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Courier-Journal - President Barack Obama's Plan is a War on Coal, Kentucky Jobs


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By Sen. Mitch McConnell

Last week, President Obama wrote a column for this paper in which he called for the same kind of swift action on his plan to tax American energy that he's called for on other items dear to the liberal agenda.

Kentuckians deserve to know what this latest plan really means for their families, jobs, and utility bills.

The president stated, for instance, that "there is no contradiction between a sound environment and a strong economy." That's true. But a closer look at his plan shows that he has chosen sides in this debate, and it isn't for America's robust energy economy and the bountiful jobs that come with it.

Kentucky, which boasts seven percent of all recoverable U.S. coal reserves, would be especially hard hit.

The abundance of coal in our state is the primary reason our utility rates are among the lowest in the nation. It's also a main reason we're a leader in energy-intensive industries like aluminum production. Yet under the president's plan, Kentucky wouldn't just lose the benefits of coal once these plants are forced to shut down, it wouldn't even be allowed to build natural gas plants to replace them.

That's why the president's plan amounts not only to an open declaration of war on the coal industry, but on residents, jobs and businesses across the commonwealth that indirectly benefit from this vital industry.

One of the president's climate advisers recently blew the administration's cover on this full-scale assault when he said that while the White House doesn't like to talk about its war on coal for political reasons, "a war on coal is exactly what's needed." This admission by a top presidential adviser was worth more than 100 poll-tested op-eds aimed at distracting Kentuckians from the real impact of the president's new plan. But make no mistake: this War on Coal is a war on Kentucky jobs, statewide.

In practice, a big part of the president's strategy has always been to raise costs on businesses and taxpayers that he can then use to subsidize politically connected energy companies like Solyndra. In a moment of candor during his first campaign, he admitted that electricity rates would "necessarily skyrocket" under his energy plan. This is a detail he conveniently left out of last week's column.

The president has also severely restricted the development of domestic oil and natural gas in lands under Washington's control, leaving Americans more reliant on energy imported from the Middle East.

In short, the president is presenting us with a false choice. The first principle of any sound energy policy is that it should be a true "all-of-the-above" approach that promotes natural gas, oil, and coal, as well as wind, solar, and biofuels. This is the kind of common-sense approach that the president has claimed to support when he's out campaigning but which bears little resemblance to his policies in practice.

That's because the president doesn't really support an "all-of-the-above" strategy. Instead, he and his advisers support a "none-of-the-above, except-a-few-things-my-liberal-supporters-want-most" approach. But this isn't a strategy to reduce carbon emissions. It's a strategy to ship jobs overseas.

Experts agree that a climate policy that excludes economies like China and India is essentially meaningless, but the damage to the U.S. economy, and ours in particular, would be anything but.

The only people who would benefit economically from the dismantling of traditional sources of domestic energy like coal are our competitors overseas, who would not only take our jobs, but who would continue to pump more and more carbon into the air. By one recent count, China and India are opening a new coal plant every week. So the president's plan amounts to unilateral economic surrender.

Sometimes, you have to wonder what's wrong with some of the folks in Washington. Do they just not care? Do they not realize that the decisions they make affect the lives of others? Well, rest assured that I will continue to defend Kentucky workers from such out-of-touch Washington attacks. Americans want common-sense policies to make energy cleaner and more affordable; but it defies logic to abandon traditional energy sources that power our economy while we work to develop new ones.

The president is right: We should all embrace more energy, and the American jobs that come with it. But his plan would do the opposite, and that's why it would be disastrous for Kentucky.

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