CNN takes a look (complete with radio report) on the coal industry and how Obama’s EPA threatens to end the industry:
Amanda Sedgmer, mother of five and daughter of coal country, believes that in this presidential election, her way of life is at stake. “If you ask anybody in the coal industry what would happen if Obama is re-elected, they’d say the coal industry is done,” said Sedgmer, whose husband, Ryan, is a coal miner and whose family has depended on the industry for at least four generations. Sedgmer lives in Hopedale, Ohio, which sits on top of one of the state’s richest coal deposits. For nearly a century here, mining has been one of the few professions guaranteeing a good and consistent salary.
In the past two years, an increasing number of coal-powered electricity plants across the country have announced closures. Estimates vary, but banking and industry analysis firm Credit Suisse put expected and known closures for 2009-2012 at 111 plants, that’s one-fifth of the nation’s nearly 500 coal plants.
The war on coal
There are two main factors in the demise of those plants. First, the price of coal’s competitor, natural gas, is decreasing. At the same time, a new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency is pushing the price of coal up. That change, called the Maximum Achievable Control Technology, or MACT, rule requires that coal- and oil-fired power plants reduce pollutant emission rates significantly. The rule, which operates under the Clean Air Act, does not stipulate a lower level of carbon output. But by requiring lower mercury and other toxic emissions, it would reduce carbon as well. The EPA estimates this will result in some 1% of national electricity capacity shutting down, and a cost increase of about 3.7% in retail electricity. But those in coal country give much higher estimates. They believe if President Obama stays in office and the rule continues, it will mean the end of their industry.
Another rube self-identifies
Sedgmer voted for President Obama in 2008 and she is not a particular fan of Mitt Romney, but she’s voting for the Republican because she believes he is the only chance the coal industry and her community have to survive. Romney hopes all this concern helps him in the Buckeye swing state and in other coal communities. He has told crowds at campaign speeches that President Obama “sure doesn’t like coal.” The president has vigorously disagreed, saying he is for “clean coal.” Environmentalists believe the EPA rule and the increasing closures of coal plants are breakthroughs that are overdue and will do dramatic good.