The War on Coal: Is It Important? An Interview with an Expert

September 21, 2012 at 5:00 am / by

About Ann-Marie Murrell

Ann-Marie Murrell is the original PolitiChick anchor and is the CEO/Editor-in-Chief of, which was nominated at CPAC 2013 as the “People’s Choice Blogger of the Year”. In 2013, Ann-Marie recei… More

With so many coal mining companies closing–most which are directly citing Obama’s “War on Coal”–I decided it was time to consult with an expert to learn more about the coal industry.

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but most of the information I know about coal mining has been relegated to movies such as Loretta Lynn biopic Coal Miner’s Daughter and embarrassingly, Zoolander.  Like many Americans, I think of coal as something archaic, used only by characters in A Christmas Carol or by Santa Claus when you’re naughty.

Because of Barack Obama’s seemingly vindictive War on Coal (to go along with his wars on class, race, women etc…) I went to my friend and leading expert on all-things-fossil fuel, Chris Skates.

I first became aware of Chris about a year ago after I read and reviewed his book, Going Green, For Some It Has Nothing To Do With The Environment.  Since then, Chris and I have not only become friends, but I also introduced him to my sister-site, where he is now a columnist.  Chris is currently a Plant Chemistry Supervisor at a Midwest Utility with 23 years experience in both fossil fueled and nuclear power generation. He has published technical papers and has obliged with the following exclusive interview.              

A-M: Let’s get right into the coal mining issue.  As I told you, my knowledge of coal is very limited. Is coal still an important resource?  What is it primarily used for in America?

CS: Yes it is a critically important resource. Despite all the negativity you hear in the news these days about coal. And despite the “war on coal” (which is real), coal still provides 57% of our nation’s power. It could easily provide 100% if we were so inclined. The resource is that abundant. In my opinion as a Chemist we are very foolish not to take advantage of the blessings of this abundant resource.

A-M:  One of the issues that Democrats continually push is that coal is “dirty”, bad for the environment and needs to be replaced with alternative energy sources.  Are you and others against this?

CS: Well, I am certainly not against a clean environment. The thing is, I don’t accept their premise. You are exactly correct in the way that you state the environmentalist point of view. In fact, I personally have heard them say, “Coal is dirty”. That is a very broad and generalized statement. Is pollution emitted when coal is burned? Certainly. But what is the alternative. Well, one alternative is that we all stop using electricity. That is not realistic. Electricity has significantly improved our quality of life. I would propose that electricity and the devices it powers have saved lives. So then if we accept at face value that we MUST have electricity, the only question left is from what source?

The contention that solar, wind, algae etcetera can supply this nations massive energy needs is ridiculous on its face. Despite claims by environmentalists, solar currently only provides .09% of our needs. That is not because not enough money has been spent on it, it is because the source is far too inefficient and expensive.

So realistic alternatives are coal, nuclear, and gas. Fracking is changing the face of our energy sector very rapidly. We have enormous reserves of natural gas available by fracking. What we don’t have is an energy infrastructure that can adequately use this resource. Likewise, there is still much to learn about fracking safety.

Nuclear has its own unique set of environmental challenges, namely, what to do with spent fuel. New theoretical technologies for reactors are very promising and could offset the challenge of radioactive waste. But again they are not ready yet.

So if we look at things pragmatically, any source of energy that is capable of producing the energy we must have, could be deemed as “dirty”. There are some tradeoffs we must allow for if we are going to have energy available. I frequently say when I am asked to speak somewhere. We can have a clean environment AND economic development. However, we cannot afford a pristine environment. The human cost is too high.

Ultimately the pollution from coal plants has already been reduced by orders of magnitude when compared to plants in say, China. We can generate all the cheap, reliable, safe power that this country wants and we can generate it all from our vast coal resource. We just have to be allowed to do so.

A-M: What are other countries doing regarding their coal plants? Are nations that compete with us abandoning coal?

CS:  That’s a timely question. Our chief competitor, China, built a new coal generating plant every month last year! That’s 12 very large coal plants that were started up. And not one of them has the multi-million dollar pollution control equipment installed that we use on our plants. Ironically, we are exporting large amounts of our coal resource to China. So China burns the coal anyway and with less pollution controls. Then China reaps the economic benefits or OUR resource.

A-M:  Obama and others have said straight up that energy prices would “necessarily skyrocket” if we were to start using alternative energy sources.  Why is this, and would that actually happen (prices would skyrocket)?

CS: Yes they will. It is simply supply side economics. We are on a path to shut down 1.9 Gigawatts of coal generation by the spring of 2013. That means less supply. Now right now you may not notice that as a consumer. But let us assume that we get what we all want. Let us assume that the economy comes roaring back. Then demand goes up. At that time we will not have adequate supplies because so many coal plants have been abandoned.

Or let’s look at another possible scenario. If we insist on forcing a rapid change to alternative energy, then we have enormous capital expenditures ahead of us. The infrastructure to implement these sources of energy does not exist. It will costs trillions to get them built in time to meet demand. Those capital expenditures will be paid by you the consumer.

All of this is avoidable. We have the infrastructure and the plants to generate with coal. We just have to be allowed to do so. The cost increase to the consumer will either go away or be a fraction of these other alternatives.

A-M:  For the past month or so you have been giving testimony in hearings regarding the coal industry.  Tell us about your involvement with that—what are you testifying about and who is leading the case against the coal industry?

CS: So interesting that you asked me that question today. I have been asked to testify in two hearings in two separate states. In both cases the question before those state boards (boards that set state environmental policy), was whether or not those boards should allow utilities some breathing room when it comes to environmental regulations.

The environmentalists would have you believe that these utilities are greedy, that they don’t care about the environment and that they only want to get out of complying with environmental laws. This is not an accurate premise.

The truth is, so many regulations have been published in recent years that utilities are literally drowning in regulations. Your readers should understand. Each regulation represents multi-million dollar expenditures for the coal plants. So many of these expensive regulations have come out, that plants are literally going broke and having to close.

In the two cases that I have been involved in, the utility has been asking for a few extra years before they have to meet the latest regulations. That allows them to spread the expense over 4 or 5 extra years. In that way, more of them can survive.

Interestingly, I got an email while doing this interview, that one utility was granted the extension. So there is hope.

To learn more about Chris Skates please visit his website,







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Ann-Marie Murrell

Ann-Marie Murrell is the original PolitiChick anchor and is the CEO/Editor-in-Chief of, which was nominated at CPAC 2013 as the “People’s Choice Blogger of the Year”. In 2013, Ann-Marie received Front Page Magazine’s Glazov Gang Ronald Reagan Award. Ann-Marie writes for dozens of respected Conservative websites including TownHall, Daily Caller, Front Page Magazine, The Blaze and more. Ann-Marie is often a guest speaker at rallies across the US and is a frequent guest on radio and TV shows, including a 2013 appearance on the Dr. Phil Show in which she represented the conservative viewpoint. She has been featured on dozens of radio and television shows, including Fox News, BlazeTV, the Dennis Prager Show, the Janine Turner Show and she is a regular commentator and guest host on One America’s Rick Amato Show, Front Page Magazine’s Glazov Gang and the Mark Isler Show on 870/The Answer. Ann-Marie is one of the go-to conservative reporters in Los Angeles and has covered multiple political events throughout the United States. Ann-Marie has conducted hundreds of interviews with conservative leaders including Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Lt. Col. Allen West, Dr. Ben Carson, and she was one of the last reporters to interview the late Andrew Breitbart. Ann-Marie speaks at various Conservative rallies and 2nd Amendment events across the country, from California to Texas and many cities in between, and was the exclusive reporter for the David Horowitz Freedom Center West Coast retreat. You can find Ann-Marie Murrell on Facebook and Twitter (@PolitichickAM). (@PolitichickAM).

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  1. Tami Nantz says:

    awesome informative article, Ann-Marie! Thank you!!

  2. Rich Knoch says:

    Solar and Wind may be a workable solution in around 20+ years . . . . didn’t obama’s Green Ripoffs prove just that? Solar and Wind production for single family or small neighborhoods is a viable solution right now . . . but it really isn’t cost efficient when transmitting electricity over long distance transmission lines.

    obama and the EPA seem unaware that around of 50% of our electricity is produced by burning coal. You cannot change a central-to-our-economy provider and have the economy survive . . . . with current and near-future technology.

    The EPA will be closing about one coal powered plant a day unless they remove their head from the place the sun never shines. They may be thinking of the only remaining alternative; i.e., Bernanke’s virtual $100 bills, as they go up in smoke . . . anyway.

  3. Gee Ann what does any of that have to do with saving American’s from themslves? It used to be only you can prevent forrest fires now its only the government can feed cloth and abort your babies.

  4. Bob Marshall says:

    Since while attending Occidental college Obama was a Marxist Revolutionist. The (Father of green energy) was Karl Marx. Van Jones, Obama’s former “green jobs” czar stated in a UpRising Radio interview that the purpose of the push by the Obama administration for “green jobs” was to bring down capitalism.

  5. Obama is no as smart as the media try to sell . He very dumb when is come to learning for his pass mistake. ( Maybe that why he sealed his school records ) Only a fool will keep doing the same thing after learning that It didn’t work the first time. Obama has bad judgement and can not even pick good people. My dad always said you can judge a person by his friends. Well this does not set so well with Obama. We all know who Obama friends. are. Just to mention a few. REV Wright, REv Al, The black Panther , Van Jones, and all the anti american Czars ,We could go on and on, But I sure you got the picture by now..Obama is not only a bad leader he is a bad person with a lot of criminal conduct in his pass……..OBAMA BOY FRIEND AND FELONY PASS WITH DOPE ”””” >> Obama must be defeated.******SHARE THIS WITH AMERICA !!!!********* Obama Supporter Interviews Herself Obama tell the wrold his faith.. .Make sure all amercans vote this trader out come November.

  6. Josephco says:

    While the administration is pushing for green energy and electric cars have any one question how much would cost to ‘re-charge’ the electric batteries after every short trip.?
    I have a feeling that their electric bill is going thru the roof while just saving a gallon of gas or so a day.

  7. Excellent, Ann-Marie! Very educational!

  8. Good information – thanks for researching and putting it together!

  9. I always learn so much when I read your articles…you are awesome and your articles are extremely informative!

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