July 24, 2020 Read More →

Democrats pushing initiative to revive U.S. coal country

Huffington Post:

In 2016, Republicans painted coal country red as the GOP blamed environmental regulations for the industry’s demise and Donald Trump vowed to bring it roaring back. 

But the economics of coal have only gotten worse. Despite his administration’s gutting of pollution rules, coal plants closed at a faster clip during Trump’s first three years in office than during Barack Obama’s entire second term. Republicans also cut safety regulations and made it easier for the rich owners of coal companies to abandon their workers’ pensions and health care plans even as black lung disease spiked across Appalachia. Miners in Kentucky’s Harlan County last year staged one of the biggest coal strikes in recent memory. 

Now Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a contender to serve as presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s running mate, is pitching an alternative vision. A new bill unveiled Thursday would provide federal loans, grants and job programs to clean up and redevelop polluted, economically depressed communities where mining and power stations were once the lifeblood.

But the plan also offers billions in loans to retrofit newer coal plants with so-called “clean coal” technology ― an approach that Biden once opposed and money that critics say would be better spent on clean energy. 

“Coal is already economically uncompetitive as a power source with natural gas and renewables in most places, so adding a huge cost for doing carbon capture on coal plants doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” said Seth Feaster, an analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a nonprofit research group. “Especially when you consider that if you spent the same amount of money on renewables, you would get zero carbon in the first place and support a new and growing industry with a lot of jobs and without the mess of coal.” 

Biden himself made a similar argument on the campaign trail in 2008, telling an activist that he only supported using carbon capture technology on coal plants in developing countries such as China. (The Obama campaign later walked the statement back, and the unity task for Biden and his erstwhile rival for the nomination Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders assembled included the technology in its climate recommendations.) 

[Alexander C. Kaufman]

More: Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Potential Biden VP, Pitches A ‘Marshall Plan For Coal Country’

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