The coal industry has played an integral role in our nation’s history. For years, people living in coal country have built their entire livelihoods around this industry, often working in the mines generation after generation. Due to its accessibility and quantity, coal is often considered our most reliable form of electricity.
Living so close to this industry, I have put a great deal of research into the topic. In looking at the Institute of Energy Research’s website, I discovered that from a global standpoint, the United States has the largest coal reserves in the world, enough to last us another 250 years. These reserves are over one-and-one-half times greater than our nearest competitor, Russia, and over twice that of China. Of all the electricity generated in the United States each year, coal accounts for about 40 percent.
For the past couple decades, the coal industry has spent billions in ratepayer dollars to improve their technology, meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulatory standards and perform more efficiently. Unfortunately however, it seems that this is still not enough.
Reading a recent CNN article, I was reminded that during President Obama’s first term in office, he had created regulations for all newly built coal plants in an attempt to limit their carbon emissions. Many of these regulations came as part of the stimulus package and created construction jobs in order to ensure new plants were in compliance.
Last month, the president took those regulations a step further, directing the EPA to develop a detailed draft proposal which will establish carbon pollution standards for plants that are already active.
With coal plants being the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States, the president has argued that the benefits of reducing these emissions will far outweigh the costs of implementing new rules. However, few regions stand to feel the impact of these regulations as much as southwest Indiana.
As a lifelong resident of this region, I am particularly upset by the new climate change strategy and what I feel are the continued attacks on this industry. The president’s website states his goal to reduce carbon pollution by 3 billion metric tons by 2030. This is the equivalent of more than one year’s carbon pollution from our entire electricity system. This strategy will have an immeasurable economic impact on Indiana.
In particular, these regulations will drive up the cost of electricity, and in turn, the cost of living in our state. Beyond the burden that plants are already facing, they will now have to spend more money to install equipment and provide proper annual maintenance. These costs will then be incurred by the consumer at a time when many are stretched to the brink already. However, these are just the short-term implications.
Long-term, these new, unrealistic emissions standards could produce a massive blow to our industries, killing countless Hoosier jobs. In fact, many plants are already experiencing early shutdowns. After the first round of regulations, Indiana Michigan Power announced that the Tanners Creek plant in Lawrenceburg would shut down three of its four generators by 2015 in order to help the company meet incoming EPA emissions limits.
I hope that the president will take our concerns under serious consideration. These types of decisions should be made with the input of our Representatives in the United States Congress, not unilaterally by our president. It is my sincere hope that these new regulations can be reined in before any serious, long-term damage is done.