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.