War on Coal

Floor Speech

By:  Andy Barr
Date: April 17, 2013
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BARR. Madam Speaker, this Nation was founded on a simple, but majestic, idea; and that idea is that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Think about these words from Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence for just a minute: the pursuit of happiness--the idea that every human being has a fundamental, natural right to follow his or her dreams, to reach for the stars, to work hard to achieve their God-given potential, all without undue interference from the government.

What is the key to happiness? I believe it to be hard work--a relentless and unyielding desire on the part of the individual to apply effort and improve their lot in life. Hard work, after all, has been an American tradition from our very founding. Benjamin Franklin once said:

It is the working man who is the happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man.

And so this story is the story of America. The work ethic defines who we are as a nation. It is in our DNA; unconstrained by excessive government, the industry and creativity of the American people have fueled the most prosperous and productive nation in the history of the world.

So what gives Americans--or anyone else for that matter--the character to pursue happiness? What animates our capacity to do work? In a word: energy.

Quite literally, the classic, scientific definition of energy is the ability to do work. And Americans' ability to perform work, to work hard and to pursue happiness over the years has been supported by an abundant and affordable supply of domestic American-produced energy. Energy has been the indispensable ingredient in Americans' ability to pursue happiness.

Think about it: the story of this country has been the story of American energy--coal, oil, natural gas. Abundant, reliable, affordable energy has always been essential to a growing national economy. It built the railroads and conquered the West. It spawned the industrial revolution and won two world wars. It revolutionized communications and fostered innovation from Henry Ford to the Wright brothers, Apollo and Neil Armstrong. It propelled us into the Information Age and the knowledge-based economy. Energy always has been and always will be the key to Americans' ability to work hard and pursue happiness.

It is no surprise then that the countries with the best human health and the most material wealth on this planet are the countries with the highest levels of energy consumption. The most salient difference between nations in the developed world and nations in the lesser-developed world is that nations in the developed world produce and consume the most energy, whereas nations in the lesser-developed parts of the world produce and consume the least.

And so before us we have a choice, and it's a choice between two futures. The first is a future of energy freedom and independence in which we continue to embrace the ideals of our Founding Fathers, of Jefferson and Franklin, where men follow their dreams, can work hard and pursue happiness unconstrained by central planners in Washington, D.C., where we can pursue an open energy system and a diversity of energy sources to create jobs and opportunity and power a future of unlimited growth and potential.

The second is a future of energy scarcity, a future of energy dependency in which we abandon the traditions of the Founding Fathers, reject the American work ethic, and deprive Americans of their ability to pursue their dreams, by limiting the diversity of their energy choices to only those that Washington politicians and not the American people decide are worthwhile and sustainable.

In short, in the words of Benjamin Franklin, we can be the happy man. We can pursue happiness, or we can be the idle man. The choice is ours, and here's why this is relevant today. We are on the path toward a future of energy scarcity rather than energy freedom. We are on a path that replaces Americans' right to work hard and pursue happiness with a government-directed society in which politicians and bureaucrats restrict Americans' freedom and limit their choices. And the best example of this is the Obama administration's war on coal.

What is the impact of this great, abundant natural resource? In 2012, coal was responsible for 37 percent of electricity generated in the United States, more than any other source of electricity. Given current consumption rates, the United States has more than 230 years remaining in coal reserves. Coal is mined in 25 U.S. States and is responsible for over 760,000 U.S. jobs.

My home State, Kentucky, has produced energy for centuries. And most importantly, we have produced coal. And our coal industry that has been built by the hard work of my fellow Kentuckians powers America. Kentucky was the third largest coal producer in the United States during 2011, and coal mining was by far the greatest source of energy production in the Commonwealth. In 2011, coal mines employed more than 19,000 individuals through the year, and mining directly contributed approximately $4 billion to the Commonwealth's economy.

What has the war on coal brought to our country and to Kentucky? Domestic coal decreased by 4.6 percent just last year. In 2012, U.S. coal consumption for electric power declined by 11.5 percent. Within the past year, 226 coal electricity-generating units have been shut down. In 2012, Kentucky's overall coal production decreased by 16.3 percent, reaching its lowest level of production since 1965.

And this has an impact on real people. U.S. coal-mining jobs dropped by 7,700 in 2012, and new and pending EPA regulations will cost 1.65 million jobs. With 205 coal-fired generators shutting down in the coming year due to stricter environmental regulations, the United States is expected to lose up to 17,000 jobs.

In my home State of Kentucky, this war on coal has been devastating to my fellow Kentuckians. In 2012, direct employment in Kentucky's coal industry decreased by over 4,000 workers.

Mr. Speaker, this has a real impact on real lives. It's easy to sit in Washington and issue regulations when you don't have to confront the human cost.

I want to yield time to some of my fellow colleagues in the House; but before I do, I want to tell a brief story that I think tells the story of the war on coal and why it matters to people all around this country. It's a story of a young coal miner that I met in my home State of Kentucky. His name is Chris Woods, and Chris commutes over an hour each way, both ways, to work and back home every day. He took me in the coal mine, and he wanted to show me his work. And it's heroic work what these coal miners do. And he took me underground and he showed me what he did. As we were coming out of the mine, and as I recognized that what he was doing was providing low-cost, reliable electricity to the American people, he looked at me and he said: You know, Andy, I don't really know much about politics. And, frankly, I don't care much about politics; but if you can save my job, I'm for you.

And the thing about Chris Woods was he wasn't thinking about himself. His one paycheck takes care of his wife, two children, and both sets of parents.

This matters to people. And for every one coal mining job lost, there are 3 1/2 additional jobs that are dependent on the coal industry.

And so, Mr. Speaker, I look forward to having a discussion tonight about the future of coal in America, about the choices we have as a country to pursue our happiness, to work hard, to fulfill and embrace the Founding Fathers' vision that we should shoot for the stars, that we should have energy diversity and energy freedom, and we should reject the path we're on, a path of energy scarcity and dependence.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to yield to the gentlelady from Missouri, Ann Wagner.


Mr. BARR. I thank the gentlelady, and appreciate her comments on the fact that certainly affordable electricity is part of this discussion. And it's particularly important to recognize that the war on coal affects everybody, not just coal miners, not just people in the power industry, but seniors on fixed income.

Over half of American households devote more than 20 percent of their family budget to energy costs, more than double 10 years ago, and so this matters to every middle class family in America.

At this time I'd like to yield to my colleague, the gentleman from Kentucky, the chair of the Energy Subcommittee.


Mr. BARR. I thank the gentleman. And I think his final point was a good one; that, ironically, the EPA's overly restrictive policies are actually contributing to a negative global environment. The crackdown on domestic energy production is producing exports to countries with inferior electrical generation capabilities. We need to unleash the American free enterprise system. The American free enterprise system is what will solve problems in utility generation and energy production.

So I thank the gentleman, and I look forward to continuing to work with him on this important topic.

I now would like to recognize the gentlelady from West Virginia.


Mr. BARR. I thank the gentlelady.

I would like to recognize another Member from the great State of West Virginia and yield some time to the gentleman. This is not a partisan issue. It is an American issue. And I am appreciative of the gentleman's attending this session tonight.


Mr. BARR. I thank the gentleman from West Virginia. I thank him for his comments. I thank him for, in particular, his sentiments about the heroic work of these men and women who go to work every day in our coal mines. I just cannot thank them enough for their contributions to our society every day for providing us with affordable and reliable electricity.

With that, I would like to yield to the gentlelady from Missouri.


Mr. BARR. I appreciate the gentlelady, and I appreciate her stand for the coal industry. Just one of those rules that she was referring to, the Utility MACT rule, the EPA estimates it to cost $10 billion per year, but other independent annual cost estimates range from $70 billion to $200 billion, well above the EPA estimate. It is no wonder that within the past year, 226 coal electricity-generating units have shut down.

With that, I would like to recognize the gentleman from Pennsylvania.


Mr. BARR. I thank the gentleman. I think his comments about the railroads reminds me of a quick story about my district in Estill County, Kentucky, a little town called Ravenna. This community was built on the railroads, and those railroads carried the coal out of Perry County and Harlan County and Bell County and all those counties in southeast Kentucky. This community in my congressional district was built on the railroads.

Today, furloughed railroaders, their families are without jobs, without a paycheck, and this is because of the war on coal. One of the furloughed railroaders told me that just a few years ago 120 trains would come through their community full of coal. Now barely 50 come through every month.

So this has a real impact for real people, middle class Americans losing their jobs. The war on coal is hurting the American people. Unemployment is higher than the national average in Estill County, Kentucky, because of this President's war on coal. So I thank the gentleman.

I would now like to recognize the gentleman from Indiana to talk about coal in Indiana.


Mr. BARR. I thank the gentlelady.

I appreciate all of my colleagues here this evening talking about and highlighting the importance of the future of energy freedom in this country and independence.

I would like to yield the balance of our time to the gentleman from California.


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