Jan 15, 2016 - 3:30pm

Obama Is Building His Energy Legacy on Coal’s Demise

Senior Editor, Digital Content


A Caterpillar earth mover moves piles of coal outside Price, Utah.

President Barack Obama’s latest attack on coal removes all doubt that on energy, “all-of-the-above” is out while “none-of-the-below” is in. 

Driving coal production to a 30-year low isn’t enough for the president. It must be locked away.

The Interior Department announced that it will immediately stop issuing coal leases on federal lands:

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced the temporary halt, saying it was time for a re-examination of the decades-old coal-leasing program, from health and environmental impacts to whether U.S. citizens are getting a fair return for the hundreds of millions of tons of government-owned coal that is mined and sold each year.

“Given serious concerns raised about the federal coal program, we’re taking the prudent step to hit pause on approving significant new leases,” said Jewell, who said existing coal leases would continue to go forward to assure an adequate supply for the country’s electricity needs.

Forty percent of coal mined in the U.S. comes from federal lands—most in the Western states—and is primarily used to generate electricity.

Secretary Jewell said the pause was a “prudent step.”

But there’s nothing prudent about locking up sources of abundant, inexpensive energy that will provide almost one-third of the nation’s electricity for decades to come.

Secretary Jewell also gave a spin on the news by tweeting: “Coal is a key energy source. We owe it to all Americans to get the federal coal program right for current & future generations.”

on Twitter

Let’s see if I get this right: Coal is so “key” that it’s imperative that we stop more from being mined.

This is illogical and ludicrous.

As for reviewing the leasing program, there’s no good reason to stop more coal from being mined, unless the goal is giving in to anti-energy allies’ “keep it in the ground” strategy.

Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the Institute for 21st Century Energy, eviscerated the administration’s action:

Another day, another front on the war on coal from this administration. At this point, it is obvious that the President and his administration won’t be satisfied until coal is completely eradicated from our energy mix. Their foolish crusade takes away one of America’s greatest strengths—our diverse mix of energy sources.  If the President wants electricity rates to skyrocket—as he once said he did—he’s on the right path.

“The coal supply being cut off by today’s action has been the source of the lowest cost and most reliable electricity keeping America’s lights on and people working,” said Hal Quinn, president and CEO of the National Mining Association. “The idea that future coal leasing requires a pause to evaluate environmental impacts defies credulity.”

But as with the Keystone XL pipeline fiasco, facts don’t matter when it’s about building a presidential legacy.

In his 2012 State of the Union address, President Obama said, “This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy.” Many doubted the sincerity of this statement at the time—and for good reason.

Since then, President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline and issued new methane emission regulations that will hamper oil and natural gas development.

As for coal, his administration has issued crushing regulations like EPA’s Clean Power Plan to make coal more expensive, artificially pushing down demand for it.

The suspicion that President Obama’s talk of energy diversity was lip service culminated in this year’s State of the Union address, where “all-of-the-above” was conspicuously missing.

It’s interesting what a president says (and does) when he isn’t campaigning anymore. His mission now is about locking up abundant and inexpensive energy sources by constructing as many hurdles in front of future presidents who will understand what the value of energy diversity is to families and businesses.

In the meantime, President Obama’s crusade not only harms American jobs and the economy, it undermines the global competitive advantage such energy provides.

More Articles On: 

About the Author

About the Author

Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.