Gentlemen, start your thermostats. Ladies, too. The Obama war on coal, which cost Hillary Clinton the vote in once-reliably Democratic West Virginia, is over. Maybe the war on nuclear energy, too. Americans might soon heat their homes without choosing between the warmth and food and medicine.
It’s not quite a “so long, solar” moment, but common sense on energy is clearly making a comeback, summed up in the headline in The New York Times, “Under Trump, Coal Mining Gets New Life on U.S. Lands.” The White House is looking for ways to encourage more mining, too — not less, as in the Obama years — on the nation’s federally managed land. Beyond that, the U.S. Interior Department is looking to reduce the size of some of these federally managed properties and national monuments. This would restore more private investment in mining.
The pro-coal movement is already having a good effect. About 85 percent of the nation’s coal on federal lands is extracted from the Powder River Basin, which runs through Montana and Wyoming. President Trump intends to roll back moratoriums on new coal leases on these lands.
Exports of coal has fallen steadily over the past eight years, falling from 28 million short tons in 2013 to 12 million short tons in three years later. Since the Trump inauguration, coal exports have surged to 22 million short tons, a remarkable increase in just eight months.
“For the past eight years,” said Paul Bailey, president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, told Congress, “we’ve had a fair amount of environmental overreach from the Obama administration and that has contributed, we believe, to the majority of coal retirements that have happened in the past.”
Those “retirements” have led to increased electricity costs for consumers. The average American’s electric bill rose 11 percent under Mr. Obama, according to government data cited by the Daily Caller.
West Virginians suffered most. The average West Virginia homeowner watched electricity costs rise from 7.27 cents per kilowatt-hour in November 2008 to 11.72 cents in 2016 — a 62 percent increase. Customers in Kansas, Michigan, South Dakota and Nebraska experienced rate increases of 40 percent or more during that time. Overall, 42 states and Washington, D.C., watched electricity costs spike during the Obama years.
“We are all affected by this constant regulatory quagmire,” says Bill Cadman, vice president of Whiting Petroleum, which drills mostly on leased public lands. But maybe under the new administration, not so much. The cold months are coming, and lower power and light bills will warm everyone.
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