'Coal' is not a dirty word if we are realistic about saving the Earth

Posted: June 05, 2008

Americans are a practical people. We will rally to a new, compellingly communicated cause, but, after the dust settles, we tend to take a hard look at what is being pitched, who is doing the pitching, and how it fits in with what we know to be true.

Witness the recent reconsideration of both the Iraq war and Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

Yet, it's still surprising that, according to a recent ABC News poll, only 33 percent of Americans believe man-made global warming is the world's most serious environment crisis.

This finding comes after years of global-warming propaganda, the "conclusive" evidence in news reports, Al Gore's Nobel Prize, claims of melting ice caps endangering polar bears, and the hysterical drum beat from UN scientists and liberal politicians around the world.

The media hype has had an impact - environmentalism is in. Most of us skeptics are perfectly fine with the going-green movement's practical side. I recycle. I constantly turn lights off around my house (although I think that is just a dad thing). I bought a fuel-efficient car, and I am more conscious of taking care of God's creation.

As for solutions like carbon taxes, cap-and-trade legislation and other government efforts to control our energy consumption, however, I think most Americans don't believe Al Gore and the hysterics (good rock band name) have made the case.

Could it be that Americans know that over time the Earth goes through natural cooling and heating cycles?

Could it be that they recognize that most of the doomsday scenarios are not scientifically supported and that even the "consensus" projections are just that - projections based upon highly interactive questionable assumptions over long periods of time?

Or could it be they suspect that no one really knows the role that man-made carbon dioxide plays in the larger scheme of climate change?

Perhaps Americans know that China will burn more coal this year than the United States, the European Union and Japan combined but has refused to participate in any carbon-reduction effort - all the while taking advantage of the attendant cost savings to steal more American jobs.

Or maybe Americans are coming to understand that global temperatures have actually cooled over the last 10 years and are predicted to continue cooling over the next 10.

Or that these proposed remedies would have a devastating effect on our economy.

A National Association of Manufacturers study suggests that the Lieberman-Warner climate-change bill now before the Senate could increase gas prices to close to $10 per gallon. In Pennsylvania, it could result in the loss of 139,000 jobs by 2030?

But my hunch is that the public's skepticism about global-warming doomsdayism comes from a well-founded can-do confidence that American ingenuity will figure out how to cope with climate change through innovation instead of government regulation.

We are practical. Why not use technology to lower carbon emissions? And we can by building more nuclear power plants and developing and deploying clean-coal technology, which has already reduced emissions by 70 percent since 1970.

There is that dirty word: coal.

Those lumps of carbon turn the lights on in 50 percent of American homes.

In an age when energy independence is not only important for our economy, but also vital to our national security, we can't afford not to use this plentiful domestic resource.

Our presidential candidates consistently talk up "green-collar jobs." If they're serious, we can develop more technologies that will lower carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal.

If they would stop reflexively bowing to the anti-fossil-fuels crowd, we could boost investment in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology that captures and stores carbon dioxide from coal-powered electrical plants.

CCS separates and captures carbon dioxide at the power plant before it is emitted. It is then liquefied, transported by pipeline and injected deep underground into geological formations for permanent storage.

Contrast this down-to-earth, commonsense approach with Barack Obama's other-worldly proposal. He's calling for a mandatory 80 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2050.

This would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to the same level as Third World nations.

By rejecting technologies like CCS, a President Obama would have Pennsylvania's blue-collar communities clinging to more than their guns and religion. They would be clinging to the last cent in their pockets.

I confess, I have a soft spot for Pennsylvania's industrial sector. My grandfather was a Pennsylvania coal miner, and I've lived most of my life in steel country.

We can't let what's left of the industrial heartland fall prey to the latest attempt by Washington to raise taxes and pick politically correct winners and losers in our economy while at the same time stifling American ingenuity.

If our next president and Congress let this happen, mill towns across the country will have cause to be truly bitter.

Contact Rick Santorum at rsantorum@phillynews.com.

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