I must respond to speeches and social media posts from Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez. Gail Schwartz did not cause the demise of coal in Colorado or anywhere else. Neither did President Obama, the Environmental Protection Agency, nor Hillary Clinton. That claim is part of the Trumpian “Make a ridiculous and inflammatory claim for applause and fire up the base” philosophy – and it is insulting.
Here’s what happened to coal. Coal ran headlong into simple economics that my representative must understand. “Stop drilling! ... a 5-year-old could figure it out.” This was not a quote from an environmentalist or Obama, but oil man T. Boone Pickens in 2014 regarding the overproduction of oil and natural gas. But “drill, baby, drill” continued, and fracking tight-shale gas and overproduction caused a glut – the U.S. now leads the world in natural gas production – and a precipitous drop in price.
The cheap natural gas easily pushed coal – the much dirtier and more difficult fuel to extract and transport – right out of the market for thermoelectric generation. Coal is now virtually worthless, and the largest producers are underwater to the point that they’d like to sell it to energy-starved China to make our patriotic Walmart tees.
In 2011, Peabody Energy was sitting on coal worth almost $20 billion; it’s now worth $30 million. But of course, according to the GOP it’s Obama’s fault. I hope they don’t invest in the stock market.
This is a simple problem, and anyone cognizant of the energy industry knows it – but apparently not Tipton. So, what to do? Would Tipton prop up a dead industry like a nanny state, or try to stop gas production to make coal competitive? Or is he going to just lob lies at his opponent and let the chips fall where they may after he’s re-elected? Truth is, if you believe in the free market there’s not much you can do, but thanks to Trump, I can see where this is going to go.