After months of scandals and an inability to pass major legislation in his second term, President Obama is hoping to regain his footing and attempting to reset the national agenda. Today, he spoke at Georgetown University where he unveiled his far-reaching climate change initiatives designed to reduce carbon emissions and bankrupt the coal industry.
In his second inaugural address, Obama clearly stated that climate change remained a priority for his administration and if Congress did not act that he would. So his decision to bypass Congress and implement executive actions that would negatively impact the coal industry is not surprising, but it is incredibly disappointing.
Obviously, the president knows that his time is running out and he seems to have little patience in dealing with congressional leaders. His unwillingness to work with Congress on climate change and his willingness to paint the coal industry as the bad guy is not how Washington should work. The president's actions ignore the role of Congress in encouraging constructive debate and drafting bipartisan legislation that would balance the energy industry's needs with the environment.
So far the president's success on major pieces of legislation can be measured by his ability to stay out of the congressional debates and let Congress act. On immigration reform, he stepped back and allowed the Senate to diligently draft the legislation and arduously debate the details. Although far from perfect, the bill is truly representative of a good faith effort from both parties. The president even espoused his support for Congress on immigration reform by stating that the legislation was crafted in "the spirit of compromise."
However, the president's climate change initiatives do not involve any sort of compromise. During the last presidential campaign, Obama backed off from criticizing the coal industry and even mentioned coal as part of the comprehensive energy solution. His strategy was to gain favor in battleground states such as Virginia and Pennsylvania. Now he has no need for the coal companies and their workers and is doing everything in his power to obliterate the industry by choosing winners and losers instead of letting the free market decide.
Daniel P. Schrag, one of Obama's advisers on climate change summed up the president's energy policies in one sentence: "A war on coal is exactly what's needed."
The president never liked coal and never will and blames any environmental problems on the industry. His far-reaching climate change initiatives are hitting coal workers, their families and American jobs and even resulting in higher utility bills for Americans.
These disastrous climate policies will not only further destroy U.S. coal production and use, but will also put even more upward pressure on natural gas prices, which are beginning to rise. If Obama overheats natural gas prices, his wobbly recovery could be threatened. Recent analysis shows that over $100 billion in new U.S. based manufacturing projects are at risk if natural gas prices escalate and become volatile.
Even some Democrats are criticizing the president for targeting the coal industry. U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.V., condemned the Obama administration for its "attempts to destroy our coal industry and the way of life in West Virginia."
Environmental Protection Agency regulations are also costing the industry billions of dollars, and thousands of jobs will be lost. The president is not even giving the coal industry a chance to redeem itself. According to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, the coal industry has invested $100 billion dollars in advanced coal technology over the last 30 years and is expected to spend another $100 billion in the next 15 years.
The president should take a lesson from the immigration reform debate. He should encourage Congress to draft an acceptable bipartisan solution on climate change and allow for real debate to occur so that the American people can fairly learn about both sides of the issue and voice their opinions on such important policies.
The president's approach on climate change is a sure way for him to continue isolating himself from his colleagues in Congress, instead of finding ways to work together that would lead to a balanced approach in advancing energy policy.