Some Kentuckians will have a hard time processing this. But the dastardly cap-and-trade legislation might well be coal's best chance to survive as a fuel of the future.
"Preposterous," you say, "I've heard about the Obama-Pelosi plan to destroy all things coal."
Well, shocking as this may sound, politicians and their ads don't tell the whole story. To those suffering from overheated campaign rhetoric, we offer a few soothing facts:
The energy legislation Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has triumphantly declared dead in the Senate would pump $60 billion into developing technology for capturing and storing carbon emissions.
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This technology is what the warm, fuzzy commercials touting "clean coal" are talking about.
Because of the huge cost and complexity, though, no one expects it to happen without significant financial support from the government.
There was no such support during the Bush years. In fact, the Bush administration scuttled plans for the public-private FutureGen coal-fired power plant in Illinois that would have demonstrated carbon capture and storage, explaining the project's cost had doubled.
The Obama administration disputed that costs had doubled, and FutureGen is revived in the energy bill the House passed last year and that is now the target of so much Republican bile.
We should say here that many smart people contend spending billions on "clean coal" would be a huge waste because renewable technologies, such as wind and solar, will surpass and become cheaper than carbon capture. They may have a point.
But if you are looking out for coal's future, as Kentucky politicians profess to be, coming up with a way to put $60 billion into carbon capture and storage is no threat.
On the contrary, as U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said recently in West Virginia, carbon capture is a way to "save coal."
That's one of the reasons the Edison Electric Institute, made up of investor-owned utilities, supported the cap-and-trade plan, to try to maintain coal's long-term viability as a power-plant fuel.
But, you say, what about consumers? Someone has to foot the bill. Under the Obama-pushed plan, utilities would pay in various ways to achieve lower carbon emissions and would pass along those costs. Households would pay more for electricity. Industries, especially energy-intensive ones, would be forced to eliminate jobs.
In attacking U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler for voting for the energy bill last year, Republican Andy Barr claims it would cost Kentucky 35,000 jobs. However, the study he cites says there would be no job loss for 20 years because of free permits and generous offsets for energy producers and users.
By 2030, natural growth in the economy would more than offset any job losses from curbing carbon emissions, if indeed there are any.
Barr also claims the bill Chandler supported would cost households nearly $1,000 a year in increased energy costs. But the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost at $175 a year.
In Kentucky, LG&E and Kentucky Utilities have said residential rates would go up about $126 a year in three years and $228 a year by 2020 as a result of the cap-and-trade bill.
There are provisions in the bill to soften the effect of the rate increases on lower-income consumers, who would actually come out ahead, according to some estimates.
You have to figure that even in coal-rich Kentucky there are universal benefits to beginning to curb the causes of climate change.
Voters who care about the future of coal, Kentucky or the planet should remember this: Those responsible for the overheated rhetoric and attack ads are thinking no further than the next election.