Presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg recently announced that if elected he will phase out coal power in the U.S. by 2030. He made this proclamation standing in the pouring rain in front of a retired coal power plant, telling the handful of people gathered that the photo-op was “one of the dumbest things we’ve ever done,” which could have been a reference to any number of his policy ideas.
Only a few days later, he declared that natural gas and gas emissions are “really scary.” He continued, referring to the great natural gas power plant build out, “this is going to be worse than coal.”
It was an amazing confession coming from a man who has spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying for a pivot to natural gas. In fact, as recently as 2017, he called gas a “godsend.”
The mayor is — to his credit — at least unphased by his mistakes. There hasn’t appeared to be much in the way of soul searching.
He certainly hasn’t identified a crippling flaw with his energy and climate approach. Targeting a fuel, or fuels, in one nation, is hardly an effective global emissions reduction strategy.
His obsession with dismantling the U.S. coal industry — and now the U.S. oil and natural gas industries — is a remarkably irresponsible recipe for economic catastrophe. He is determined to erase millions of American jobs, torpedo U.S. energy security and place cripplingly regressive costs on the nation’s consumers.
President Bloomberg would in theory do all of this while watching global fossil fuel use continue to rise.
Oil consumption has shot through 100 million barrels per day. We are now in the golden age of natural gas. And according to the International Energy Agency, global coal demand will continue to grow for at least the next five years.
Global coal use has grown 65% since 2000. Coal production increased by 3% just last year. Coal remains the leading fuel for electricity, meeting 38% of the world’s needs.
This may be inconvenient to the mayor’s calculations, but already 73% of coal is consumed in Asia. China continues to use more coal than the rest of the world combined.
Destroying entire U.S. industries and putting millions of Americans out of work might be the policy vision he thinks will put him in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue but it’s hardly a global emissions reduction strategy. It’s surely not a replicable one.
Slashing emissions is going to require innovation. It’s going to require cheaper and better wind and solar power, nuclear energy and advanced fossil fuel technologies to reduce emissions from the energy infrastructure the world has and the fuels it uses and will continue to use far into the future.
Mayor, here’s a policy idea. Rethink the crusade against jobs, and affordable, reliable energy. Contribute to the development of something the world needs — think carbon capture and utilization or high efficiency, low emissions technology — rather than the destruction of so much. At the very least, it won’t be the dumbest thing you’ve ever done.
Conor Bernstein is a spokesperson for the National Mining Association, the industry’s trade group based in Washington, D.C.