It is understandable that when a business or industry feels threatened, it will do anything it can to counter the threat. Unfortunately, that may include ignoring and distorting facts. In a recent PR blitz, Arch Coal issued a statement in the DCI (and many other newspapers) in which it attacked the Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan is designed to reduce the carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels (particularly coal) that drive climate change.
Arch Coal argues the plan will be too expensive, and gives a figure of $479 billion from NERA Economic Consulting. That sounds like a lot of money. However, one of the most highly respected financial institutions in the world, the International Monetary Fund, has determined that the fossil fuel industry is subsidized to the tune of $700 billion a year in the United States. Arch Coal has received a significant portion of that subsidy, so complaining about costs is disingenuous. This figure includes the costs that have been offloaded onto the government and taxpayers: damage to the environment and health care for pollution victims. Coal-fired power plants put 33 tons of mercury into the atmosphere each year in the U.S. A significant amount of this mercury works its way into the food chain and is consumed by you and me and our children. Mercury is a neurotoxin that shortens attention span in children, delays walking and talking, creates learning disorders, lowers IQ and, in high enough doses, causes mental retardation. In adults it shows up as infertility, memory loss, blood pressure regulation problems and more.
Arch Coal also argues that the Clean Power Plan regulations are premature. Climate scientists state the opposite: We are already experiencing the costly effects of climate change -- longer, more frequent fire seasons, earlier seasonal snow melts, record-setting heat waves, rapidly melting glaciers and higher-velocity catastrophic storms. Insurance companies are now taking into account climate change and charging higher premiums as a result. Not surprisingly, Arch Coal sees burning low-carbon fossil fuels as the solution. However, the costs of renewable, non-polluting energy like wind and solar have dropped so far (solar by half since 2010) they cost the same, or less, today as fossil fuels. If the fossil fuel subsidies and the renewable energy subsidies were removed, renewable energy would be far less expensive than fossil fuels. Yes, the fossil fuel industry is threatened by climate change mitigating legislation. That can't be helped. The Clean Power Plan is a commendable step in the right direction and deserves our heartfelt support.