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Hey Coal Country - We Tried to Warn You

On the eve of Election Day, 2012, I wrote:

Lurking quietly in the shadows, behind a wall of political rhetoric and campaign season hype, is a post-election surprise that could ring the death knell for the coal industry, killing massive amounts of jobs in states such as Ohio, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.  

Daniel P. Schrag, climate adviser to the White House, wiped away any notion that the President ever actually considered an "all-of-the-above strategy" for American energy development, instead declaring that "a war on coal is exactly what's needed."

It is a rather surprising admission for an administration that has only sparsely revealed their true intentions of bankrupting the coal industry to low-information voters.  After a flat-out admission of intent in 2008, the President largely went tight-lipped on the topic, while quietly executing his plan through the EPA.  His policies resulted in the announcement of an unprecedented number of coal-fired generators being scheduled for shutdown.

As election day drew near, the administration again clammed up on the topic. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) blasted the President for his lack of transparency, indicating that it was illegal and that Obama didn't "want the American public to know the terrible cost of the regulatory barrage he plans to unleash in a second term."

It was around this time that the EPA was proposing even further regulations on greenhouse-gas emissions from new power plants to be implemented in 2013.  These regulations according to Politico, would mean that coal-fired plants “as they exist now will not be built in the future.”

The war was on.

The President has issued this declaration of war on coal in the name of the environment, but the true impact will be felt in regards to the economy.  A Heritage report explains that, "If the regulations on the coal industry are allowed to stand, they will almost certainly destroy the coal industry, with predictable, undesirable economic effects on the rest of the country."

The effects, as were explained last year, have been even more detrimental than previously thought.  On November 5th, 2012, there stood to be a record 175 coal-fired generators shut down.  Now however, it appears that 288 coal units across 32 states will be shuttered due to EPA policies.

And with those closures comes an uptick in costs to the consumer.  With 76% of Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck, the thought of seeing electricity rates "necessarily skyrocket" seems rather daunting.  National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn released a statement saying, "Policies that shut off coal energy damage the nation's job and economic engine, while also raising costs to American consumers."  

Indeed, the most obvious effect on the economy would be on the job engine, a department in which the President has claimed to have a laser-like focus for over four years.  

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) refers to Obama's new plan as a "job-destroying environmental agenda" and charging that "his big government agenda is more important to him than respecting our Constitution and encouraging private sector job creation."

Democrats, as well, have expressed concern about how the new plan will impact the nation.  A New York Times report states that even those that are hawkish on climate change "worry that tough new standards on power plants could slow job growth and raise energy costs."  And Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) previously stated the EPA should be trying to work with the coal industry rather than attempting "to destroy our coal industry and way of life in West Virginia."

The job-killing has, and will continue to be, tangibly measured in coal worker layoffs.  In Georgia, the high cost of EPA regulations impacted nearly 500 employees.  Alpha Natural Resources, a national coal industry leader, announced layoffs of 1,200 employees due to an aggressive regulatory environment.  A third of those jobs were lost with the closing of mines in Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.  And Murray Energy, an Ohio-based coal company, announced layoffs for over 160 employees in November - a direct response to Obama's victory in the election.  

The bottom line according to the Washington Examiner:  "Reducing coal's share in American energy production would eliminate 500,000 jobs (not just in the coal industry) and increase electricity prices by 20 percent according to a forthcoming analysis from the Heritage Foundation."

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) even took to calling the President's plan by a new name - the "war on jobs".

It is a war which will have numerous casualties in the 2012 swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.  Virginia has a Senate race with Mark Warner (D) running for reelection.  Ohio and Pennsylvania each have gubernatorial elections in 2014.  Will the killing of the coal industry in these states have an impact on the elections?

It hasn't previously.  The question I posed on the eve of last year's election was, "Do the American people, and even more so, the voters in coal dependent states such as Ohio, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, recognize that they deserve more from a President?"

The answer was quite clear; but don't say we didn't warn you.

Follow Rusty on Twitter @rustyweiss74