Alabama’s economy is on a positive growth track, but the latest liberal winds blowing in from Washington have the potential to devastate our State’s economy. In 2012 I helped to pass an economic incentive plan in the Alabama State Senate designed to grow Alabama’s economy through coal production. Within weeks of the passage of that legislation a major announcement from Jim Walter Coal heralded hundreds of new coal-based jobs and several hundred million dollars in investment in the Tuscaloosa region. Now, just a year later, the Obama administration has announced what is becoming known as the federal “war on coal” by introducing choking regulatory burdens ostensibly designed to reduce carbon emissions. In actual fact it is a repeat of the Obama administrations failed attempt to pass cap-and-trade legislation in years past.
Make no mistake, this administration has shown time and again that its own liberal end justifies its means. There is a predisposition against conventional energy production in the current White House and if President Obama cannot have his way in Congress then he will circumvent the system with Executive Orders and Departmental Regulations. If this is allowed to go forward it will be devastating blow to Alabama.
Here in my own Senate District I have a coal-fired plant which has worked hard to comply with what were already increasingly difficult new emissions standards. As a result they have locally made a partial switch to natural gas. But not every coal-fired plant can be retrofitted. Not every power producer can purchase alternative energy sources. It is simply not cost effective, nor is it available. Already one of our major energy suppliers has had to purchase alternative energy from Oklahoma in order to expand its own energy portfolio. Those are not just absorbable costs. Unfunded mandates to revise energy production come at great cost at the production level and those would unfortunately get passed on to the citizens of this great state. At what point does the federal overreach stop? If the war on coal becomes a major liberal offensive in our state then my constituents will face an exorbitant series of rate increases – and I will not sit idly by and just watch it happen.
Aside from impacting Alabamians on their monthly power bill we would face the loss of jobs for our citizens. Our neighbors in Georgia have just seen the loss of hundreds of good paying jobs as liberal environmental activists forced the closure of multiple coal-fired plants in the Peach State. And industry as a whole will see the rate increases that come from the Obama mandate as a deterrent to expansion. It is a dire scenario.
Two years ago I sponsored a resolution in the Senate calling on the Obama administration to lift its moratorium on Gulf Coast Oil licensing. I believe in Alabama energy production. We have great deposits of coal, natural gas, and oil and the ability to extract and convert those resources are key to our growing economy. And while I am not opposed to alternative energy sources per se, I am opposed to mandating their unproven use and limiting the ability to effectively and responsibly make use of the assets already in our possession.
I am committed to pushing back on the liberal federal overreach and this latest installment of activism in the form of federal regulatory burdens is overreach of the worst kind. It is bad for Alabama, and bad for Alabamians.
Phil Williams, API Director of Policy Strategy, was a State Senator from Gadsden from 2010-2018. Follow him on Twitter at @SenPhilWilliams.