Kelley Earnhardt Miller on Affordable Energy and Our Schools

Posted by Kelley Earnhardt Miller at 11:54 am, September 10, 2015

As a mom of three, I’m keenly aware of my family’s budget. I know when the cost of certain necessities like food and electricity go up, it can be a delicate balancing act to ensure my family isn’t hurt by these fluctuations. Too many of our families across the country, however, aren’t able to meet unexpected costs and must make difficult choices about where their hard-earned dollars are spent.

The importance of affordable energy extends beyond our homes and impacts nearly every aspect of our lives from services and institutions vital to our communities to the food in our children’s lunch boxes. With schools across the country welcoming back students this month, I’m also reminded of the critical role coal-based electricity plays in powering America’s classrooms. From computers, to science labs, to the lights in the gym, affordable energy has a direct impact on our children’s educational experiences.

With the electricity we need at an affordable rate, our cities and counties can pay teachers what they deserve, invest in facilities and focus on what’s important – instead of losing sleep over high power bills. If schools are forced to worry about their budgets because of rising energy costs, essential services too often get cut as a result. These cuts can have a profound effect on our kids’ happiness, health and success in learning.

Consider what affordable energy means for your community and learn more about how you can take action to protect low-cost electricity.

EPA Carbon Emissions Plan and Cap and Trade – A Carbon Copy

Posted by Laura Sheehan at 1:49 pm, September 08, 2015

In an attempt to preserve his political legacy, last month President Obama unveiled his final carbon emissions plan – the most far-reaching energy regulation in the nation’s history. What President Obama, and Hillary Clinton who endorsed the regulation and vowed to build on it if elected president, fails to mention is that: This illegal regulation is a dressed up version of the unpopular “cap and trade” legislation from five years ago.

The reality is “Obama / Clinton Cap and Trade II” has all the signs of being the next political loser for candidates and incumbents who support it.

Some quick political history:

  • A bad vote. Five years ago, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives lead by then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi barely passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act, or “cap and trade,” despite vocal bipartisan opposition and outcry from constituents.
  • Writing on the wall. Concerned about the political consequences they would face at the ballot box in 2010, Senate Democrats called on the White House to drop their efforts and then let the bill languish in the House.
  • “Cap and trade” bust. The bill ultimately failed because it did not have enough support from Senate Democrats despite having a super majority at the time.

Months later, members of Congress who voted for “cap and trade” were “slaughtered” at the ballot box by voters in the 2010 mid-term election. These legislators paid the price for ignoring the concerns of voters on issues that impact their pocketbooks.

Five years later:

Instead of taking the lessons of the past to heart, the president has chosen to implement “cap and trade” by executive fiat through the Environmental Protection Agency. The history books show us “Obama/Clinton Cap and Trade II” plan is a political loser for public officials. Current office holders and those seeking public office should take note and act to stop President Obama’s carbon plan from becoming an all too costly reality.

Politics of EPA’s Final Rule Don’t Mix With Kitchen Table Issues

Posted by Laura Sheehan at 12:26 pm, September 01, 2015

This column originally appeared in The Morning Consult on August 20, 2015.

It’s always interesting to watch politicians try to reconcile positions that make soundbites but completely contradict the policies they actually support.

President Obama is one politician guilty of this practice. Elected in large part due to working- and middle-class frustration following the 2008 economic collapse, he constantly harped on narrowing the gap between the rich and poor. Yet seven years later, he seems more concerned with preserving his legacy, putting overreaching action on climate change ahead of Americans’ top priorities and further widening the very gap he promised to shrink.

Let’s take a look at this in action.

The rhetoric: In recent remarks announcing his carbon reduction plan, President Obama said the plan was necessary because “if we want to protect our economy and our security and our children’s health, we’re going to have to do more.”

The reality: President Obama’s plan will result in painful costs for those who can afford it least. It disproportionately affects low-income and minority communities and will significantly burden nearly half of America’s households that on average are bringing home less than $25,000 annually. These families already struggle with rising energy costs; 24 percent of low-income households went without food for at least one day and 37 percent went without medical or dental care in order to pay for energy.

It’s easy to think about the working poor in the abstract, it’s another thing altogether when one must come face-to-face with people and communities, like those in the Navajo Nation, who are already suffering and will only be further hurt by the president’s ill-conceived plan. The Navajo Nation community already scheduled partial shutdowns of its two coal-fired power plants, but the president’s plan is lofty and unrealistic. The final rule calls for a 38 percent reduction, compared to the 6 percent called for in the draft rule. These stringent and unreasonable regulations will almost certainly raise energy prices on the reservation and result in devastating job losses. According to a statement by Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, “These jobs are extremely difficult to obtain on the nation and are almost irreplaceable. Any negative impacts on the power plants and mines will have a severe and direct effect on the tribal economy.”

That’s reality.

When EPA Can Pick and Choose, We All Lose

Posted by Laura Sheehan at 3:08 pm, August 28, 2015

How many times have you watched a sporting event and been convinced the referees officiating the game made calls unfairly favoring one team over another? Just as referees are supposed to call games objectively and without bias, government should stay out of the business of picking winners and losers.

In its final carbon rule, however, the Environmental Protection Agency did just that when it imposed on 22 states more stringent emission reduction requirements than originally proposed.

Final Rule Percentage Map_FINAL_08.28.15

All of these states – except Rhode Island which has no coal-fired electricity generation – rely on coal to maintain affordable electricity prices. The collective average retail electricity price for the 21 coal-reliant “biggest loser” states was 12 percent below the national average in 2014. In contrast, Rhode Island’s electricity price was 49 percent above the national average.

EPA’s picking and choosing amounts to a big loss for consumers in all states forced to reduce CO2 emissions, but it hits the “biggest loser” states especially hard. Rising energy costs and declining family incomes are already straining the budgets of America’s lower- and middle-income families. Households with pre-tax annual incomes below $50,000, representing 48 percent of the nation’s households, already spend 17 percent of their after-tax income on energy costs. Many of these families are forced to make tough choices when their energy bill arrives each month. EPA’s carbon rule makes those decisions that much more difficult.

EPA’s pursuit of its illegal plan follows a dangerous trend of government agencies picking winners and losers in the energy marketplace. No matter where you live, this amounts to the makings of something much worse than just a bad call. When government is allowed to pick and choose, we all lose.

Growing Up With Coal: Hillary Clinton and Coal Country

Posted by China Riddle at 11:09 am, August 26, 2015

President Obama’s tireless pursuit of his climate legacy is well-timed with the 2016 election cycle, especially when it comes to Hillary Clinton and how she is addressing the impact Obama’s carbon regulations will have on coal communities.

During her 2008 run, Clinton proudly touted her loose ties to coal country, emphasizing America’s need for coal and the crucial role clean coal technology will play in our energy future. In the wake of the president’s final carbon plan, however, Clinton now speaks of coal in the “past tense.” Reporters say she is walking a fine line between supporting the interests of voters in coal-producing states and appeasing environmentalists and donors aligned with Obama’s plan.

As someone with strong ties to coal country, I’m not “ready” for Hillary’s pseudo-support of the region and the hard working Americans who live there.

When Clinton expressed her support of President Obama’s carbon regulations, she was no longer walking a fine line – in fact, she crossed it. By promising to defend and build upon the costly and illegal plan, Clinton will place the “everyday Americans” she purports to champion in the crosshairs, raising energy costs and destroying jobs for families in coal communities.

Clinton would do well to cease with her “past tense” rhetoric, as coal currently helps support 700,000 jobs and provides nearly 40 percent of our nation’s electricity. The coal industry is very much a part of America’s present and is key to meeting our growing energy needs in the future, but by supporting the president’s plan, Clinton is turning her back on all of those it employs. Like the President, it’s well past time she prioritizes the families she claims to fight for over the support of elitist environmentalist activists she seeks.

Kelley Earnhardt Miller on Clean Coal Technology

Posted by Kelley Earnhardt Miller at 1:20 pm, August 24, 2015

Throughout my partnership with America’s Power, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about the important role coal plays in producing affordable, reliable electricity. One of the most fascinating topics I’ve encountered along the way is clean coal technology, which refers to a number of advanced tools and controls that help coal-fired power plants generate electricity more cleanly and efficiently than ever before.

Growing up around racing, I’ve witnessed how the industry regularly introduces new safety features and modern technologies, while still keeping the sport an enjoyable experience for fans. The same is true in energy, and the coal industry is leading the way when it comes to innovation. At least 15 next-generation technologies are being used today by America’s coal fleet, and by 2017, the coal industry will have invested $142 billion to reduce emissions.

Like Dale Jr. and Regan, I’m encouraged to know our country is at the forefront of these important clean energy advancements, and that we’re working to ensure America is able to use our most abundant energy resource for generations to come.

Learn more about clean coal technology and check out additional footage from Dale Jr.’s and Regan’s trips to two cutting-edge power plants using clean coal technologies.

Motors and Miners: Our Weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Posted by China Riddle at 11:02 am, August 18, 2015

The America’s Power team hit Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month to spread the word about coal-based electricity with our partner and driver of the #7 car, Regan Smith. While it’s always a blast to watch Regan race the America’s Power Chevy, some of the day’s best moments happened before the drivers even started their engines.

During a meet-and-greet with Regan’s pit crew, we asked the crowd gathered at the America’s Power booth if anyone had ever been in a coal mine. Among the dozens of hands raised included one belonging to Randy’s wife, who pointed to her husband and said, “He did it for 26 years!”

Now retired, Randy worked as an Indiana coal miner for more than a quarter of a century. The same company that employed Randy also employed his grandfather and cousin, as well as his wife’s grandfather, father and nine uncles. For Randy and countless others across America, coal mining is a proud and rewarding family tradition.

Supporters_Randy Alexander_FINAL_08.13.15

I too come from a proud coal mining heritage and deeply understand the importance of coal to families like Randy’s. Hearing the stories of hard-working Americans reinforces the mission of America’s Power to protect an industry that provides careers for hundreds of thousands, and affordable electricity for our entire nation. As Randy rightfully told us, “It just makes good sense for Americans to use coal.”

Join Randy by sharing how affordable coal-based power helps fuel your life, family and community.

Hold On To Your Piggy Bank If EPA Gets Its Way

Posted by Laura Sheehan at 11:55 am, August 13, 2015

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy sent a clear message to consumers this month – your piggy bank won’t get in the way of the agency’s illegal pursuit to regulate carbon emissions.

McCarthy claimed that EPA’s carbon emissions rule is “a win all around.”

Really? Setting aside the fact that legislatures, governors and attorneys general representing 32 states have expressed opposition to EPA’s approach, McCarthy’s comments completely ignore the challenges facing the 59 million low- and middle-income Americans who already spend 17 percent of their budget on energy.

Declining real household incomes, coupled with increased energy prices, are burdening family budgets for millions of low- and middle-income Americans. With wages continuing to stagnate, consumers are now facing the shuttering of hundreds of power plants and are expected to do without tens of thousands of megawatts of coal-generated electricity.

EPA’s answer? Force utilities and consumers to accept less reliable sources of electricity. By forcing these rules on the American public, EPA is making energy costs less affordable for our most vulnerable citizens and will ultimately put our economy at risk.

At a time when we have access to safe and reliable coal and our air has never been cleaner, it is tragic that families still have to decide whether they should keep the lights on or put food on the table.

These concerns are not falling on deaf ears. Recent polling conducted for our organization by Morning Consult reveals significant concern by consumers over how attitudes change when respondents are brought up to speed on the expected cost implications of the rule. Specifically, respondents are unlikely to support the rule if it squeezes the middle class, leads to job losses or increases household energy costs. These are the facts Administrator McCarthy would rather not share with the American public.

We expect the consequences of EPA’s carbon regulation will be severe: causing energy prices to soar, disproportionately affecting impoverished communities and using fewer sources of reliable energy. As the rule becomes available to the public, we will continue to report on economic implications of EPA’s regulatory overreach.

We can’t afford to let this expensive, illegal rule go into effect and we hope you will join us in fighting EPA’s latest regulatory overreach.