America has embarked on an energy revolution that will create millions of jobs, bring more manufacturing to the United States, reduce our reliance on foreign sources, and generate hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue and help reduce deficits. It’s an exciting future, and coal can and should play an important role.
Coal is our largest source of domestically produced energy. We’ve got some 263 billion short tons of recoverable coal, which is roughly a 234-year power supply at current consumption rates.
Our modern economy requires abundant and affordable electricity. “Green” technologies have their place, but they can’t run the economy alone. And it takes a lot of electricity to produce and deploy emerging technologies, such as electric cars. For decades, electricity derived from coal has been the backbone of our system. Today, coal provides more than 40 percent of our electricity.
No energy is produced without risk, and that includes coal. The U.S. power industry has invested more than $90 billion to deploy clean coal technologies since 1990, helping drive down emissions at existing plants and equipping new plants with greatly reduced emissions profiles. We must continue to invest in R&D and work to further reduce the environmental impact of coal — and all forms of energy.
President Barack Obama has promised an “all of the above” energy policy. When it comes to coal, his administration has not gotten the message. The Environmental Protection Agency’s recently proposed emissions rules are so unrealistic that they would shut down existing coal plants and effectively end construction of any new plants. And the agency’s $10 billion Utility MACT rule alone would impose unreasonable mandates that would lead to sweeping plant closures and undermine the reliability of our power grid.
A war on coal could cost us jobs, energy and growth. The coal industry directly employs nearly 550,000 U.S. workers. EPA rules would cause sweeping job losses. They would reduce our coal-fired electricity by 20 percent and drive up U.S. electricity costs, which would impact all businesses, industries and families. U.S. disposable income would fall by as much as $870 billion over the next 20 years.
Furthermore, if we suppress coal production, we could forfeit the opportunity to export our abundant coal resources around the world, where coal consumption will continue to grow — no matter what the United States says or does.
Let’s get on with America’s energy revolution, include coal in it, and work together for a stronger, safer, healthier and more prosperous future.
— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.