Commentary Magazine


Topic: energy prices

Do Democrats Really Want a War on Coal?

President Obama may think his speech today outlining an unprecedented package of measures aimed at stopping global warming will burnish his legacy. The set of executive orders announced today was exactly what his liberal base has been yearning for throughout his presidency, and the ideological tone of his speech must he highly satisfying for a president who enjoys dictating to what he considers his intellectual inferiors and despises working with a Congress that rejected these measures. But while liberals are cheering Obama’s far-reaching fiat, a lot of Democrats, especially in coal-producing states, must be far from happy.

The president’s orders that will impose new carbon emission levels on existing power plants will raise the price of energy for everyone and harm an already fragile economy that has struggled to maintain an anemic recovery. By itself that may prove to be a political liability for Democrats running in next year’s midterm elections even if by now most Americans have had their natural skepticism about global warming alarmism pounded out of them by an ideological media. But an all-too-candid Obama advisor may have made a crucial gaffe that could kill the president’s party in coal-producing states next year. As the New York Times reported in their piece on the president’s speech:

Daniel P. Schrag, a geochemist who is the head of Harvard University’s Center for the Environment and a member of a presidential science panel that has helped advise the White House on climate change, said he hoped the presidential speech would mark a turning point in the national debate on climate change.

“Everybody is waiting for action,” he said. “The one thing the president really needs to do now is to begin the process of shutting down the conventional coal plants. Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they’re having a war on coal. On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what’s needed.”

To which Democrats running in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and more than a dozen other coal-producing states may say, “Thanks for nothing.”

Read More

President Obama may think his speech today outlining an unprecedented package of measures aimed at stopping global warming will burnish his legacy. The set of executive orders announced today was exactly what his liberal base has been yearning for throughout his presidency, and the ideological tone of his speech must he highly satisfying for a president who enjoys dictating to what he considers his intellectual inferiors and despises working with a Congress that rejected these measures. But while liberals are cheering Obama’s far-reaching fiat, a lot of Democrats, especially in coal-producing states, must be far from happy.

The president’s orders that will impose new carbon emission levels on existing power plants will raise the price of energy for everyone and harm an already fragile economy that has struggled to maintain an anemic recovery. By itself that may prove to be a political liability for Democrats running in next year’s midterm elections even if by now most Americans have had their natural skepticism about global warming alarmism pounded out of them by an ideological media. But an all-too-candid Obama advisor may have made a crucial gaffe that could kill the president’s party in coal-producing states next year. As the New York Times reported in their piece on the president’s speech:

Daniel P. Schrag, a geochemist who is the head of Harvard University’s Center for the Environment and a member of a presidential science panel that has helped advise the White House on climate change, said he hoped the presidential speech would mark a turning point in the national debate on climate change.

“Everybody is waiting for action,” he said. “The one thing the president really needs to do now is to begin the process of shutting down the conventional coal plants. Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they’re having a war on coal. On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what’s needed.”

To which Democrats running in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and more than a dozen other coal-producing states may say, “Thanks for nothing.”

Even if one accepts the constant lecturing from the White House and much of the media that claims there is no debate about their dire predictions of warming—a point that was undermined by a New York Times story published earlier this month which spoke of rising temperatures having actually slowed over the last 15 years rather than going through the roof, as we keep being told—the impact of Obama’s plans on the economy could be severe. While the ideological left is more worried about their doomsday predictions for the planet than the job-killing aspects of the president’s proposals, most Americans have their eyes firmly fixed on their wallets in an economy that remains in the doldrums despite the optimism created by housing prices and a booming stock market (until the last week).

Coal is still responsible for 37 percent of America’s energy production and with new technologies for mining it is no longer the ecological nightmare that it was routinely depicted as being for decades. That means that the president’s new regulations will have a drastic impact on energy prices and reduce the income of a vast cross-section of Americans.

By signaling to the country that, despite official denials by the White House, what the administration is contemplating is a “war on coal,” the president is more or less consigning Democrats in coal-producing states to a grim fate. The president’s cheerleaders are quick to remind us that elections have consequences and that since Obama campaigned on these issues, we should not be surprised that he would attempt to govern as he campaigned. They’re right about that. But now that the “war on coal” tag can be directly traced to an architect of the president’s plan rather than being attributed to GOP propaganda, it may be that there will be elections in the future with consequences that Democrats don’t care for as much as the one in 2012.

Liberals have been delighted with the idea that the president would use his executive powers to enact measures that have already been turned down by Congress. Though cap and trade bills were defeated by huge margins, Obama is now putting them into effect for all intents and purposes by a vote of 1-0. Yet it is exactly the freedom to act with impunity by a reelected president that should scare many Democrats. Were these issues put to congressional debate and votes, Democrats in coal states could count on using the legislative process to derail any war on coal.

But with Obama acting alone all they can do is stand by and watch in horror. The war on coal may cost American consumers dearly. But it may cost some Democrats their seats in the House and the Senate.

Read Less

Do the Job, Mr. President

Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post joins the pundits who huff and puff about the American people, empathizing with politicians who must figure out what it is those darn voters really want. The public is fickle, you see, because they want contradictory things. It goes like this: “They want everyone to have access to affordable health insurance, but they’re wary of expanding the role of government.” Or, “They want to do something about global warming, but not if it raises energy prices.” Actually, it’s pretty easy to resolve these “contradictions.” Americans would rather do nothing about health care at this point. As for global warming, they seem fine with developing alternative energy like nuclear power (which the Obama team acknowledged by providing a loan guarantee to build the first new domestic nuclear power plant in decades). But it sounds so much more sophisticated to complain that the rubes are really impossible to deal with. (Sort of the punditocracy’s equivalent of high schoolers complaining about their parents.)

That bit of voter-dissing out of the way, Pearlstein then concedes that Obama has been a bust as president. First, he does not think much of the “more campaign tactics!” approach to recovering Obama’s political footing. He warns, “He will not demonstrate that leadership by running around to carefully staged events in which he tells ordinary voters what he thinks they want to hear. Nor will he demonstrate it by redoubling efforts of his PR war room to respond to every attack or piece of Republican disinformation with overwhelming rhetorical force.” And Obama goofed (Pearlstein calls it “Obama’s singular mistake”) by letting Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi run the show. “It should be obvious now that the president cannot leave it to Congress to sort things out.” So what should he do? Why be president — govern. Should Obama not know what that entails, Pearlstein spells it out:

For the next several months, he needs to create a sense of urgency and expectation, consulting widely and privately with Republicans and Democrats and interested parties who care more about getting things done than winning the next election. Based on those conversations and his own sense of what the public will accept, he needs to put forward a set of compromise proposals on jobs, health care, financial reform and the budget. And then he needs to park himself in the President’s Room at the Capitol, along with top aides and Cabinet members, and refuse to leave until he has put together working majorities for each proposal — with the help of legislative leaders if possible, but without them if necessary.

In case you were wondering, yes, that’s what being president requires and what his predecessors all did. It’s a bit pathetic if not scary that pundits have to spell out what the job of president is after Obama’s a full year into the job. But I think Pearlstein has a point: Obama doesn’t understand the necessity (if one is to be a successful president) to formulate detailed policy, build support for it, and help usher it through the legislative process. Obama imagines instead that it’s all just like campaigning — stage events, attack the opponents, bask in the media attention, etc. It is a fundamentally unserious vision of the presidency — and one, it turns out, that is unsustainable.

Obama, of course, would also have to shove overboard the substance of his left-wing agenda. But most of all, he just needs to get down to work.

Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post joins the pundits who huff and puff about the American people, empathizing with politicians who must figure out what it is those darn voters really want. The public is fickle, you see, because they want contradictory things. It goes like this: “They want everyone to have access to affordable health insurance, but they’re wary of expanding the role of government.” Or, “They want to do something about global warming, but not if it raises energy prices.” Actually, it’s pretty easy to resolve these “contradictions.” Americans would rather do nothing about health care at this point. As for global warming, they seem fine with developing alternative energy like nuclear power (which the Obama team acknowledged by providing a loan guarantee to build the first new domestic nuclear power plant in decades). But it sounds so much more sophisticated to complain that the rubes are really impossible to deal with. (Sort of the punditocracy’s equivalent of high schoolers complaining about their parents.)

That bit of voter-dissing out of the way, Pearlstein then concedes that Obama has been a bust as president. First, he does not think much of the “more campaign tactics!” approach to recovering Obama’s political footing. He warns, “He will not demonstrate that leadership by running around to carefully staged events in which he tells ordinary voters what he thinks they want to hear. Nor will he demonstrate it by redoubling efforts of his PR war room to respond to every attack or piece of Republican disinformation with overwhelming rhetorical force.” And Obama goofed (Pearlstein calls it “Obama’s singular mistake”) by letting Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi run the show. “It should be obvious now that the president cannot leave it to Congress to sort things out.” So what should he do? Why be president — govern. Should Obama not know what that entails, Pearlstein spells it out:

For the next several months, he needs to create a sense of urgency and expectation, consulting widely and privately with Republicans and Democrats and interested parties who care more about getting things done than winning the next election. Based on those conversations and his own sense of what the public will accept, he needs to put forward a set of compromise proposals on jobs, health care, financial reform and the budget. And then he needs to park himself in the President’s Room at the Capitol, along with top aides and Cabinet members, and refuse to leave until he has put together working majorities for each proposal — with the help of legislative leaders if possible, but without them if necessary.

In case you were wondering, yes, that’s what being president requires and what his predecessors all did. It’s a bit pathetic if not scary that pundits have to spell out what the job of president is after Obama’s a full year into the job. But I think Pearlstein has a point: Obama doesn’t understand the necessity (if one is to be a successful president) to formulate detailed policy, build support for it, and help usher it through the legislative process. Obama imagines instead that it’s all just like campaigning — stage events, attack the opponents, bask in the media attention, etc. It is a fundamentally unserious vision of the presidency — and one, it turns out, that is unsustainable.

Obama, of course, would also have to shove overboard the substance of his left-wing agenda. But most of all, he just needs to get down to work.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.