THE Environmental Protection Agency is poised this week to place additional restrictions on coal-fired power plants. Strict and arbitrary rules imperil not just the coal industry, but other industries that rely on the cheap electricity, including the aluminum industry.
That in turn will adversely affect employment, tax revenues and consumer utility prices.
Right now, West Virginia ranks No. 44 in electric prices with an average of 10 cents per kilowatt hour. That is good since West Virginians rank No. 47 in income.
Restricting coal restricts efforts to make American energy independent and rid of so many of the headaches around the world. While hydraulic fracking has made it easier to tap into natural gas reserves, that market remains more volatile than coal in pricing.
Having the EPA pick natural gas over coal would increase the price of the latter and kill the coal industry.
"Once you set something in stone, you discourage investment in that sector, and you take a flexible market and ossify it," Scott Segal, a coal industry lawyer told Bloomberg News. "The market price of natural gas can change" but regulations don't.
Renewables such as wind look good on paper but are not nearly as reliable. A court ordered the owner of the Beech Ridge Wind Energy Project in Greenbrier County not to operate at night from April 1 to Nov. 15 each year to protect bats and migratory birds.
Both nuclear power and solar energy have their drawbacks as well.
The point is West Virginia has coal and its coal-fired plants provide the cheap, reliable energy from a local source. This allows the state to compete on a global basis. West Virginia now exports to foreign nations nearly $4 billion a year in products.
That is in addition to the $7.4 billion in foreign coal shipments last year.
America needs a balanced approach to energy that makes good use of its most abundant sources.
While the EPA is charged with protection of the environment, Congress needs to protect the economy.