families are dependent on the coal industry for their livelihood. Now more than ever at a time when our economy is still recovering, the government should not take actions that will kill jobs. But this is exactly what the Obama administration's EPA is doing to families in Ohio, Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
In a similar vein, it is contemptible for the Obama administration to be pushing regulatory schemes that will ultimately raise the cost of energy which will affect families and businesses throughout Ohio every time they turn on a light switch. Electricity is an integral part of life for both families and businesses and extreme regulations will serve as an energy tax on these consumers. Instead of benefitting from affordable coal generated electricity, this EPA-driven energy tax will increase electricity bills during these tough economic times, which hurts families and makes businesses less competitive by leaving them with increased costs that limit their ability to hire or expand.
Coal accounts for a third of all U.S. electricity. But electricity prices are already the highest they have ever been thanks to the green energy agenda and strangling regulations advanced by the administration.
We should be focused on keeping electricity costs low and ensuring reliable energy sources to help rebuild our economy and create jobs, not pursuing new onerous regulations that will lead to job loss, higher energy rates, and a less competitive manufacturing sector in the United States.
Eli Miller is state director of Americans For Prosperity Ohio. Follow him on Twitter at @EliHMiller.