War on coal?

Since President Obama’s speech on Tuesday, the air has been filled with cries about a “war on coal.” Mostly the wail has come from conservative friends of the coal industry, but an Obama advisor, Daniel Schrag, reportedly used that same term in an interview prior to the speech.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., immediately extended the metaphor to “a war on jobs,” but that was topped by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who said, “This is not just a war on coal, it’s a war on jobs, it’s a war on America.”

No, it’s a war on carbon dioxide.

I know many workboat companies make money moving coal and any reduction in its use will cause you economic pain, but you’ll find something else to replace it. How about natural gas?

Richard A. Muller is a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and a former global warming skeptic. His recent research was funded, in part, by the Charles Koch Foundation. After a two-year study called the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, Muller concluded in 2012 that “global warming was real and that … humans are almost entirely the cause.”

Muller’s conclusion matches the overwhelming consensus of scientists who have researched climate change all over the world. People who blithely discredit all this evidence are exercising willful ignorance, in my opinion.

One of the most devastating effects of global warming is rising sea levels, which rise right into our coastal cities during our more frequent storms. For a frightening glimpse at southern Florida as sea levels continue to rise, check out “Goodbye, Miami,” by Jeff Goodell in the June 20 issue of Rolling Stone. Talk about job killers.

Following the release of the Berkeley Earth report, Muller said we need to do two things: conserve energy by improving efficiency and “switch the world from coal to natural gas, which has only one-third the carbon dioxide of coal.”

In his Tuesday speech, President Obama said his plan to reduce carbon emissions in the U.S. is also a plan to “lead the world on a coordinated assault on a changing climate.” That means adopting Muller mandate #2: Kill coal.

People, this climate disruption thing is no hoax. We have to do something. It’s about what kind of planet our children and grandchildren will live on. The science is solid. We simply must curb the atmospheric accumulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases or temperatures will continue to rise and it won’t be pleasant. Natural gas isn’t perfect, but it’s a much cleaner and less expensive alternative as a fuel for power generation, at least as a bridge to non-carbon energy sources.

About the author

Bruce Buls

With a degree in English literature from the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!), journalism experience at the once-upon-a-time Seattle P-I, and at-sea experience as a commercial fisherman in Washington and Alaska, Bruce Buls has forged a career in commercial marine trade journalism, including stints at Alaska Fishermen’s Journal and National Fisherman, WorkBoat’s sister publications. Bruce spent 16 years as WorkBoat's technical editor before retiring in May 2015. He lives on Puget Sound’s Whidbey Island, about 20 miles north of Seattle (go 'Hawks!).

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