Orwellian Luddite Daines


Sen. Steve Daines keeps talking about war. Not war in the Middle East or North Africa — those are a given — but the “war on coal.”

It’s now defined by the senator as “an all-fronts assault on affordable energy and good-paying union and tribal jobs.” It’s heartwarming to see Daines’ newfound concern for unions and tribes. But it’s his confrontation with EPA administrator Gina McCarthy and his Orwellian use of  “affordable energy” and “killing the coal industry” that caught my attention.

When Daines says “affordable energy,” he means coal. If you look at the leveled cost of electricity (LCOE) then “affordable” is a reasonably accurate term for coal, although hydro, offshore wind, geothermal and natural gas come in cheaper. Then, when factors such as people’s health, agricultural productivity, flooding, fires, oceanic dead zones, etc., are factored in, the cost of burning coal goes way up. From the Atlantic:

Accounting for these damages conservatively doubles or triples the price of electricity from coal per kilowatt hour generated, making wind, solar, and other forms of non-fossil fuel generation…economically competitive.

Daines calls climate change “negligible.” Tell that to the folks in Miami who face $416 billion in loses due to storm-related flooding and sea-level rise.

He gets most of his climate change statistics from the Cato Institute, a Koch brothers “think tank.” And he cherry picks Montana job and economic loss figures from a UM study here, which is debunked here and here.

His latest opinion piece is titled, “Protecting the Montana way of life.” While touting hunting and fishing and access to public lands, he says:

Montana’s best paying jobs rely on our wealth of natural resources … We still have more work to do to fight back against Washington, D.C., anti-energy regulations that will cripple Montana’s economy.

He forwards a mix of accelerated climate change and protecting our outdoor legacy and having great paying jobs (although unless you’re a Copper King, I don’t believe natural resource extraction offers “Montana’s best paying jobs”). The reality is we can only get two out of the three. And we should be doing everything possible to take accelerated climate change out of the equation.

Meanwhile, Daines calls the people who really want to protect Montana’s clean and healthful environment “fringe groups” and “extreme environmentalists.” (“Clean and healthful environment” comes from the Montana Constitution, Article II, Section 3, Inalienable Rights.)

The future is not based on burning fossil fuels. It’s moving from extractables to renewables, and having the workforce, technology and infrastructure in place. Montana could be a leader or we could be left behind. Your choice, Sen. Daines.



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About the author

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.

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Publius II
Publius II

War on Koal? What a crock! It’s the Koch Brothers at war with sanity and humanity!


why will Kochs be happy with a Clinton presidency?

Gabby Johnson
Gabby Johnson

Daines ignores today’s marketplace, where King Coal is in bankruptcy court due to an inability to compete with low-cost natural gas, with renewables contributing at the margins. And his resource extraction obsession is logical only if you want to consider Montana’s “way of life” as the Third World version, commonly found in places like Nigeria, where raw materials are extracted and exploited elsewhere, along with the value-added profit. The strength of the capitalist, competitive, free-market that Daines claims to represent is the agility of that system to adapt to new realities and shift course to a better future. But Daines… Read more »

Big Swede
Big Swede

Just who’s living in the past, Pete.

American’s calling themselves environmentalists has fallen from 76% in the late eighties to 46% now.


I personally know 3 of the workers who were laid off when the Billings coal plant was closed. Their economic outlook sucks.

Matthew Koehler
Matthew Koehler

Ok, Orwellian Luddite Daines. Good one. But didn’t Senator Jon Tester and “Orwellian Luddite Daines” just vote together for the very same Energy Bill? Listening to Senator Tester’s justification for voting with the “Orwellian Luddite Daines” and the GOP majority it seems like Senator Tester expects us to believe that the GOP-controlled Congress (easily the most anti-environmental Congress in the history of this country) suddenly and miraculously passed a great Energy Bill…despite being in bed with King Coal…despite being funded by Oil and Gas… despite being climate-change deniers. Yeah, right. Of course the Montana Wilderness Association and some other Montana… Read more »

Big Swede
Big Swede

This comment is a repeat of one I sent earlier. It was either deleted or captured in the spam filter. Transcript: BARTON: In your testimony you say that these standards would save 17,000 lives, in terms of premature deaths a year I think, is that not correct? WALKE: That’s taken from EPA’s projection that up to 17,000 lives — BARTON: Let’s stipulate that it’s a number that you got from somewhere else. WALKE: Yes sir. BARTON: I’m going to ask every private sector individual here. I’ll start with Mr. Fannon. How many cases in your company were there last year… Read more »

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