Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.
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On Tuesday, national news became local and local news became national when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney landed in the fossil fuel-endowed Yampa Valley to engage President Barack Obama in the national debate about America’s energy future.
It’s a national debate with a specific date of significance that those employed in coal-related industries can recite from memory.
On Jan. 17, 2008, then presidential candidate Obama met with the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle and articulated his plan to “bankrupt” coal-powered electricity production plants. Obama stated his goal was to enact a cap-and-trade system “that is as aggressive, if not more aggressive, than anybody else’s out there. ... So, if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”
Agree or disagree with Obama’s goal, one fact is undeniable. When Obama’s intent became public, every man and woman working in coal-related jobs realized that Obama had placed a bulls-eye on their livelihood. Many of those men and women call the Yampa Valley home.
So when Romney sought the perfect venue to confront Obama’s claim of an “all-of-the-above” energy policy, Northwest Colorado was a natural choice. Romney is calculating that he can increase his odds in November by siding with folks employed in fossil fuel industries in states like Colorado, Ohio and Pennsylvania — all battleground states this year.
After all, Romney has a point when he argues that Obama has continued his war against coal.
This spring, having watched his cap-and-trade legislation die in the U.S. Senate when Democrats abandoned the bill in 2010, Obama bypassed Congress and used the Environmental Protection Agency to start implementing mercury emission, cross-state pollution and greenhouse gas regulations that will kill the coal industry.
As the Washington Post reported March 26, the new regulations “could end the construction of conventional coal-fired facilities in the United States.”
The Post further reported: “National Mining Association spokesman Luke Popovich said the proposal shows that President Obama is following through on his pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through means other than legislation.”
“After Congress refused to pass carbon caps, the administration insisted there were other ways to skin the cat, and this is another way — by setting a standard deliberately calculated to drive affordable coal out of the electricity market,” Popovich told the Post.
Still, it goes without saying that Obama has significant support across the country for his desire to kill the coal industry. Many of these folks think that coal will be replaced by natural gas to fire our electricity plants. Unfortunately, they’re ignoring the agenda behind significant elements in the “environmental” movement that seek to stop any extraction and use of all fossil fuels.
Coincidentally, on the same day Romney was speaking to the crowd gathered at Alice Pleasant Park in Craig, the Wall Street Journal reported that, according to the International Energy Agency, “global exploitation of shale gas reserves could transform the world’s energy supply by lowering prices, improving security and curbing carbon dioxide emissions, but the industry might be stopped in its tracks if it doesn’t work harder to resolve environmental concerns.”
Of course, everything after the “but” in that last sentence is where the battle lies. Because as can be witnessed even here in the Yampa Valley, there are some who will never accept fossil fuels as part of America’s energy policy. And just as coal is under attack, these individuals and organizations are mounting battles to prohibit the use of fracking to extract oil and gas — the same oil and gas that Americans have been led to believe could replace coal as an energy source.
Romney’s visit to our corner of the world provided a front-row seat to the energy battle that will rage this election season. And, given the NBC/Marist poll released Thursday showing Obama with only a one point edge over Romney in Colorado, we can be sure Coloradans will play a pivotal role in the battle for the presidency.
By the way, that same NBC/Marist poll shows that Coloradans are eager to cast a ballot, with 81 percent describing themselves as “very enthusiastic” or “somewhat enthusiastic” about voting.
I have no doubt the men and women who toil in the coal mines and power plants of Northwest Colorado are in the “very enthusiastic” camp.
For 20 years, Steamboat resident Rob Douglas was a Washington, D.C., private detective specializing in homicide, political corruption and terrorism. Since 1998, Douglas has been a commentator on local, state and national politics in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Colorado. To reach Rob Douglas, email rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.