President Barack Obama may not have done a very good job during his first debate against Mitt Romney, but he's managed to pull the wool over tens of millions of Americans' eyes on a White House initiative that's going to cost them lots of money. Even Romney neglected to use his national stage to clarify that the war on coal more properly ought to be referred to as the war on affordable electricity.
"I like coal," Romney announced during the debate, and there's a good reason voters ought to agree with him. Before we get into that, however, let's talk about Obama's war on coal, his attempt to make voters think there is no war, and why what he's doing matters to so many people who don't live anywhere near a mine.
Obama's defenders insist U.S. coal production isn't decreasing. Wrong. U.S. coal production to date this year is 5.4 percent lower than for the same period last year.
But that isn't the big reason why voters ought to be worried about Obama's war on coal. Just a few years ago, more than half the electricity generated in the United States came from coal-fired plants. It has plummeted to about 44 percent and is likely to go down to about 40 percent this year.
From January through June of this year, about 375 million tons of coal were used to generate electricity. During the same period just two years ago, about 475 million tons were used for the purpose. The only thing that has kept the mining industry from collapsing entirely is exports of coal.
Radical environmentalists and Obama think that's great. They insist many utilities are switching from coal to natural gas because gas is cheap.
Well, yes - and no. Gas indeed is cheaper than it has been for many years. But for the purpose of generating electricity, it's about 50 percent more expensive than coal. When utilities use gas for generation, it costs them about $3.63 for every million Btus of energy produced. The same amount of energy requires only $2.44 worth of coal.
Do the math - as Obama himself suggested Americans ought to do concerning Romney's tax proposals.
How much do you spend for electricity now? Look back at those prices per million Btus of energy. Ready for power bills as much as 50 percent higher than what you pay now for electric from coal-fired generating stations?
Obama doesn't really care whether West Virginians are upset about the war on coal. He's hoping the tens of millions of other people about to take a hit at the electric meter won't notice. Romney ought to educate them.
By the way, Obama supporters: Don't bother telling your friends my numbers are nothing but propaganda. Every statistic I used came from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
- - -
Candidates love to be viewed as people who stand up for "the little guy." Well, the latest round of campaign finance reports filed with the secretary of state make it clear Patrick Morrisey has far more "little guy" support in his run for West Virginia attorney general than does incumbent Darrell McGraw.
For years McGraw has claimed to stand for average West Virginians against special interests. Yet during the latest fundraising period, more than $47,000 of his contributions came from attorneys, compared to $27,600 for Morrisey.
Morrisey, on the other hand, had nearly 500 contributions of $250 or less, by my count, with some as low as $1. McGraw's $250-or-less total was only about 138.
Since elected as attorney general, McGraw has used hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayers' money on trinkets and various other promotions of himself. That doesn't sound like standing up for taxpayers.
Mike Myer is executive editor of The Intelligencer and the Wheeling News-Register.
He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org