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Would a President Obama Bankrupt the Coal Industry?

The Internets are seeing much ado today about some remarks Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama made early this year on coal and greenhouse gasses. A snippet is in the video at right. (Ignore the red captions and exclamation marks – if you can!!!!)

Senator Obama describes a carbon cap-and-trade system pretty accurately. He concludes with some provocative language, though: “So if somebody wants to build a coal-fired plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”

A cap-and-trade system is actually supposed to avoid bankrupting anybody by driving the market to discover the most cost-effective ways to reduce greenhouse gasses. This is something Senator Obama recognizes and wants to foster.

That being said, all the carbon cap-and-trade programs we’ve seen so far look to be huge undertakings that will cause significant economic dislocation. And, yes, “significant economic dislocation” means bankruptcies and job losses for some unfortunate businesses and people.

The two most expensive bills proposed in the current Congress are carbon cap-and-trade bills: S. 2191, the America’s Climate Security Act of 2007 (cost: about $17,000 per U.S. family) and S. 3036, the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008 (cost: over $12,000 per U.S. family). Those are big expenses for the nation to absorb.

Ultimately, the answer to the question, “Would a President Obama Bankrupt the Coal Industry?” is . . . : wrong question!

You should decide for yourself whether you want a carbon cap-and-trade program in this country, you should watch what Congress and the next president do, and you should give your opinion to your elected representatives early and often.

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