Vice President Mike Pence delivered an important message during his recent visit to Montana: The War on Coal is over.
Does that mean that environmental standards will be rolled back or that our environment will be more polluted? No – the Trump administration has not proposed changing any standards that protect our air or water, and our environment will continue to trend cleaner in coming years.
What we should expect from the Trump administration is more balance in policies related to energy and the environment. For the last eight years we’ve seen environmental policy – in particular related to climate change – be used as a means of social engineering and market manipulation.
From the Obama administration we saw policies that sounded like sweeping environmental protection programs – the Clean Power Plan and the Stream Protection Rule were two big examples. In fact, these moves had virtually no environmental impact, but they had profound effects on our economy, on property rights, and on choices available to consumers.
With President Trump, that propaganda machine is over. It’s become apparent that with this administration we will get a more honest assessment of the facts on challenging issues like climate change and energy poverty.
And it’s important we understand those facts. Contrary to the political attacks from anti-coal activists, Trump administration officials do not “deny” climate science. They are, in fact, asking the appropriate questions: what is the magnitude of the impacts our world will experience from climate change, and what can responsibly be done to mitigate those impacts?
The “at-all-costs” approach advocated by President Obama is not responsible. Obama’s approach cost our economy billions, killed hundreds of thousands of jobs, and nearly wiped out entire communities (hang in there Colstrip). And for those enormous costs, there was no discernible environmental impact.
The at-all-costs approach runs contrary to the best science we do have today. Based on the climate models produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world will warm by less than 2 degrees C in the next 100 years if modest emissions reductions are made in the near term.
The IPCC models do not call for an elimination of coal-fired generation, as advocated by some politicians. What we should be focused on is making coal cleaner by investing in new technology. That route was completely ignored over the last eight years.
The dirty little secret the “leave it in the ground” folks don’t want to talk about is that the world needs to produce more energy in the future – a lot more, in fact. There are still over 1 billion people on the planet who live without electricity. To bring these souls out of energy poverty will mean producing more energy from a number of sources, including coal. Nearly every expert agrees that the world will be burning more coal in 40 years that we do today. The only way to address climate change, then, is to make coal cleaner.
That’s where we are today with the Trump administration. We have a renewed commitment to technologies that will make coal cleaner and a commitment to bringing energy resources to the world’s poorest people.
With some of the largest coal reserves in the world, that’s great news for Montana. We have the opportunity to be among the leaders in solving climate change and lifting millions out of energy poverty. The War on Coal is over, and now it’s time to get to work.
Sen. Roger Webb