State of Appalachia in State of the Union?

Today, on his blog Coal Tattoo, Ken Ward asked “What should President Obama say about the coal industry’s future in his State of the Union address?” We want to hear your thoughts too–whether in the comments here, or over at Coal Tattoo. What are you expecting to hear about coal and about Appalachia’s Transition more broadly tonight?

Ken writes:

The pundit class of our country is, of course, in a frenzy about tonight’s State of the Union address, with everyone offering views about what President Obama will say and what he should say. David Roberts over at Grist, for example, wants President Obama to say:

… I plan to vigorously defend the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to implement reasonable measures to reduce climate pollution. As the agency carries on with the work of the Clean Air and Water Acts, some of the most successful and cost-effective public health programs in the nation’s history, I will veto any bill that attempts to take them backwards.

When we make our people healthier and our industries more efficient, we make our economy stronger. There is no conflict between clean air and prosperity. They are complements, each a measure of America’s strength and confidence.

So, why shouldn’t Coal Tattoo get into the act?

I’d like to hear from readers on various sides of coal industry issues … what would you like to hear President Obama say about coal? And how about we try to get beyond easy sound-bites and stuff like, “I want him to say he’s abolishing mountaintop removal effective tomorrow” or “I want him to announce he’s doing away with EPA” … let’s be a little more thoughtful than that, folks.

As a reminder, coal did get a mention in last year’s State of the Union, in which the President said:

… To create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. That means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. And yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.

Interestingly enough, just two days after that speech, in an unusual question-and-answer session with Republican members of Congress, President Obamaalso called for West Virginia to transition its coal industry into a cleaner, safer future:

So what I want to do is with West Virginia to figure out how we can seize that future. But to do that, that means there’s going to have to be some transition. We can’t operate the coal industry in the United States as if we’re still in the 1920s or the 1930s or the 1950s. We’ve got to be thinking, what does that industry look like in the next hundred years?

And it’s going to be different. And that means there’s going to be some transition, and that’s where I think a well-thought-through policy of incentivizing the new while, you know, recognizing that there’s going to be a transition process and we’re not just suddenly putting the old out of business right away. That has to be something that both Republicans and Democrats should be able to embrace.

Kristin Tracz

About Kristin Tracz

Kristin Tracz served MACED’s Research and Policy team from 2009-2012 working on clean energy policy, energy efficiency programs and the Appalachian Transition Initiative. She joined MACED after finishing her Master of Environmental Management degree at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. She now lives and works in Washington, DC.