Posts tagged ‘coal’

Monday Morning

I drove my son to the airport at o’dark thirty this morning. It is about a 65 mile drive each way and we left my place at 4:20 am for a 6:30 flight to San Diego. Nothing is ever simple. It turns out that they are doing major work on the bridge that crosses the Sacramento River so we were warned of massive traffic backups. So we were seeing how close you can get to our normal turnoff (I-5) before you get caught in traffic and running alternate routes through our heads. It actually wasn’t that bad and we were able to stay the normal route with little delay, sort of. Then about 2 miles from the Airport, stop and go traffic on a real straight stretch of I-5 and sure enough some kind of spin out and major crash. All I could think of is how do they do it? It is straight, there are no on or off ramps, and they run into each other. Made it to the airport on time so no problem there, but on the return trip I noticed that we got through the construction just in time as there were major backups. Do we drive anywhere anymore that does not have some kind of delay/construction?

Okay on to news of the day. All the talk is about sanctions on North Korea that were worked out in a conference in the Philippines with all the South East Asia nations and us of course. I hope it works because the alternative is very frightening. It really is the only way to go at this time, but I have little optimism. The big assumption here is that North Korea wants more than anything else to stay in power and they will see that to do this they will be willing to give up their nuke program. The thinking is that China wants to maintain North Korea as a southern buffer to USA aligned South Korea, and China has no interest in seeing North Korea fail because there would be a massive refugee problem as North Koreans have a chance to flee their living hell.

I don’t think this logic holds because North Korea is first and foremost an abomination as a country. There is no way for the North Koreans to continue to hold power without the extreme dictatorship and threat from the wicked United States. The assumption that this mentality is rational, I believe, is flawed. Or maybe it is rational. The only way they can stay in power is to hold on to their nukes and continue to stoke the fears of invasion. If things got materially better there, would not the improved economic situation drive change that would be antithetical to the North Koreans holding power? The calculation has to be what can prevent a war until the North Korean regime collapses under its own weight hoping they don’t decide to take Southeast Asia with them. Then there is the dubious calculation that we will empower this brutal dictatorship to remain as long as there is no nuclear threat. I think North Korea sees through this one.

Paul Krugman has an interesting discussion about where Democrats should go on healthcare and I think he is dead on. If you followed my discussions before, to reduce the cost of healthcare for all of us, we have to share the costs with the widest possible pool (universal coverage) and ensure that the plans we have cover most of our needs (regulated market). Now how you get there is the issue (and not counter to what Republicans are pushing which is “choice and deregulated markets” which the CBO scores again and again as a failure). So is single payer the answer? The answer is maybe, but he points out that other countries get there by everything from Obamacare expanded to Government healthcare:

Look at the latest report by the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund, comparing health care performance among advanced nations. America is at the bottom; the top three performers are Britain, Australia, and the Netherlands. And the thing is, these three leaders have very different systems.

 

Britain has true socialized medicine: The government provides health care directly through the National Health Service. Australia has a single-payer system, basically Medicare for All — it’s even called Medicare. But the Dutch have what we might call Obamacare done right: individuals are required to buy coverage from regulated private insurers, with subsidies to help them afford the premiums.

 

And the Dutch system works, which suggests that a lot could be accomplished via incremental improvements in the A.C.A., rather than radical change. Further evidence for this view is how relatively well Obamacare, imperfect as it is, already works in states that try to make it work — did you know that only 5.4 percent of New Yorkers are now uninsured?

So he then argues that give the systems in place, instead of focusing on single payer, we improve Obamacare with maybe a single payer option as politically and functionally the best way forward. I have to agree. I have argued for single payer forever, but I am not ideologically wedded to it and neither are most Democrats although that is how they are painted. What we want is universal coverage and the best way forward to do that. That is the real debate and I think Krugman nailed it.

Finally, I think what is worth noting this morning is how the Trump administration is trying to open up public lands in the West to coal mining. Now aside from the argument that coal used in anything destroys the planet with its CO2 emissions and the damage done to the environment itself in the mining, the question has to be, who wants the coal when there are cheaper cleaner fuels? Also one might ask, what jobs when coal mining in general is going to more and more mechanization. But the real point here is that there is not a shortage of coal based up demand and so this is an attempt to say, if we supply it they will buy it. I think we have already seen this fail over and over again. There has to be pentup demand. So this, besides destroying the environment and contributing to the overheating of the planet will be another experiment like Kansas (tax cuts will pay for themselves) where we will see the failure of Republican ideas. As Thomas Wolfe famously wrote, You Can’t Go Home Again. Time to move on.

Compromise, Eqivocating, and All That Jazz

What Me Worry?

Trump took two major national security decisions in the past few weeks. One was to strike Syria for using poison gas. Trump summoned his national security team, asked for options on Syria, chose the cruise-missile strike — which was right — and won praise for acting “presidential.”

The other decision you didn’t see. It was Trump dismantling budgets and regulations undergirding U.S. climate and environmental protection policies — in his nutty effort to revive U.S. coal-fired energy — while quietly announcing plans to withhold a promised $32.5 million U.S. contribution for the U.N. Population Fund, which supports family planning and maternal health.

Unlike the Syria decision, Trump made the second move without seeking a comprehensive briefing from experts — he controls the world’s greatest collection of climate scientists at NASA, NOAA, the E.P.A., the Pentagon and the C.I.A. — and without ever asking for an intelligence briefing on how the combination of climate change, environmental degradation, drought and population explosions helped trigger the civil war in Syria, spawn terrorist groups like Boko Haram around Africa’s central Lake Chad (which has lost 90 percent of its water mass since 1963) and become the main force pushing tens of thousands of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa into Europe each year, and from Central America up to the U.S.


I promise you that Trump will spend the rest of his presidency dealing with the disruptions caused by this cocktail of population explosion and climate/environmental degradation — and his generals know it. But in today’s politics, bombing is considered presidential and ignoring science and defunding family planning, when populations are exploding and droughts expanding, are ho-hum back-page news.  Thomas Friedman

So lobbing bombs with no real strategic policy is presidential and being an idiot on science and not making the hard choices about our future is just ignored? Yep that is it.  People, even media types don’t like complexity.  It is why the North Korean problem is being played as the bully in the school yard. You just have to stand up to him.  Right?

It is an amazing world we live in today where rational thought just seems to have drifted away. I watched the Senator from Iowa, Joni Ernst give a town hall meeting where she was challenged head on with questions like how she can support a man who treats women so poorly and watched her equivocate away. While she finds some of his behavior “wrong”, she supports his conservative ideas, except of course the Wall and his stand on NAFTA because Iowa needs to export corn to Mexico.  What is it in her little conservative brain that says it’s okay to legitimize Cheeto-Head with her support even though many of his policies will hurt Iowans?

Meanwhile in the White House the President calls Turkey’s President to congratulate him on…?  He had just passed a referendum to turn the democracy into a dictatorship.  Did the Trump White House even know this?  Speaking of did they know anything, where oh where is the “armada” sailing to North Korea?  Involved in a training exercise in Australia.  We either got a lie or total obliviousness from the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the National Security advisor.  Oh and let’s not forget their puppet, Sean Spicer.  Is it incompetence or is it,,,?

In media land I listened to Kate Snow, who wants to be everybody’s friend, not respond to an outrageous claim by a Republican spinner about how Republican Congressmen where being challenge about Cheeto-Head’s taxes in town hall meetings and it was just stupid because there was nothing they could do.  Really Kate?  You believe that garbage?  There was a bill in the House to make all Presidents show their tax returns and it got nowhere because Republicans were not going to have it.  Do you even know what is going on in the world?  Maybe there will be a place for you at the White House after Spicer self-destructs.

Then there is always those appeals for compromise.  Why can’t the two sides just work together?  Well take global warming.  If one side doesn’t believe it exists, there is no problem, ergo, no need for a fix.  Take health care.  One side doesn’t believe government has any place in providing health care and the other thinks universal health care is a right.  Obamacare was the great compromise.  Now what?  How do you compromise with dismantling it?  Take tax cuts.  There was the perfect mindless op-ed in the NYT about how Republicans just need to keep it simple* and reduce the corporate rate down to 15%.  Anybody know what the Fortune 500 actually pay in taxes?  No where near as high as 15%.  But they go on and on based on the belief that if the rich had more money, we would all benefit.  Corporate profits are greater now than they have ever been and do you see jobs? So where would you compromise on that one?

Does anybody have their brain engaged anymore?  We have an incompetent and ignorant White House.  We have a President who has the vocabulary of a 4th grader (probably because he does not read). We have a Republican controlled Congress that is pushing policies that further enable the rich and fail miserably for the rest of us.  We have a media that ignores facts and pretends this is all just partisan differences.  And the Holy Grail is compromise?  WTF?  We are with Alice when she fell down the rabbit hole and we are pretending up is down and down is up.  I simply can’t watch it anymore.

*You really ought to read the op-ed and the comments.  You know who you are dealing with when they make this statement:

One sure lesson from the health care setback is the old admonition “Keep it simple, stupid.” The Republicans tried to fix the trillion-dollar health insurance market instead of keeping the focus on repealing Obamacare.

Okay, you get it.  The people who wrote this don’t give a damn about all the people who would die once they lost Obamacare.  They also don’t care about jobs because if they did they would know that corporations are not creating them.

 

Living in Reality

Most of us don’t.  We have all kinds of tricks to fool ourselves.  Most of the time the only person we are fooling is ourselves.  I like to pretend I am young and fun, but I nod off after 9pm.  Oh, and I have cancer, but I like to pretend I don’t and life will go on forever.  My point is simply that if we are going to make good decisions about our future, we have to live in reality.  Brexit and the election of Donald Trump was a classic example of not only not recognizing reality, but living in a fantasy world where up is down and down is up.

Staying in the real world takes hard work.  For me, and recognizing my age and cancer, it involves staying in the moment.  Buddhism focus on that very thing.  It is called mindfulness.  The fact that it takes mental discipline tells you something about how our mind works.  It spends most of its time reinventing reality so that we see the world as we want to see it, not as it is.  This can be harmless to deadly for the individual.  For our politics, it is just deadly and that is where we are right now.  Donald Trump, a.k.a. Chetto-Head, and his party has a dim grasp on reality.  Watch Sean Spicer reinvent reality on the fly.  That this goes on in the White House tells you how far we have fallen. There were some things in the news today that really brought that home.

Let’s look at jobs.  The Washington Post pointed out that there are less coal jobs than there are jobs at Arby’s:

Looking at the level of individual businesses, the coal industry in 2014 (76,572) employed about as many as Whole Foods (72,650), and fewer workers than Arby’s (close to 80,000), Dollar General (105,000) or J.C. Penney (114,000). The country’s largest private employer, Walmart (2.2 million employees) provides roughly 28 times as many jobs as coal.


And note that solar energy employees more people than coal, oil, or gas combined, so why in fantasy land are we destroying the environment, hurting those other jobs to try to bring back jobs that are not coming back?  Or as Paul Krugman poses the question, why do people in West Virgina vote against their own best interests?

Why does an industry that is no longer a major employer even in West Virginia retain such a hold on the region’s imagination, and lead its residents to vote overwhelmingly against their own interests?

…Coal country” residents weren’t voting to preserve what they have, or had until recently; they were voting on behalf of a story their region tells about itself, a story that hasn’t been true for a generation or more.

Their Trump votes weren’t even about the region’s interests; they were about cultural symbolism.

Now, regional cultures that invoke a long-gone past are hardly unique to Appalachia; think of Texans wearing 10-gallon hats and cowboy boots as they stroll through air-conditioned malls. And there’s nothing wrong with that!

But when it comes to energy and environmental policy, we’re not talking about mere cultural affectations. Going backward on the environment will sicken and kill thousands in the near future; over the longer term, failing to act on climate change could, all too plausibly, lead to civilizational collapse.


So it’s incredible, and terrifying, to think that we may really be about to do all of that because Donald Trump successfully pandered to cultural nostalgia, to a longing for a vanished past when men were men and miners dug deep.

Want some more?  Well you are going to get it.  Cheeto-Head is all about jobs, jobs, jobs, or so he said. And he spent his time pitching lies about bring back middle American jobs.  How do I know it is a lie and this cannot be fixed attacking trade agreements (although they could be a lot better from an economic inequality point of view)?  Here is the Washington Post again:

Industrial robots alone have eliminated up to 670,000 American jobs between 1990 and 2007, according to new research from MIT’s Daron Acemoglu and Boston University’s Pascual Restrepo.

…The latest study reveals that for manufacturing workers, the process of adjusting to technological change has been much slower and more painful than most experts thought. “We were looking at a span of 20 years, so in that timeframe, you would expect that manufacturing workers would be able to find other employment,” Restrepo said. Instead, not only did the factory jobs vanish, but other local jobs disappeared too. Acemoglu and Restrepo say that every industrial robot eliminated about three manufacturing positions, plus three more jobs from around town.

…How do we even know that automation is a big part of the story at all? A key bit of evidence is that, despite the massive layoffs, American manufacturers are making more stuff than ever. Factories have become vastly more productive. Many factors contributed to these changes and Acemoglu and Restrepo focused on one in particular — the rise of the industrial robot.


What’s my point?  That to understand how to fix a problem, you have to understand what the problem is.  You have to be in reality.  Cheeto-Head is cutting regulation and destroying the environment to save jobs that can’t be saved.  People vote for Cheeto-Head because they are oblivious to the reality of the world we are living in. And most importantly, the fix is to realize that reality and then do something about it.

The automation article in the Washington Post made clear that the transition from manufacturing to other jobs did not happen as quickly as we thought as automation continues to take over.  So someone has to step in and help with that transition.  You think that is going to be the market place? It is called government, the very thing that Republicans want to gut.  Now you see why they live in a fantasy land.  Reality is a bitch.  But if we are really going to help middle America and coal miners, it is not through false hope and fantasy, it will be through managed programs to increase our manufacturing efficiency while supporting displaced workers.

So back to that mindful thing.  In order to be mindful you can’t just stop and smell the roses.  You have to have an understanding and respect for the reality all around you.  For too long we have been living in La La land.  Nothing will change as long as we stay there, and will only get worse.  It is time to ignore what we want to believe and see what really is.  That would mean dumping Cheeto-Head and the Republicans, and we would be so much better for it.  Happy Saturday.

Wyoming

There is a thought provoking article in the NTY this morning about the coal industry in Wyoming and how it is being supplanted by wind farms.  Now remember Wyoming has a population of 584,000 people and yet has the same representation in the Senate as California so little changes in their economy have a big impact on how their Senators vote.  Right now the coal industry in Wyoming has laid off 592 coal workers which is a fairly large impact on the state’s population.  Coal’s real enemy is cheap natural gas, but since coal is the primary contributor to global warming, further rules on carbon emissions further restrict coal mining.

Coal, like the horse and buggy or vacuum tubes are going away, but in Wyoming, there aren’t many alternatives to employment so the state is denying Global Warming and it is big government that is destroying their jobs:

“We have reached the point where the restrictions and regulations for the industry are past our ability to adapt. It has put thousands of hard-working people out of work and is devastating families.  Give us a chance,” Jillian Balow, the Wyoming superintendent of public instruction, said last month in a public hearing by the Interior Department in Casper to gather input on the current halt on new coal mining on the state’s public lands.

Yet, coal is a goner.  The argument of course is that we have no choice assuming you actually understand science.  So there are two things going on here.  The first is how our economic interests determine how we view facts, and the second is how we must not forget the human element.  In the first case, the very market place conservatives so love is killing coal.  Yes, regulations on carbon emissions will even make coal less competitive, but the nail is already in the coffin, and that is if we ignore the real cost of coal to the environment, not just from burning it, but from digging it up.  So global warming must be a farce, and big government is the problem.  If it is all I know or doing the responsible thing for my children, well, screw the future.

The second issue is the human one.  Again, against the conservative grain, but they need help to learn new skills.  On this one I realize I come from another planet.  In my life as an Air Force brat, we moved every 3 years.  Relocating is an adventure, not a tragedy.  Second, there was no question I would go to college and my engineering degrees taught me how to be disciplined and how to learn.  So a changing world is not as threatening to me as it would be to someone who has lived in Wyoming all their lives and have limited skills.  Just moving to places where there are more jobs could be daunting, much less learning a new trade.

So in the end the market place which they worship is screwing them.  First it is taking away their jobs (both mechanization and natural gas), and second, the market place will not help those displaced.  So the reality is that need government to help them transition because progress moves on.  Because we have a Republican Party in charge that worships the market place, and ignores reality, these people are screwed.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

Comparisons

See if you can connect the dots:

  • Republican Senator Bob Corker is the Key to Iran Agreement (NYT)
  • Republicans are attacking the Fed (NYT)
  • Along with Ted Cruz, Rand Paul announces run for President (NYT)
  • Food Safety Law unlikely to get needed funding from Republican Congress (NYT)
  • President Obama’s ex-law professor represents coal against EPA (NYT)
  • Pythons are taking over the Everglades (NYT)

Yes, you got it!  There are snakes in the grass everywhere.

Oh wait!  I almost forgot:  “Kansas bans welfare recipients for spending food stamps on cruise ships.”  Snakes in the legislature also.

The Horse Race

I read somewhere this week (New York Times) that MSNBC was loosing market share with CNN as CNN has become more focused on international news.  Who is surprised that 24/7 politics is absolutely boring.  While political junkies may enjoy this, the discussion of who is up and who is down, and what are the political consequences of the this ad, or that statement, the rest of us have nodded off.  Even I can’t take it anymore and I limit my MSNBC coverage to, Alex, Rachel, sometimes Chris, and Lawrence.  It is rare that they cover meaningful issues instead of how the politics of the issue plays in Peoria.

Sometimes you just scream for news of what is happening in the world and that is probably why CNN is picking up market share.  Remember when CNN was the on-site news for almost all world events?  Then they fired their whole investigative reporting team and focused on politics (opinions) instead of news to save money.  And we are all nodding off.  How many Americans know that Europe may be entering a triple dip recession which will certainly impact our economy?  What the hell is happening in Ukraine?  How is the Hong Kong protest going?

Actually nodding off is not the worst part.  They are dumbing us down.  Rarely can we find a talking head who has done their homework and knows the facts behind an issue.  It is just he said, she said, and how is what he or she said playing out there in Congress and America.  So what do you learn from this kind of reporting?  How to move with the herd mentality.

I did see one exception where Chris Hayes reported on coal country and the reality that coal has no future (not political) because it no longer competes and the industry has backed out of the massive clean coal experiment funded by your federal dollars as being uneconomical.  It brought a whole new light to Allison Grimes and Mitch McConnell, not to mention Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia lying about the future of coal to their constituents to get elected. It is about the horse race, not real solutions to real problems.  What do the people want to hear again?

Speaking of the politics of the polls, Allison Grimes in Alabama, Mark Prior in Arkansas, and many other Democrats are once again failing to take the truth on, pandering to ignorance, in hopes of election/re-election.  They look like fools and they fail to make the race about issues.  In the latest snafu  by Allison Grimes, she would not indicate that she voted for President Obama in the last election.  Claimed (and quite possibly right) a constitutional protection to privacy in the voting booth.

But in doing so she gave up her ability to take Mitch McConnell on directly and showed pure cowardice that does not belong in Washington.  She should have turned it around and corrected the record on the many things she does agree with President Obama about (Obamacare?) and challenge Mitch on the facts (I want to get rid of Obamacare but keep the website).  Everyone sees it for what it was, cowardice in the face of the fear of giving Mitchell a talking point.  She should be unafraid of the talking point and use it to her advantage.

You could take them on about global warming, guns, flow down economics, alternate energy, viability of the coal industry.  You could use Kansas to show the bankruptcy of Republican ideas, you could challenge the guy claiming that ISIS is in league with the drug cartel in Mexico (where are the facts?).  You could argue that all studies show that passing the immigrations bill would help the economy, point out that most Republicans voted against the violence against women act, and against the minimum wage, against just about everything.

You could bring up Hobby Lobby and Citizens United. You could point out the hypocrisy of the hawks on Syria (whose boots on the ground?).  You could ask why we don’t have a Surgeon General as the threat of Ebola increases.  You could ask why the cuts to the CDC which hurts their ability to fight this was so important so as not to tax the wealthy.  Instead they pretend they disagree with Obama on many things and love their guns.  They are disgusting.  I have no use for them and they would be bad for Washington as they have proven a lack of political courage and their morality is tied to the polls.  When will Democrats ever learn?

So we have the news media reporting the polls, at the expense of real issues, and Democrats playing defense by trying to match their positions with polls instead of dealing with the facts.  And we wonder why Democrats always loose and we are uniformed about most important issues?  No surprise here.

One footnote: After I wrote this I was out in the garage lifting weights and shouting at the the TV, ” Shutup Chris!” (either one, Mathews or Hayes as they interrupt their guests to show us what they know) and my golden retriever comes in and tells me she doesn’t like shouting by licking me. “Calm down Steve, it is all right.” She is right, on either side of the TV.
 

They’re Lying to Us, We Know They are Lying, And We Elect Them Anyway

It happens everywhere, but the most blatant example is in Kentucky. It appears both Mitch McConnell and Alison Grimes love coal and guns. They are going to protect Kentuckians from the big bad Obama who will take their goose who lays the golden eggs away. Except it is all a giant lie and everyone knows it. Natural gas and mechanization is killing coal and any sane person would welcome that. The number of jobs in Kentucky related to coal is about 16,000 and dwindling. Our future is not coal and yet they lie and tell us it is.

No rational person would support expanding coal production. As one Kentucky miner (now unemployed) explained, it killed his grandfather, his father, his uncle (all black lung), but paid him a decent salary thanks to the unions, no he won’t miss it. He didn’t mention how it destroys the environment with leveling of mountains and dumping CO2 into the atmosphere.

Studies show that most of the unemployment will increase in coal because of the Republicans beloved market place. Mechanization is dislocating more miners than anything else, and coal is not competitive with natural gas. Of course the dreaded and hated EPA is passing rules to make burning dirty carbon harder and clean our air, those dastardly criminals. We should all have to suffer so coal can kill millions more, their owners make millions, the enviroment is destroyed, and workers continue to be reduced?

So have we come so far down the road of an alternate reality that we run elections on it? The issue is how to find good jobs for Kentuckians who are losing their jobs while coal is being phased out and we hear not a peep about it. Instead we live in an alternate reality where all we have to do in bring back coal, which is never coming back. Why can’t we talk to people like adults? Why do we have candidates lying to voters who know they are lying and vote for them anyway?

If you have to run an election on lies, how do you lead. I know that the conventional wisdom around politics is to go with the polls and so Alison Grimes is in love with coal and her guns, but then it leaves her with no coalition to fight for change. She will have no base to make the changes that are necessary and people will be further disillusioned with politics. Is the job to get elected or is it to lead the country in the direction that will heal us?  Apparently it is to get elected.

And if you buy the argument that the job is to get elected first and then you can make the changes necessary, you have sold your soul and become part of the problem. There is no mandate from the people for the changes you need to make and you just become part of the problem. What a joke we are becoming as we run campaigns based upon an alternate reality, and further confuse and dumb down the voter. And we wonder why we are where we are.

Connecting the Dots – Externalities

Mark Bittman wrote a wonderful little piece about the true cost of a cheeseburger. What he identified was that what we pay for a cheeseburger is not what it costs. Oh, you are thinking profit margin. No, what he is talking about is externalities, those costs to the environment, to our health, to our water supply, that are not factored into the price you pay at the cash register, but you pay in taxes and healthcare costs, not to mention a degraded environment.

He calculated that the real cost of that $4.99 burger is almost half again as much when you consider these externalities. Think of it another way: That is how we subsidize those wonderful free market enterprises to take home all that profit. We pay for it with our tax dollars. That is why when you look at “cheap” coal, it is anything but cheap. When you look at externalities, it is probably the most expensive energy source on the planet.

So that brings me to Australia and their repeal of their Carbon Tax. Here is their typical thinking:

Brendan Pearson, head of the Minerals Council of Australia, said in a statement that the removal of “the world’s biggest carbon tax is an important step towards regaining the competitive edge that Australia lost over the last decade.” The council estimated that the tax cost the mining industry 1.2 billion dollars per year.

Note that Austrialia ranks as one of the largest producers of carbon per capita of any nation in the world. What they are really doing is shifting the cost of energy from the price of energy to the taxpayer where the externalities of mining and burning coal will eat us alive. So for a short term “business” advantage we throw away our future. Welcome to conservative thinking. Once again I hear Bobby McFerrin singing, Don’t Worry Be Happy.

Are We Children?

Answer, yes, or at least that is the way politicians treat us. As predicted, Democrats in coal states are running from the obvious:

It took little time for Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democrat who is challenging Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican minority leader, in the most high-profile Senate race this year, to distance herself from the Obama administration’s proposal for sharp cuts to emissions from power plants. … People on the Republican side overestimate the feelings for this, and on our side, Democrats are scared for no reason,” said Andrew Baumann, a Democratic pollster. “Some Democrats assume anything about global warming is a political loser. And that’s just not the case.”

It is kind of funny because in Kentucky, coal is no longer the primary employer. But think about it. Global warming is the greatest threat we face and coal, either the mining or burning is severely damaging to our planet, but we can’t stand up and say the truth. To be elected we can’t lead, we have to follow.

Maybe you think that is okay, the ends justify the means, but I don’t. I think we should treat the voter like an adult and tell them the truth. Then maybe we wouldn’t have a Tea Party who denies reality (keep your government hands off my Medicare). Certainly in a coal state where the regulations may cause a shift in energy usage, jobs could be at stake, but more jobs will be created. Remember acid rain?

It would be nice to vote for someone who actually stood for something other than pandering to our destructive selfishness. But as we watch this, can there be any question in your mind about why Congress is feckless and we lack real leadership? To get elected we must lie to them and somewhere in there, we forget we were lying.

Notes: From Dean Baker:

Like building a new airport, restricting carbon dioxide emissions will cost jobs. (If it’s not obvious that building a new airport will cost jobs, then you better study more economics. The new airport will pull business away from other forms of transportation and other airports. That will cause people to lose jobs. On net, there will likely be job gains, but there will definitely be people who lose their job as a result of the new airport who either don’t get another job or at least another job that is comparable to the one they lost.) …

It would be helpful if these stories gave some idea of the numbers involved. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there are just under 80,000 employed by the coal mining industry. This is less than 0.06 percent of total employment. If the economy generates jobs at the rate of 200,000 a month (roughly its pace over the last year), the total number of jobs in the coal industry are equal to the number that would be generated in 12 days. …

None of this should take away from the fact that coal miners and these communities will take a real hit from addressing a problem that is not their fault. They deserve real compensation since they will be asked to pay a much larger price for slowing global warming than the rest of the country. However concerns for these workers and their communities cannot explain the media coverage we have seen on the issue to date.

That is how an adult talks to adults.

More on Troubling Coal

I am in NYC this morning visiting my daughter so I was “up” early and caught Up with Steve Karnacky and his interview with West Virginia Democratic Senate hopeful Natalie Tennant. The point of the interview was that for a Democrat to run in West Virginia (big coal), one has to run away from Obama, not just on healthcare, but on energy. I found her answers to some hard questions rather interesting in double speak, wanting to have it both ways.

On Obamacare, Steve asked her directly about whether she would vote to repeal Obamacare and her answer was a hedge. Something like, we need real competition to lower costs and she would not vote to repeal the existing conditions part of the law. In other words she hedged and pander to untruth instead of saying she would work to more fully implement the law in WV to benefit her constitutes. Sort of get me in there and eventually maybe I can bring West Virginia out of the dark ages.

But it got more interesting on coal. Clearly WV depends on coal for its economy. Also clearly mining and burning coal is one of the most destructive things one can do to our environment. So what is a politician to do? Her answer was clever in that we need to look to solutions that bring good jobs to West Virginia. So what would that be? I haven’t clue.

If we use Republican Market based solutions to control carbon emissions (cap & trade, or a carbon tax), we get the same result as simply putting in place a regulation to control CO2, reduced coal (which is a good thing for the environment and a bad thing for a WV economy that depends on it). But the reality is coal can no longer be our go to energy source. So that says maybe we need some sort of dislocation project, you know that big government thing to help WV transition. But you know that is never going to happen with this Congress.

Here is the real quandary from my point of view: We have reached the point of no return where slow transition, while making good economic sense, would be a disaster for our future in terms of global warming. So the question you would have to ask West Virginians, assuming they are no longer in denial about coal and its impact on their health and the environment, is do we sell our soul and our children’s souls for a job today?

Sadly the answer to that is probably we sell our souls. If we have learned anything about ourselves over the last 50 years is that short term thinking is all we can do when it comes to our pocketbook. In a perfect progressive world, what we would do is chart a course for alternate energy and end coal. That plan would include ways to help displaced economies as we make this major shift in our economy and where the jobs are.

But we can’t do any of this because Republicans will continue to deny the problem, or claim state’s rights or some other nonsense to paralyze action, and their constituents will vote their picket book of maintaining the status quo because the future looks grim. It is sad we can’t look voters in the eye and tell them the truth when it so badly needs to be told, but that is reality. Good luck Natalie Tennant.

Oh, and keep wishy washing on that gun thing too because we just look them in the eye and tell them more guns is killing them.