By Senator John Barrasso
In Montana and in my home state of Wyoming we know how important coal is to growing America's economy. Coal provides affordable, reliable energy and good jobs.
President Obama and other Democrats in Washington should embrace this American energy source and look for ways to expand its production. Instead, they have been trying to shut down America's coal industry.
Our coal exports have soared over the past decade. To meet growing demand worldwide for U.S. coal, there are plans to build five new port facilities in Washington and Oregon. American companies would ship coal from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming through those ports to Asia.
Like other construction projects, the new facilities will pass through a rigorous environmental review process. The Obama EPA has proposed an aggressive new plan in which the reviews will grow even more burdensome and expensive. Regulators want to consider carbon dioxide emissions potentially generated by American goods not just where they are produced, but wherever in the world they end up being used. We would be left with a new climate change litmus test for American exports -- and higher unemployment.
When he was running in 2008, then-Senator Obama bragged about his plan to impose restrictions that would cause the price of coal to skyrocket. "If somebody wants to build a coal plant, they can," he said. "It's just that it will bankrupt them." Senate Democrats have worked closely with the President to keep that promise.
They backed the EPA regulations that have led the industry to shed thousands of jobs. Recently, the J.E. Corette coal plant in Billings announced it would join a long list of closures due to Democrats' efforts. The Obama Administration itself estimates that 175 coal-fired electric power plants will shut down in the next four years.
The natural gas and oil industries have faced similar headwinds out of Washington. Energy production has been strong on private land; but that's despite President Obama's policies, not because of them. He blocked access to energy resources on the federal land he controls. As a result, oil exploration on federal lands and offshore areas plummeted 14 percent from 2010 to 2011.
The President stopped the Keystone XL pipeline. He's also pushed more red tape and higher taxes on oil and gas producers. At every turn, Democrats in the Senate aided and abetted President Obama's terrible energy policies.
Instead of developing our abundant and affordable traditional fuels, Democrats in Washington have tried to force expensive alternatives as the sole option. The American people are not buying what President Obama is selling.
More than 20 of President Obama's stimulus-funded green energy companies have gone bankrupt. Another 15 are failing. Sales of the highly subsidized Chevy Volt are well below expectations.
Gambling away billions of dollars more will not lower gas prices, create jobs or get our economy growing as we need it to again. Yet President Obama and his allies keep attacking the fossil fuels capable of providing Americans with jobs and affordable, reliable energy today.
The workers at J.E. Corette deserve more than devastating overregulation that threatens their jobs and their futures. So do thousands of others in the energy industry in Wyoming and Montana. The American people know we can't afford to go any further down this road. We need a true all-of-the-above energy strategy.
America's future will be bright, as long as we embrace our abundant and affordable energy sources, and the jobs they create.