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Gazette Premium Content The Great Divider focuses on global warming, coal

The Gazette editorial Published: June 26, 2013

The IRS has weakened the fabric of freedom by targeting people for political and religious views. The National Security Agency tracks civilian phone calls. The Federal Bureau of Investigation spies on the media. Our economy remains in low gear.

No wonder President Barack Obama wants to talk global warming.

The Great Divider spoke Tuesday to students at Georgetown University and promised windmills and solar gadgets on public lands by 2020. This likely means we're in for more careless investment of our hard-earned capital.

The president promised tougher emissions standards on new and existing power plants, such as the two coal-fired units that power Colorado Springs. He implied a desire to create even more barriers to completion of the Keystone XL Pipeline, a project that will otherwise create jobs and more potential freedom from Middle East oil.

In confronting coal, Obama took on our country's most promising export and an industry crucial to Colorado's stability. Colorado has 10 active coal mines and 14 coal-fired power plants that provide affordable and reliable electricity to the Springs and much of the rest of the state. The coal industry is a major Colorado employer.

"Royalties paid by the industry benefit thousands of Coloradans," wrote Sean Paige, deputy state director of Americans for Prosperity. "Obama's war on coal thus isn't just an attack on affordable energy, but an attack on a major driver of Colorado's economy, without which the state would be hurting."

While coal is a proven asset, Obama's alternatives have mostly proved disappointing. Take Colorado's own Abound Solar, which the president promoted in a 2010 speech. His administration gave Abound a $400 million loan guarantee and Obama told us the company would "create more than 2,000 construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs." In addition to the jobs, Obama told us the Longmont-based company, and others like it, would help "create whole new industries and hundreds of thousands of new jobs in America."

Instead, the company went bankrupt in 2012 and left 125 workers unemployed. The failure stuck taxpayers with the loss. There was the Solyndra fiasco and multiple rounds of First Solar layoffs. The list of failed or faltering alternative energy companies, bankrolled by Obama, is long and distinguished.

While Obama tries to artificially prop up unproven renewables, much of the world undermines his campaign against coal. Some reports say China brings a new coal plant online every five days. The World Resources Institute found 1,200 prospective new coal plants are in the planning process in 59 countries. That means we can spite ourselves domestically, by impeding coal and other fossil fuels, without making a dent in worldwide fossil-fuel emissions.

Even if coal genuinely threatens the planet, it's a good bet that China and India won't worry about it until their standard of living affords them the luxury to indulge environmental idealism. Unless, of course, they listen to Obama.

"I'm calling for an end of public financing for new coal plants overseas, unless they deploy carbon-capture technologies, or there's no other viable way for the poorest countries to generate electricity," Obama said Tuesday.

As Obama takes on coal well beyond his jurisdiction, we'd like to call for an end to public financing of more solar debacles in the U.S. Solar and wind have great promise. For that reason, we believe the private sector will eventually fund those endeavors deemed most likely to succeed.

If Obama's poorly timed speech has a silver lining, it's the emphasis his words place on the need to clean up emissions. Yes, we want clean air. Yes, we want to address credible concerns about global warming. And yes, we can do so without abandoning coal and without heavy-handed new regulations.

"It is a fact that coal is projected to produce up to 45 percent of America's energy for the foreseeable future," wrote former congressman Todd Tiahrt, CEO of Colorado Springs-based Neumann Systems Group.

In partnership with Colorado Springs Utilities, Neumann systems develops technology designed to remove contaminants from coal emissions.

"Globally, coal is here to stay and cleaning coal emissions is big business," Tiahrt wrote.

The free market can and will determine which energy products work best for us. As usual, private enterprise will continue making the most sensible sources of energy cleaner and safer to use. More federal interference in this equation only stands to hurt an economy struggling to recover.

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