Monday, June 29, 2009

Perhaps the most destructive legislation in our country’s history passed Friday in the House of Representatives — the Waxman-Markey tax bill offered in the guise of addressing climate change.

This bill, named for Democrats Henry A. Waxman of California and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, would have adverse and lingering consequences for every American. It would raise the cost of electricity for our homes, fuel for our cars and the energy that produces our manufacturing jobs, with little or no environmental benefit. Further, independent experts estimate it would cost Americans more than $2 trillion in a little more than eight years.

All Americans in the Midwest, South and Rocky Mountain regions would be most drastically affected because the climate-change legislation would destroy the nation’s coal industry and the low-cost electricity it has provided to those regions for generations. Wealth would be transferred away from almost every state to the West Coast and New England.

The most abundant and by far least expensive energy source in our country for generating electricity is coal. America’s coal reserves rival the energy potential of Saudi Arabian oil. Unfortunately, the Waxman-Markey bill would force America to throw away this tremendous resource, and our low-cost electricity with it.

The legislation sets an unattainable cap on carbon dioxide emissions by 2020, with the first reductions due by 2012. Under the program, businesses that emit carbon dioxide would be required to purchase or obtain from the government special carbon dioxide credits. This carbon dioxide cap would force utilities to switch from lower-cost coal to natural gas or other, more expensive energy sources. Reliable estimates show this bill would cost each American family at least $3,000 more for energy each year.

The chief executive of one of the nation’s major utilities recently said it best in the Wall Street Journal: “The 25 states that depend on coal for more than 50 percent of their electricity … will have to shut down and replace the majority of their fossil fuel plants as a result of the climate change legislation.”

The supporters of this ill-conceived legislation point to two provisions they claim would help coal. First, they would give electric utilities free credits. However, those credits are worth millions of dollars, and the utilities could sell the credits and use the proceeds to build more expensive natural gas or nuclear power plants and not use our lowest-cost fuel - coal.

Second, the legislation’s authors would invest in carbon-capture and -storage technology, claiming this would save jobs. But this technology would not be commercially available for at least 15 to 20 years, long after the reductions would be required in 2012 and long after our coal plants would be shut down and our manufacturing jobs exported to China, India and other countries.

All these countries have said they will not restrict carbon dioxide emissions. China alone, which has surpassed the United States in carbon dioxide emissions, brings a new 500-megawatt coal-fired power plant on line every week. The Chinese will have low-cost electricity, and America will massively export more jobs to them.

It is not too late to tell Congress to kill this flawed bill. Everyone should call your senators and ask them to vote ‘no’ on the Waxman-Markey bill (otherwise known as cap-and-trade) and support affordable energy, American jobs and our quality of life.

Robert E. Murray is chairman, president and chief executive officer of Murray Energy Cop., the largest independent coal producer in the United States.

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