Apparently, the Washington Post doesn’t think Obama’s first big speech laying out his plan to deal with climate change is enough of a sensation by itself. And so we have this hype:
Manmade climate change is the gravest preventable threat to our nation and humanity as a whole. If we don’t go all WWII on it, we will ruin the lives of billions of people for decades if not centuries to come. Inaction is immoral.
That’s why the Obama Administration — and all who care about future generations — have supported various efforts to cut carbon pollution. The most important of those was the 2009 climate bill passed by the House four years ago this week.
That bill would, among other things, have heavily subsidized the development and deployment of carbon capture and storage technologies (CCS). The only hope for the coal industry (at least in a world that is itself not suicidal) is a very well-funded effort to demonstrate and deploy carbon capture and storage, as Climate Progress has explained many times (see links below).
This will take at least 10 years from the time the industry (and government) gets serious (see “Is coal with carbon capture and storage a core climate solution?“ and here). That was true 15 years ago when the coal industry lobbied against Kyoto saying they needed time to develop new technology. But those complaints turned out to just be an excuse for inaction, as many warned.
The self-destructive behavior of the coal companies was enabled by conservatives (see “In seeming flipflop, Bush drops mismanaged ‘NeverGen’ clean coal project“).
Indeed, when conservatives thwarted the climate bill in the Senate back in 2009 and 2010, they eliminated the major source of funding for CCS — and a major motivation for the industry to save itself from itself. It’s a principal reason why funding for CCS projects has been drying up faster than the Southwest.
Since inaction on climate change is immoral, Obama made clear that if Congress doesn’t act he will. And since EPA is legally obligated to issue rules regulating CO2 from existing power plants, this is Obama’s primary remaining tool for protecting Americans from carbon pollution and enabling a global deal that can avert the worst impacts of climate change.
The “war on coal” meme was relaunched Tuesday when the NY Times quoted Harvard’s Daniel P. Schrag, — a member of the president’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology — in advance of Obama’s climate speech:
“Everybody is waiting for action,” he said. “The one thing the president really needs to do now is to begin the process of shutting down the conventional coal plants. Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they’re having a war on coal. On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what’s needed.”
Schrag told Media Matters that he believes “there is nothing wrong with coal if technology is used to remove CO2 emissions and other harmful pollutants”:
The quote was slightly out of context. I was asked about the question of a war on coal, and I explain that shutting down conventional coal plants is a critical step in moving towards a low-carbon economy. But the phrase “war on coal” is really inappropriate and I shouldn’t have used it — simply because it is not the coal that is the problem, but the emissions from coal, and what they do to our health, the health of our children, and of course the climate. So there is nothing wrong with coal if technology is used to remove CO2 emissions and other harmful pollutants. But conventional coal, that is harming our children and changing the climate system should have no place in our society.
As Media Matters notes, “the President is dedicating $8 billion to research and development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) … as part of his climate action plan.”
Readers know I have my doubts that CCS will play a major role cutting carbon in the next two decades. Much of that failure is due to successful conservative and industry efforts to block funding and incentives for CCS.
Since inaction is immoral, and CCS is the coal industry’s only hope for survival, it is conservatives who have launched a war on coal, not the Obama Administration.