During the run-up to the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election, Republican candidate Mitt Romney ran ads and the party adopted as a platform the “war on coal” being waged by President Barack Obama. While the platform failed when it came to securing votes for the Republican Party, it hasn’t stopped the GOP from re-launching the same talking points in the wake of President Obama’s recent climate change action speech.
Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner was one of the first to voice his concerns for the coal industry, saying that the President’s plan to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants would have a devastating impact on employment and the industry itself.
Boehner has fallen into the “those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it” trap. As it turns out, the coal industry and their lobbying groups have already admitted that the 2012 “war on coal” talking point was an abject failure.
A spokesman for the National Mining Association recently lamented the following in the industry publication “Coal Age” (courtesy of The Huffington Post):
Anyway, ‘war on coal’ never resonated with much conviction among ordinary Americans. For them, the EPA keeps the air and water clean, their kids safe. The Appalachian permits the EPA held up, the Spruce Mine permit the agency yanked, the regulatory standard it proposed to slow greenhouse gas emissions and stop new coal plant construction – all that flew over the head of most voters who, let’s face it, know far more about the Kardashians than they do about coal.
HuffPost goes on to note that the “war on coal” never really ended for the Republican Party:
Throughout last year's campaign, the coal industry inundated voters with advertisements claiming that the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency were strangling coal mines and killing jobs through needless regulation. In fact, the “War on Coal” campaign has lived well beyond the 2012 election; billboards in coal country still accuse the administration of creating a “No Jobs Zone” through environmental oversight.
But the mere fact that the talking point failed to resonate with the American public is just an amusing anecdote.
The real problem facing the Republican Party’s mantra today is that the coal industry itself says that there is no war on coal, and they are behind the President’s plan, albeit with slight reluctance, to reduce carbon emissions from plants and invest more money into so-called “clean coal” technology. Keep in mind, this is the same industry that is giving millions of dollars to keep Republicans in office.
The coal industry understands things that people like John Boehner are trying to ignore. Specifically, that they have a friend in Obama’s cabinet – Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who, as DeSmogBlog’s Sharon Kelly noted recently, has long been in favor of coal-powered electricity.
As if friends in high places weren’t enough, the industry is also salivating over the $8 billion that the administration is ready to hand over to help coal companies purchase and install carbon capture and sequestration systems (to date, a pie-in-the-sky and costly endeavor).
The industry is also aware that the majority of Americans favor ideas such as a carbon tax, so things could be worse for them right now. They also know that many other business groups are jumping on board with the plan (which again is supported by a majority) and the bandwagon effect can be pretty difficult to fight in American politics.
Even with their past failures, and the coal industry’s acceptance of the President’s plan, it seems unlikely that the Republican Party will lay the “war on coal” talking point to rest.
It will just become another failed motif like their attempts to blame Obama for gas prices or their favorite claim of “job killing regulations.”