Here’s today’s political quiz question: what do these five states — Rhode Island, Vermont, California, Oregon and Maine — have in common. Yes they are blue states ruled by Democrats, but that’s not all. These are the states that use the least amount of coal — less than 2 percent — for electric power.
In fact, almost all of the states that are politically liberal and vote unfailingly Democratic are low coal use states. Washington, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are also in the top 10 states least reliant on coal. Only conservative Idaho is a red state with low coal consumption.
Meanwhile, the heavy coal using states bleed red. West Virginia, Kentucky and Wyoming are all states that get about 90 percent of their electric power from coal. Missouri, Utah, Indiana and North Dakota also get 75 percent of their electricity from coal. See table.
Mr. Obama announced last week the toughest environmental regulations ever against coal. This is part of the president’s war on coal that he announced when he was running for president in 2008. He has long admitted these policies to reduce emissions from coal burning electric power plants by one-third below 2005 levels by 2030 will “bankrupt” the coal industry. It’s working. Coal towns are being vaporized across America and coal companies are going out of business.
But the pain from the new EPA rules won’t be evenly distributed across America. Far from it. The coal producing states like West Virginia and Wyoming will see massive job losses and increases in electric utility costs. The nationwide costs will be about $100 billion a year eventually or a reduction in GDP by about one-half percentage point, the Heritage Foundation finds. But for heavily impacted states — Republican areas in the Midwest, South and mountain states — the costs will reach about $1,200 a year to average families. Mr. Obama’s policies that have had such a crushing effect on middle-income family finances are about to get a whole lot worse.
The liberal coastal states will feel only modest effects because they don’t use much coal.
Would Barbara Boxer of California and Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island, two of the biggest cheerleaders for the new regulations, be so euphoric if their voters were paying these massive costs for their green agenda? But the east and west coast green snobs can live with raising costs and unemployment in “fly over country.”
It’s time to label the Obama green policies what they truly are: steep taxes on red state America. By the way, many purple states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia also get hammered by Mr. Obama’s climate change agenda.
The de facto tax that Mr. Obama wants to impose on American coal is doubly dastardly because it’s impact will be felt hardest in relatively poorer states. And because Census Bureau data confirms that poor households spend 4 times more of their income on energy than rich families, the Obama policy will make income inequality much worse. But of course the upper crust Manhattan liberals who fund the Sierra Club and Mr. Obama and profess to care so much about the poor, can live with that. So much for “environmental justice.”
Maybe all of this pain would be worth it if somehow these policies were going to reduce global carbon emissions and stop global warming as Mr. Obama assures us the will. They won’t. New data from the Energy Information Administration and other sources tells the opposite tale. China and India are adding coal plants on a massive scale. World wide at least 1,000 new coal plants are planned.
I did the rough calculations. For every reduction in BTUs burned from coal in the United States, China and India alone will burn 10 to 12 more BTUs. Even if the United States cut coal use to zero over the next 20 years, global emissions from coal will rise sharply. So the Obama plan is all pain no gain. It would be like trying to reduce unwanted pregnancies in the Third World by having Americans use more birth control. Stupid.
But back to the Obama assault on red and purple states. Let’s hope the voters get the message that Mr. Obama’s green energy policies are directed at their jobs and their paychecks. Most people in blue states and the workers around the rest of the world won’t feel a thing. This is fair?
• Stephen Moore is a Fox News commentator and an economics contributor with Freedom Works.