Joe Biden made a big promise when he announced his new climate plan earlier this week: to prevent the continued opening of new coal-fired power plants in the United States.
“America now has the technology to end the use of coal tomorrow,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it’s right to do so — I oppose the use of coal in electricity — but it is there, and we will end it.”
In a phone call with reporters, which was unannounced, the vice president explained that he had been deliberately vague on exactly how this plan would be accomplished, because he knew it would leave people with “as much questions as answers.” He was not without additional details, though.
Among those answers, he said, were a set of specific incentives to help coal workers go to vocational and technical schools and start their own businesses, something he said he and former President Barack Obama had previously proposed to do.
Meanwhile, in coal country, there was less to celebrate.
Roy Meeropol, a local leader who serves as president of Citizens Climate Lobby, told The Intercept that Biden had been making speeches in coal country before he made his announcement. “He had come in and talked about how the President needed to change his mind. So people thought, ‘Well he’s serious. And then he said, ‘I have a climate plan,’ ” Meeropol recalled.
Meeropol then detailed two threats Biden’s climate plan didn’t address: First, the U.S. coal industry is expected to continue operating in the United States, even after the recent price slump and Asian competitors gobbled up the shrinking overseas market. And second, the coal industry is still heavily reliant on coal fired power plants for its revenues and largely depends on federal subsidies to continue operating, according to the Energy Information Administration.
In a New York Times op-ed earlier this year, Biden wrote: “Imagine a day when we would no longer need to mine and burn coal for electricity. Where we would have wind farms and solar panels and use the American natural gas surplus to build a carbon-free economy, powered by natural gas and batteries and nuclear power and coal, just as we use hydroelectric and nuclear and wind.”
It’s an ambitious goal that will face tough opposition in Washington, where people say another major obstacle is the Trump administration’s supposed help to the coal industry. It’s a stance reiterated by the White House Office of Management and Budget earlier this year. In a March 2017 memo, then-OMB director Mick Mulvaney wrote that coal companies were receiving “appropriate and regulatory government assistance” even though the White House has decried the practice of “crony capitalism” and promised to “move away from an economically and politically obsolete business model.”
President Trump himself has assailed President Obama’s climate plans. “It’s not going to happen,” Trump said in an interview last month with The Guardian. “I don’t care about global warming.”
Read the full story at The Intercept.
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