Politics & Government

Kentucky Republicans react to Obama's plan to fight climate change

Obama would like to see restrictions on coal-fired power plants like this one: LG&E's Trimble County plant in Bedford.
Obama would like to see restrictions on coal-fired power plants like this one: LG&E's Trimble County plant in Bedford. Lexington Herald-Leader

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, released the following statement regarding President Barack Obama's plan to tackle pollution and prepare communities for global warming:

"President Obama today declared a war on coal, and thus declared a war on Kentucky jobs and our economy. Whether it is through the retroactive denial of permits, onerous regulations on coal-fired power plants, or unreasonable environmental requirements, the policies of this Administration are threatening the very way of life that has sustained Kentucky communities for generations," Paul said. "As a defender of the free market and of coal, I will continue to fight back against the EPA and any other federal agency whose goal is to stifle coal production. I will continue to stand up for our miners in Washington as we continue to recognize the sacrifices they make to provide food for their families and energy for America."

Republican Party of Kentucky Chairman, Steve Robertson, had this to say: "President Obama's 'war on coal' is essentially a war on Kentucky's jobs, a war on manufacturing, and a war on one of the Commonwealth's most important industries - coal. His actions will diminish Kentucky's low-cost electricity advantage, and subsequently cause manufacturers to flee our state," Robertson said. "The fact that President Obama claims to care so much about job creation, yet plans to enact sweeping measures that threaten to displace workers across the country in both coal and manufacturing, shows that he is deeply out-of-touch with the priorities of Kentuckians and the American people."

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville, made the following remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday:

"In advance of the President's big speech today, I read this morning that one of the White House's climate advisors finally admitted something most of us have long suspected anyway. He said ‘a War on Coal is exactly what's needed' in this country.

"Exactly what's needed — that's really what he said.

"It's an astonishing bit of honesty from someone that close to the White House. But it really encapsulates the attitude this Administration holds in regard to states like mine, where coal is such an important part of the economic well-being of so many middle-class families.

"And it captures the attitude it holds in regard to middle-class Americans across the country, where affordable energy is critical to the operation of so many companies and small businesses &mdash and to those businesses' ability to hire Americans and help build a ladder to the middle class for their families.

"Declaring a ‘War on Coal' is tantamount to declaring a war on jobs. It's tantamount to kicking the ladder out from beneath the feet of many Americans struggling in today's economy. And I will be raising this issue with the President at the White House today.

"One of the sectors the President's war on jobs would hit is manufacturing. Ironic, perhaps, because just a few months ago it was President Obama himself who said: ‘I believe in manufacturing, I think it makes our country stronger.'

"Well he's right. Manufacturing does make our country stronger. Just look at Kentucky. We're the first in the nation in aluminum smelting. We're third in the production of auto parts. And Kentuckians know these types of industries strengthen not just the Bluegrass State, but our entire nation &mdash they provide well-paying jobs, economic growth, and tickets to prosperity for workers and their families.

"And yet, in the global economy of the 21st Century, retaining — much less expanding &mdash our manufacturing core has never been more challenging. We face relentless competition from all corners of the globe. So policymakers have to be careful about the types of policies they enact. Obviously, American success in a hyper-competitive world is strengthened when we keep taxes low and regulations smart.

"And, perhaps most importantly, it's strengthened when we ensure energy is abundant and affordable. These are energy-intensive industries, after all. If the White House moves forward with this war on jobs and raises the cost of energy, that would almost assuredly raise the cost of doing business &mdash and that would likely put jobs, growth, and the future of American manufacturing at risk.

"That's one of the many reasons why Americans rejected the President's attempt to impose a national energy tax in his first term. Even with overwhelming majorities in Congress &mdash including a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority in the Senate &mdash Washington Democrats were unable to pass the President's energy tax. Here in the Senate, the Democrat majority wouldn't even bring it up for a vote.

"Think about that: they could have pushed it through on their own, without a single Republican vote. And yet they couldn't.

"Why? Well, for one, the constituents we serve are a lot smarter than some here in Washington might like to believe. They know you can't impose a national energy tax without cutting jobs and significantly raising energy costs &mdash not just on their families, but also on their employers. And the data seem to bear out such concerns. I remember some projections showing that, by 2030, the Waxman-Markey proposal could have decreased the size of our economy by about $350 billion and reduced net employment by 2.5 million jobs &mdash even after taking ‘job creation' into account.

"So Americans made their opposition to this tax clear to members of Congress. And, in the 2010 midterm elections, they ousted a good number of those who voted for it in the House. And because of concerns about job losses, higher utility bills, and reduced competitiveness, Congress today is even less inclined to vote for an energy tax than when the President commanded such massive majorities in his first term. It's fairly self-evident to say there is no majority for such an idea in the 113th Congress.

"But the President still wants to push ahead and ignore the will of the legislative branch, the branch closest to the people. Whether the American people want it or not, he says he'll do it by presidential fiat. I'm sure we'll find out more details in his speech later today. But, if I'm right &mdash and I think I am &mdash he's going to lay out a plan to do what he wants through executive action. In other words: more czars, more unaccountable bureaucrats.

"The message this sends should worry anyone who cares about constitutional self-government. That the President can simply ignore the will of the representatives sent here by the people because he wants to. Because special interests are lobbying him. Because he wants to appease some far-left segment of his base.

"Well, what I'm saying is this: he cannot declare a war on jobs and simultaneously claim to care about manufacturing. And he cannot claim to care about states like mine, where an energy tax would do great damage to the countless Americans employed in energy sectors like coal.

"Look: For many, wages are already failing to keep pace with rising costs. Many families have seen their real median income decline in recent years. And a survey released yesterday showed that three-quarters of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck.

"This is the reality of the Obama Economy. Even in the best of times, imposing an energy tax would be a bad idea. But in an era of unacceptably high unemployment &mdash an era when Americans are desperate for the President to finally focus on growing the middle class, rather than throwing scraps to his wealthy supporters &mdash ideas like this border on the self-defeatingly absurd.

"He may as well call his plan what it is: a plan to ship jobs overseas.

"Basically, it's unilateral economic surrender. And to what end? Many experts agree that a climate policy that does not include massive energy-consumers like China and India is essentially meaningless &mdash but the damage to our economy would be anything but. And, ironically, those are the very type of countries that stand to benefit economically from our loss. So nations like these will probably just take our jobs, keep pumping more and more carbon into the air &mdash and what will we have to show for it?

"That's a question the President needs to answer today.

"Americans want common-sense policies to make energy cleaner and more affordable. The operative phrase being common-sense, because Americans are also deeply concerned about jobs and the economy. That's what the President should be focused on. Incredibly, it appears to be the furthest thing from his mind."