Speeches could sway war on coal

It might surprise some Coloradans to learn that two-thirds of their electricity is generated in coal-fired power plants. Likewise, Missouri residents may not know 83 percent of their power comes from coal. In Michigan, certainly not thought of by most people as a “coal state,” about half the electricity is generated at coal-fired power stations.

The word about coal needs to spread. Perhaps speeches such as one given by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., last week will help.

Manchin was addressing a friendly crowd at the National Western Mining Conference. But it was held in Denver, meaning many Coloradans may read about the West Virginian’s speech in their local newspapers.

As President Barack Obama’s administration intensifies its war against coal and reasonable electricity prices, it will be critical that more Americans learn of the campaign’s effect on them.

At one time, coal was responsible for more than half the electricity generated in the United States. That figure has dropped to about 38 percent, in large measure because of Environmental Protection Agency rules adopted during Obama’s presidency.

Electric bills already are going up in some regions, as utilities shutter coal-fired power plants by the scores.

Yet opposition to the White House scheme has gained traction primarily in states thought of as coal producers, such as West Virginia. Even in places such as Colorado where substantial quantities of coal are mined, there seems to be little public outcry.

Manchin and other “coal-state” members of Congress already have gained some Capitol Hill converts – lawmakers who can see the writing on the wall. What it tells them is that if Obama and the EPA are not stopped, tens of millions of Americans will see monthly electric bills go up.

More needs to be done to educate consumers. It will not be enough for conservative lawmakers from states such as West Virginia and Ohio to oppose Obama. Stopping the war on coal and reasonable electricity prices will require a broad coalition of conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans. Members of Congress from coal-reliant states, not just big producers of the fuel, will be needed.

Otherwise, tens of millions of Americans who do not understand the impact of what Obama is doing will open their electric bills some time in the future – and wonder what hit them.