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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Time to drop this “war on coal” talk. Time to ignore the hollering by coal country politicians over President Obama’s beefed-up plan to combat global warming.

No, the Clean Power Plan will not ruin their local economies, because coal has already done that, certainly in Appalachia. Look at those barren flats where majestic mountains once stood. The coal industry lopped off the mountaintops and fouled the streams, depriving West Virginia and eastern Kentucky of a key recruiting tool for modern employers prizing a healthy environment.

But let’s not go overly negative here. Coal did its job. It powered 20th-century America. The Appalachian coal regions gave and gave. We honor their sacrifice.

So rather than call the new plan a war on coal, let us call it a retirement party for coal. Coal is the largest source of planet-warming gases. It must make room for 21st-century power.

Mother Nature has already offered us a foretaste of what she has in mind should global warming go unchecked. Higher temperatures have worsened drought in the West, igniting large swaths of California, Washington, and Oregon.

Glacier National Park in northern Montana may sound like a cool, watery place. But tourists there have been abandoning their cars to flee wildfires. The glaciers themselves are melting and may be gone in 30 years.

Flooding in other parts of the country is part of the same climate phenomenon.

Natural gas emits about half as much carbon as does coal and can transition us to truly clean power. But the future is clearly renewable energy from such sources as the sun and wind.

The new rules push us in that direction. They will require utilities to generate at least 28 percent of their electric power from renewable sources by 2030. (Renewables accounted for only 13 percent last year.)

This is not mission impossible. In 2011, California mandated that 33 percent of its electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2020. California’s economy is booming — aided no doubt by all that clean-energy venture capital (almost 60 percent of America’s total) flowing into the state.

Obama’s plan promotes a cap-and-trade system. States place a limit on greenhouse gases and let businesses buy and sell permits to emit them. This market-based approach started off as a conservative idea. Do remember that when the opposition rails against the idea as “cap and tax.”

California already has a cap-and-trade system, and 10 other states have followed suit. At least 30 other states also have mandates for renewable energy.

Foes will no doubt bash the Clean Power Plan as radical, but the public should know that even these stricter regulations will not save us from global warming. They will only stop a free fall into planetary catastrophe.

What about other countries? A reasonable question. The plan will give Obama something serious to unfurl at the climate change summit this December in Paris. When the United States offers a plausible blueprint to meet the challenge, other countries, notably China, will be pressed to follow suit.

And what about the coal regions? Appalachia has considerable natural beauty left, a great location and plenty of water. Coal-producing Wyoming has its own attractions, some quite magnificent.

Coal is yesterday’s fuel. Give it a respectful goodbye and dry the tears.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at [email protected] To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at

Photo: The coal-fired Castle Gate Power Plant is pictured outside Helper, Utah November 27, 2012. The plant was closed in the Spring of 2015 in anticipation of new EPA regulations. President Barack Obama will unveil on August 3, 2015 the final version of his plan to tackle greenhouse gases from coal-fired power plants, kicking off what is expected to be a tumultuous legal battle between federal environmental regulators and coal industry supporters. REUTERS/George Frey

  • Dominick Vila

    Not a moment too soon. I can’t believe how long it has taken us to join the rest of the civilized world, and stop emulating the irresponsible environmental policies of China.
    Climate change, a term used by those who refuse to accept the reality of global warming for political and economic reasons, is real and it is evident in rising sea levels, the melting of the polar caps and glaciers, and climatic changes worldwide. Whether or not this phenomena is a natural change is irrelevant. The fact is that we are making it worse, and accelerating, through carbon emissions. Add to that the negative effect of pollutants on life on Earth, including oceans filled with garbage, rivers and lakes contaminated by the extensive use of pesticides and fertilizers, and wasteful use of potable water, among other irresponsible practices, and we have a major life-threatening disaster in our hands.
    For those who see everything through the narrow prism of economic and financial imperatives, investment in alternative energies, investment in infrastructure with special emphasis on protecting endangered coastal zones, and new concepts to mitigate the effects of global warming, addressing this issue in a timely and effective matter is likely to produce huge profits, while protecting life on Earth instead of destroying it.

  • RED

    As the time for coal to go away draws near I always wonder about the morons who continue to decry it’s end. Of course no one wants to lose their, including myself. But what happened to all the blacksmiths that made horse shoes when the automobile was invented or the horse drawn carriage makers? What about the poor stage coaches drivers when trains replaced them? It seems to a part of the Con sickness, the lack of ability to deal with any change in the world. I guess that’s what makes them Cons, well that and a mind boggling ignorance.

    • TZToronto

      One has to wonder whether conservatives are more concerned about declining profits for coal producers or the loss of jobs in their states that may mean fewer votes in upcoming elections. Instead of embracing the possibilities for improving the environment and many new manufacturing jobs, the bought-and-paid-for congressional dinosaurs cling to the past, just as you say. They’ll have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the future. Unfortunately, they’ve convinced their right-wing followers that there’s nothing wrong with coal, and even if there were something wrong, a few band-aid solutions would take care of things.

  • Michael Mellema

    Same old story, follow the money. GOP bought and paid for to sell out the country for greed.