Take comfort in the power of magical thinking
Coal-powered electric plant (Getty Images)
On the heels of the Democratic party working out their strongest-ever position on climate change, the Republicans opted for a hardline stance in the opposite direction Tuesday. At a policy meeting in advance of next week’s Republican National Convention, the RNC unanimously approved this position on coal: “It’s an abundant, clean, affordable, reliable, domestic energy resource.”
Adding “clean” to the Republican vision board was a last-minute tweak by delegate David Barton, who said it should be added “particularly because [of] the technology we have now.”
Barton is surely responding to the coal industry’s relentless spin over the last decade, giving America that if-it-seems-too-good-to-be-true assurance that coal’s nastiness has been tidied up. Though technology has improved coal emissions some, “clean coal” is largely a myth (albeit one that Obama bought into for a minute).
Coal—you are excused for marveling that we’re even having this discussion in 2016—has become an exceedingly divisive partisan issue in recent years. In 2012, the Republican-controlled House passed the cutely named “Stop the War on Coal Act”, which would essentially have revoked the EPA’s power to regulate coal mining operations and coal-fired power plants. (The bill never made it through the Democrat-controlled Senate.)
The arguments against the “war on coal” include defense of coal industry jobs and lower energy costs. The argument for the war (if you want to characterize the embrace of cleaner energy as a war) is simple—for all the incremental improvements the industry has made, coal is still a pretty nasty piece of business. Coal power plants continue to be the biggest contributor to carbon emissions (and global warming) in the United States.
It’s also worth noting Trump’s blustery climate change position here. A remarkable report from the Sierra Club last week noted that, of the 195 other countries recognized by the U.S. State Department, not one of the leaders is a climate change denier. Ladies and gentlemen, our potential future president: