Whitewashing the Impact of Regulations on Coal
By Dan Byers
US Chamber of Commerce
The War on Coal is well and truly over, but a peculiar debate over its impact lingers on. Revisionist history is central to this debate, with some folks now suggesting that the coal industry was never in a two-front struggle against both a regulatory onslaught and cheap natural gas. Instead, they argue, it was a one-front war against natural gas all along. President Obama may have marshalled his regulatory agencies for battle, but who knew they were firing blanks?
The irony here is that those most committed to imposing plant-closing regulations on the coal industry during the Obama years now seem invested in convincing the public that the very same regulations were not a factor in coal’s decline.
This debate famously erupted during last year’s presidential campaign when Hillary Clinton walked back her “we’re going to put coal miners out of work” gaffe by blaming the “market” for any job dislocations (we addressed that episode here). The latest and most thorough example of this comes from a recent study by the Columbia University Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP).
CGEP is a reputable and prolific organization that contributes to a robust and healthy debate on energy and environmental issues. In the case of this particular analysis, however, the group employed a deeply flawed methodology to justify preconceived views on the challenges facing coal.