- - Monday, May 30, 2016

Is backing fossil fuels a smart position in this contentious election year?

When President Obama claimed an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy in 2012, he apparently meant all of the above-ground resources such as solar and wind. The vast below-ground wealth like coal, oil, natural gas and uranium-rich ores were evidently another matter.

Yet, taking full advantage of our abundant natural resources was — and still is — a highway leading out of our economic malaise.

So when a presidential candidate boldly embraces fossil fuels, even going as far as ignoring the anathema of expanding coal mining, is that not such a bad move?

Understandably, leftist environmentalists are doubling down on the rhetoric and distortion of the supposed settled association between “carbon pollution” and catastrophic climate change. The League of Conservation Voters, in a memo earlier this month, said, “Donald Trump lacks the judgment, character and temperament to handle the coming challenges. A Donald Trump presidency would be an environmental disaster.”

But the Donald has a much broader understanding of what is truly a looming environmental disaster. He noted in a March interview with the editorial board of The Washington Post that “we have militarily tremendous risks. I think our biggest form of climate change we should worry about is nuclear weapons.”

After all, environmental destruction in the aftermath of a nuclear detonation, as correctly noted, trumps the dubious deleterious effects of a bump in ambient carbon-dioxide levels. And it’s a sure bet that terrorists are not all that concerned about reducing their carbon footprint. They probably wouldn’t even appreciate a planet-sensitive Paris climate change delegate inserting a daisy in their Kalashnikov.

On the other hand, responsible energy-resource extraction, transport, processing, transmission and usage are reasonable for a nation that is technologically sophisticated and concerned about adverse environmental and human impacts.

The best heavy industries on the planet, found in the United States, have continually strived to operate legally and ethically, educate their employees about the benefits and risks of their operations, and listen and respond appropriately to public concerns, all while improving energy efficiency and reducing impact to the environment.

The one fossil fuel that has traditionally been the muscle to hoist American workers out of poverty and above foreign competitors owing to its relative low expense and high energy content is coal. But typical of the contemporary climate, that which was yesterday’s hero is today’s goat.

Regardless, coal was and still is the top source for electricity production. And coal is still a vital ingredient in steel production.

Yet, the leftist spin is to demonize coal, an essential rock to America’s jobs and energy security and productivity.

Penn State emeritus professor Frank Clemente in Power Engineering magazine last year had the gumption to argue for investment in coal as the solution — not the problem — to much of the planet’s energy needs, since energy “from fossil fuels is the lifeblood of modern society.”

Mr. Clemente argued that coal “provides 40 percent of electricity, the foundation of modern society. Electricity means life.” The professor goes on to assert that “over two billion have inadequate access to electricity and another 1.3 billion have none at all. Almost three billion people use primitive stoves to burn biomass — wood, charcoal, and animal dung — thereby releasing dense black soot into their homes and the environment.” Mr. Clemente notes that millions die each year from the indoor air pollution generated from this burning practice, in addition to the environmental damage related to deforestation, water contamination, erosion and land degradation. He envisions “[t]he road to sustainable energy, a better environment and poverty eradication will be paved by clean coal.”

Options of low-sulfur coal and coal-cleaning technologies make much less polluting coal possible. And this is true across the board with advanced production and control know-how in today’s energy industry, regardless of the type of fossil fuel.

The all-of-the-above energy strategy for 2016 and beyond must consist of an inclusive “above” with fossil fuels in the mix. Otherwise, the U.S. and global markets along with their populace will continue to languish in a stagnant economic atmosphere, no matter what the climate decides to do.

Anthony J. Sadar is a certified consulting meteorologist and author of “In Global Warming We Trust: Too Big to Fail” (Stairway Press, 2016).

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