What is the State of Wind Energy in America?

This week the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) CEO Tom Kiernan published an op-ed at The Hill‘s Congress Blog titled “The State of the Wind Industry is Strong.” We noticed that Mr. Kiernan’s piece omitted several important points about the state of American wind energy, so we took it upon ourselves to make those additions for him, our edits in red.


The state of the wind lobbying industry is strong

The strength of the U.S. wind industry is attracting the notice of a mirage built on massive subsidies from the highest levels of government. In his State of the Union address, President Obama noted that the U.S. leads the world in wind generation, as well as being fleeced.

The fact that the U.S. is #1 – leading even China — comes from an analysis by EDF Renewable Energy executive Dr. James Walker, former CEO of the AWEA, which is the DC-based lobbying arm of the wind industry. Wind energy is an American success story: the U.S. invented utility-scale wind farms, and by investing in them here in the U.S., we now have some of the best infrastructure with a 20-year life span—that turns out to be much less in reality—this country has ever built.

How did we become #1? Well, to be honest, wind is #1 when we say it is. Back in 2012 when we said wind was the “top source of new generation,” we were referring to installed capacity, not actual energy production (natural gas actually beat us by ten fold that year in new production). For the purposes of this article, though, we like how our production stacks up against China’s, so we’ll go with that. Trust us—we’re experts. 

America is blessed with excellent wind resources, which are only economical with taxpayer subsidies, and hard-working Americans high-powered lobbyists have made great strides in capturing and delivering more wind energy subsidies to American consumers multi-national wind conglomerates. That is why the average U.S. turbine is more productive – powering more homes than turbines in other countries – due to technological progress. We’ll never be as productive as natural gas, coal, hydroelectric, or nuclear power plants, but our wind turbines are slightly better than China’s, and that’s good enough for us.

A key, successful federal tax policy has encouraged companies to become this efficient, by only rewarding performance. And by performance we mean randomly generating electricity whenever the wind happens to blow, about 30 percent of the time on average, not when people actually need it. Unfortunately, Congress let the renewable energy Production Tax Credit expire once again at the end of 2014. By providing a long-term, stable policy, we can retain our number one status, keep well-paying jobs and invest in American communities. We realize that letting the PTC remain expired is a long-term and stable policy too, but please don’t do that. If the PTC goes away even AWEA won’t be able to fudge the numbers enough to make the wind industry look good.

There is bipartisan support for this tax incentive, as shown in the State of the Union address and the GOP rebuttal. Newly-elected Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who delivered the rebuttal, may not agree on much with President Obama. One thing they do agree on is that investing in wind power makes sense and that the Production Tax Credit is the right policy to continue growing this abundant, homegrown resource. That’s not news to people who know the PTC was actually written by an Iowa Republican, but it sounds nice. The hundreds of millions of tax dollars that get diverted to Iowa every year through the PTC probably have no bearing here either. Please ignore all of that.

If the parties come together to pass this commonsense policy, the U.S. can write the next chapter on the historical rise of wind power as it transforms from an obscure technology in 1888 to a slightly less obscure technology over a hundred years later. Very exciting. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s forthcoming Wind Vision report, American wind power can double wind by 2020 and double again by 2030 to provide 30 percent of U.S. energy. We can do all this and save consumers money simultaneously if policymakers keep supporting federal tax incentives to attract the necessary private investment. I am literally begging you to support my industry (which is really strong, I promise) with your tax dollars. Without handouts from Congress, we are pretty much helpless.

Kiernan is CEO of the American Wind Energy Association.


(The original piece is here for reference: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/energy-environment/230248-the-state-of-the-wind-industry-is-strong)

Red Tape

Red Tape 600AEA2

LNG Reform Deserves Swift Senate Approval

Sen. Cruz is proposing an amendment to the Keystone XL bill that will require that the Department of Energy to expedite all approvals for LNG export to any World Trade Organization (WTO) country. This would be a major improvement over the status quo.

Currently the LNG export approval process is too slow and cumbersome. LNG exports require two different permits from the federal government. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reviews an application for an LNG export terminal and issues construction authorization. The Department of Energy (DOE) reviews the application and issues the export license.

Last August, DOE proposed rules that limited expedited LNG export reviews to only projects which would export LNG to countries with which the U.S. has Free Trade Agreements. The problem is that the U.S. only has Free Trade Agreements with a mere 20 countries, including countries like Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, and Oman that have little need for LNG.

Last year, Sens. Mark Udall, Begich, and Heitkamp introduced the American Job Creation and Strategic Alliances LNG Act—S. 2083. Both Sens. Udall and Begich lost their re-election bids, but Sen. Cruz is carrying on their legacy on LNG reform by offering this language as an amendment to the Keystone XL bill. As Sen. Udall said about this language last year:

Our nation’s clean-burning and job-creating natural gas has an important role to play in strengthening global security. The ongoing crisis in Ukraine shows why we need to responsibly develop our natural gas reserves and expand our ability to export this resource abroad. This common-sense bill will strengthen our economy at home and help Colorado companies and small businesses across America bolster our presence abroad.

That was true last year, and it is still true today. LNG exports will help in places like Ukraine, but it will also help our allies such as Japan who rely on large amounts of LNG. This language deserves swift action by the Senate.

NREL Survey Fatally Flawed; Past Time to Repeal RPS

More than half of U.S. states have established Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) requiring electric utilities to generate a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources. These mandates raise energy costs by forcing households and businesses to use more wind and solar energy, which are more expensive and less reliable than traditional energy sources like nuclear, natural gas, coal, and hydro.

Faced with these facts, some states are considering repealing or reforming their RPS mandates. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, however, are trying their best to build the case for the states to keep their RPSs with a recent survey. But as a new study from the Reason Foundation shows, the NREL and Lawrence Berkley Laboratory survey is fatally flawed.

The authors of the Reason study, Tom Tanton and Julian Morris, found that the NREL survey contains “a number of structural and conceptual problems” that “end up potentially misleading policymakers” who may be interested in repealing their state’s RPS. Some of the study’s key flaws include:

  • “The Survey is incomplete with respect to the cost of integration of intermittent and volatile generation sources. Specifically it ignores the cost of backup capacity and the lost efficiency of power plants required to balance the output of intermittent and volatile generation.”
  • “Similarly, the Survey ignores the very expensive Production Tax Credit that shunts almost half of the cost of wind installations onto taxpayers (many of whom realize zero benefit from wind installations) made even worse by special tax depreciation available only to certain renewables.”
  • “The benefit estimates also suffer from double counting. Double counting is especially prevalent with emission reductions, as those benefits (and their costs) have already been accounted for in such regulatory programs as Clean Air Act Regulations. The majority of the dollar benefits from emission reduction cited in the Survey are from reductions of carbon dioxide ‘priced’ at the EPA’s highly controversial ‘social cost of carbon.’”

The NREL survey claims that the benefits of RPS mandates generally outweigh the costs. But as Tanton and Morris explain, the survey fails to take into account the full costs of forcing more renewables on to the grid while it double counts some of the benefits. Reason concludes that the survey “should not be used to formulate or justify policy in any state or federal legislation.”

Indeed, RPS mandates make energy more expensive for American families. As the Institute for Energy Research explains in testimony submitted to the Kansas State Senate, RPSs force states to replace their most affordable, abundant energy sources (nuclear, natural gas, coal) with more expensive, unreliable sources (wind and solar).

The following chart compares the costs of installing and using various types of energy sources. As you can see, wind and solar are both significantly more expensive than nuclear, natural gas, and coal.

lcoe rps

These figures are not an academic exercise—they have real-world impacts on electricity prices. States that use the most affordable energy sources also tend to have the lowest energy prices. As the following chart illustrates, coal generates the largest share of electricity in seven out of the top 10 states with the lowest retail electricity prices. The other three states use primarily natural gas and hydro. And only three out of the 10 states with the lowest electricity rates have RPS mandates (a few set voluntary goals).

lowest res prices

Lawmakers who are considering repealing or reforming their state RPS mandates should not let the flawed NREL study give them cold feet. Renewables are more expensive and less reliable than traditional energy sources. That means any state laws mandating or subsidizing renewables tend to result in more expensive energy costs in that state. These costs will only increase as RPS mandates increase. If people want to see lower prices, getting rid of RPS mandates is a good place to start.

AEA Energy Analyst Alex Fitzsimmons authored this post

White House Threatens to Veto American Infrastructure

In his 2015 State of the Union address, President Obama emphasized the importance of infrastructure while at the same time making a not-so-subtle quip about the Keystone XL oil pipeline:

21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure – modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet. Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this. So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than thirty times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come. [Emphasis mine]

However, the president’s disdain for improving America’s pipeline infrastructure is not unique to Keystone XL. Before his SOTU speech, the White House announced that the president planned to veto H.R. 161, The Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act if it ever made it to his desk. This legislation, introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), would “provide for the timely consideration of all licenses, permits, and approvals required under Federal law with respect to the siting, construction, expansion, or operation of any natural gas pipeline projects.” God forbid.

Essentially, the bill would speed up the process of expanding and constructing new natural gas pipelines by:

1. Requiring the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to approve or deny an application within 12 months.

2. Requiring the responsible agency to approve or deny a license, permit, or approval within 90 days of FERC’s approval. The agency can extend the time period by 30 days if it demonstrates that it cannot complete the process in the 90 days.

Why We Need More Pipelines

Pipelines are critical for delivering affordable and reliable energy to American families. Last winter’s polar vortex and the stress it put on the Northeast’s pipeline infrastructure demonstrated the need to expedite the permitting process and construct more natural gas pipelines. In recent years, the region has increasingly turned to natural gas as an electricity source in addition to using it as a heating source. When demand for heating spiked last winter, there simply wasn’t enough pipeline capacity to meet this demand.

As the Institute for Energy Research has explained, this lack of infrastructure sent natural gas and electricity prices through the roof last winter. On January 6, 2014 natural gas prices more than doubled in New England and nearly quadrupled in New York. Similarly, on Tuesday January 7, 2014, wholesale electricity prices in the region, which typically hover around $40 or $50 per megawatt-hour, jumped to $200 in New England and $500 to $1,000 in other parts of the region. These skyrocketing prices could have been avoided, or at least lessened, had there been enough pipeline capacity.

Conclusion

Last winter’s polar vortex clearly demonstrated the need for more natural gas pipelines. By streamlining the process, the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act would help the Northeast and other impacted regions avoid a similar fate during future winters. Unfortunately, President Obama’s promise to veto this commonsense infrastructure bill could leave Americans susceptible to future price spikes.

Click here to read AEA’s “Key Vote” alert for H.R. 161

Durbin’s Petcoke Amendment Will Drive Up Cost of Energy

Today the Senate is voting on an amendment offered by Sen. Durbin to increase the regulation of petroleum coke or “petcoke.” This is another example of the administration and its allies trying to drive up the cost of domestic energy production and domestic energy use.

What is Petcoke?

Like gasoline and diesel, petcoke is produced in oil refineries. Once viewed as a byproduct, petcoke is now an important internationally-trade commodity and is helping to grow many developing economies. Petcoke is not only used as a fuel, but also as a source of carbon for industrial processes.

How is Petcoke Produced?

Petcoke is produced after crude oil undergoes two processes. First, the oil is distilled into various products, separating out the light parts of the oil—the gasoline vapors, liquid petroleum gas (LPG), naphtha, and kerosene from the heavier parts of the oil. The heavier portion of the oil is then processed through a “coker” which subjects the remaining oil to high heat and pressure to exact as much of the lighter gasoline-like parts of the oil as possible. What remains after the coker after the high heat and pressure is a substance called petroleum coke.

What are petcoke’s uses?

Petroleum coke is high in carbon—this makes it chemically similar to coal and both energy dense and useful for many other industrial processes that require carbon.

About 80 percent of petcoke is used as fuel. While petcoke is similar to coal, it generates just 0.2 percent of America’s electricity, while coal generates nearly 40 percent. Instead, petcoke is usually used as a fuel to make cement, lime, brick, glass, steel, and fertilizer as well as many other industrial applications.

Much of the rest of the petcoke is “calcined petroleum coke.” Calcined petcoke is petcoke that is again heated to remove moisture, volatile matter, and impurities and to increase the electrical conductivity. Calcinced petcoke is used to make steel, graphite, and titanium.

Calcined petcoke is essential to the creation of aluminum. Because of its high carbon purity and a lack of contaminants, calcined petcoke provides the only economically viable method to produce primary aluminum. Calcined petcoke also produces titanium dioxide, a safer alternative to the lead used in paint.

Why is petcoke Important?

Demand for U.S. petcoke is rising, with China, Mexico, Japan, Canada, India and Turkey as the largest importers. China, for instance, imported 3.2 million barrels of petroleum coke from the U.S. in this past April alone, their third largest monthly volume of all time.

America became a net exporter of petroleum products in 2011 and the exports of petroleum coke is one of the reasons. As the next chart shows, the U.S. exported 184,167,000 barrels of petcoke in 2012, a nearly 30 percent increase since 2009.

Coal is one of the most affordable and abundant sources of energy for electricity generation. But international coal prices are often higher than U.S. petcoke prices, making U.S. petcoke an attractive option for many countries to use as a fuel.

Growing demand in developing countries, coupled with affordable prices, has enabled U.S. petcoke to emerge as a valuable export for the U.S. and a cost-effective analogue for coal for much of the rest of the world.

Sen. Durbin’s Amendment

Sen. Durbin’s amendment would require the federal EPA to develop new regulations for petcoke. This is unnecessary because petcoke is already regulated by the states and multiple federal laws including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and it is regulated under the International Fire Code as well. New regulations from EPA would drive up the cost of producing and using petcoke. It should be noted that EPA has been the agency of choice for President Obama to carry out his plan to make electricity prices “necessarily skyrocket.”

One of the ways that Sen. Durbin’s amendment would increase energy prices is that it could reclassify petcoke as a “hazardous waste,” which could lead to the closing of coker units at refineries. This is because it is possible that the refineries would stop making petcoke altogether instead of dealing with the regulations on hazardous waste.

If all of the coking units at refineries were to close, it would decrease domestic gasoline production by over 1.3 million barrels a day and diesel production would decrease by over 650,000 barrels a day. To put that in perspective, the U.S. produces about 9.6 million barrels of gasoline a day and 4.9 million barrels of distillate (which includes diesel) a day. This reduction would increase the cost of producing gasoline and diesel in the United States and would “offshore” some of our gasoline and diesel production to other countries.

Also, reducing petcoke production in the U.S., as the Durbin amendment would lead to, would reduce the amount of this valuable commodity for other manufacturing purposes, such as aluminum production, steel production, and fertilizer production—further harming U.S. manufacturing.

Conclusion

Petroleum coke is an important product of America’s refineries and is used around the world for manufacturing processes and to make energy. Senator Durbin’s amendment threatens to drive up the costs of making and using petcoke in the United States. This would only harm U.S. manufactures with no environmental gain. After all, EPA does not classify petcoke as a hazardous waste and EPA has not observed carcinogenic, reproductive, or developmental effects from petcoke. In other words, Sen. Durbin’s amendment is all pain and no gain.

Obama’s SOTU: The Good, the Bad, and the Forgotten

On Tuesday, President Obama delivered his sixth annual State of the Union address. The address was peppered with references to low gas prices (which are good but he has nothing to do with) and booming energy production (also good but happening despite his policies), part of an agenda he described as “middle-class economics.”

The address was also notable for what the president didn’t say. While the president declared that “no challenge poses a greater threat” than climate change, he failed to point out that his policies do almost nothing to solve the climate problem while making life harder for American families, particularly the “middle class” families Obama claims he supports.

Below we read between the lines to bring you the good, the bad, and the forgotten from President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union.

The Good: Gas Prices are Low; Energy Production is Booming

President Obama: “And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save $750 at the pump.”

Gas prices have fallen for 16 consecutive weeks to just $2.07 per gallon—the lowest levels in more than five years—according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Low gas prices are an economic boon for American families, adding disposable income that can be spent on consumer goods like restaurants and movie theaters, used to pay down debts, or saved. The following chart shows the 16-week decline in U.S. gas prices that started June 23:

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 11.38.06 AM Source: Energy Information Administration

However, it is disingenuous for the president to claim that higher fuel standards save Americans money just like lower gas prices. Although the administration’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards (CAFE) force automakers to build more fuel-efficient vehicles, the rules also make cars more expensive, pricing millions of Americans out of the new-car market. Low gas prices don’t do much good for the family that can’t even afford a car.

In fact, booming domestic energy production, not fuel efficiency standards, are driving affordable gas prices. The drop in gas prices followed a precipitous decline in world oil prices, which have been cut in half since last summer. And oil prices are down because the U.S. is producing record amounts of energy here at home, reducing our need to import oil from overseas. The following chart shows how U.S. oil production has climbed by 32 percent since 2011:

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 11.38.58 AMSource: Energy Information Administration

As we will explain below, America’s domestic energy boom benefits American families, but it is not happening everywhere. It is only occurring on state and private lands outside of President Obama’s control.

The Bad: Obama’s Policies Threaten Abundant and Affordable Energy

President Obama: “We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. And today, America is number one in oil and gas.”

The president is correct that the U.S. is now the world’s top combined oil and natural gas producer, ahead of Saudi Arabia and Russia. However, President Obama has nothing to do with the domestic energy boom. In fact, the boom is proceeding despite—not because—of the president’s policies.

Energy production is soaring, but not everywhere. On lands controlled by states and private individuals (where the president has little input) oil output has increased 61 percent since 2009. Meanwhile, oil production has actually declined 6 percent on lands under federal control. The following chart compares oil and natural gas production on federal vs non-federal lands:

IER-Oil-and-Natural-Gas-Production-on-Federal-vs.-State-Lands

To make matters worse, the administration is gearing up to impose unprecedented federal rules on hydraulic fracturing and methane that threaten to undermine America’s impressive energy gains. Here’s a rundown:

  • Methane plan threatens state and private lands with federal control. Last week, the White House announced a plan to reduce methane emissions from certain oil and gas operations. The rule is unnecessary, as methane is already down 16 percent since 1990. Moreover, methane emissions from hydraulic fracturing have plummeted 73 percent since 2011, even as natural gas output has soared (on non-federal lands).
  • BLM set to impose federal hydraulic fracturing rules. A proposed rule from the Bureau of Land Management would regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal lands. As IER explained in comments to BLM, the rule is “duplicative, costly, and unnecessary” because states and localities already regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal lands. The rule is expected to affect more than 5,000 oil and gas wells and cost up to $1.61 billion per year.

America’s energy producers are thriving on non-federal lands, where state regulators and individuals with local knowledge make development decisions. The continued success of America’s energy boom depends on keeping the federal government off of state and private lands.

The Forgotten: Minorities Suffer Under President Obama’s Policies

Just as important as what the president said during is State of the Union address is whom the president forgot to mention. Climate-change researcher Nicole Hernandez Hammer earned a seat in the First Lady’s guest box during the State of the Union address. The president, however, failed to highlight her work during the address.

Her only mention comes from the White House website, which describes Hernandez Hammer’s work on sea-level issues, including “how cities and regions most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and sea-level rise also have large Hispanic populations—something she learned firsthand growing up in South Florida.”

The administration’s implication is clear: if you’re Hispanic, you should care about climate change. Unfortunately, the president’s climate agenda harms the minority populations it is designed to help and does almost nothing to combat climate change. Here are a few reasons why:

  • EPA rule fails to reduce sea levels. The cornerstone of the president’s climate action plan, proposed carbon dioxide limits for existing power plants, is expected to reduce sea-level rise by just 1/100th of an inch, or about the thickness of three sheets of paper.
  • Hispanics, Floridians, and all Americans face higher energy prices. While doing nothing to abate sea-level rises, Obama’s policies raise energy costs on American families, including Hispanics. A NERA analysis finds that Florida, where Hernandez Hammer resides, could face 17 percent higher electricity rates under EPA’s existing power plant rules. Nationally, households in 43 states could see double-digit electricity rate hikes.
  • Obama’s climate agenda disproportionally harms minorities. Hispanics and other minority groups spend a larger share of their household budgets on energy, which means they also shoulder a larger burden of Obama’s costly energy policies. According to the Libre Initiative, median household income for Hispanics is $40,979. For households with incomes of less than $50,000 per year, energy comprises nearly 15 percent of total spending and is the second largest category of family expenses, ahead of even food.

President Obama’s rhetoric on “middle class economics” belies his record. His climate agenda harms those it is supposed to help but does little to actually reduce sea levels associated with climate change.

Conclusion

In his 2015 State of the Union address, President Obama referenced booming domestic energy production and low gas prices. Unfortunately, the U.S. has more abundant and affordable energy despite the president’s policies, not because of them. While America’s energy innovators are producing record amounts of oil and natural gas on state and private lands, output on federal lands has been dropping for years. Meanwhile, the president’s costly climate agenda would make energy more expensive for all Americans, particularly minorities and low-income households. A positive vision for energy prosperity lies with America’s energy producers and American families, not with President Obama’s policies.

AEA Energy Analyst Alex Fitzsimmons authored this post.

Obama’s Methane Plan Whiffs on Climate Change

As we explained last week, President Obama’s proposed methane scheme is an attempt to fix a problem that does not exist. Methane emissions are declining as natural gas production is booming—and it’s happening all without federal intervention because natural gas producers have an economic incentive to reduce methane emissions.

The proposal also fails to accomplish its stated purpose to “curb climate change.” A new report from the Cato Institute explains:

The amount of methane that falls under the new EPA regs is very small; in the grand scheme of global warming, it is so small as to be climatically immaterial (which is the other thing wrong with Podesta’s blog headline—it won’t “curb” climate change a whit).

In 2013, methane emissions accounted for about 9% of greenhouse gases emitted in the United States. (Carbon dioxide accounted for 82%.)  Of this 9%, about 3% are the subject to the proposed EPA regulations—which seeks to cut those emissions in half.

Cato estimates the plan would reduce global temperatures by just 0.002°C by the end of the century—an essentially negligible amount. Despite grandiose claims of leaving a “more stable environment for future generations,” Obama’s methane rules will do almost nothing to address climate change.

Meanwhile, even the administration admits that methane is already declining without “ambitious” federal rules. A White House fact sheet states, “[Methane] emissions from the oil and gas sector are down 16 percent since 1990 and current data show significant reductions from certain parts of the sector, notably well completions.” Even more impressive is that methane emissions from hydraulically fractured gas wells have plummeted by 73 percent since 2011, according to EPA’s own data.

All of this is happening during one of the largest domestic energy booms in U.S. history. The following chart shows soaring U.S. oil and gas production amid declining methane emissions:

methane-emissions-vs-oil-and-gas-production

The numbers don’t lie: President Obama’s methane rules are unnecessary. Energy producers already have an incentive to reduce emissions because methane (the primary component of natural gas) is a valuable fuel that provides electricity and heating to millions of American households. Affordable natural gas has also fueled a domestic manufacturing renaissance, encouraging businesses to expand operations and bring more jobs back home from overseas. Instead of adding new layers of red tape chasing non-existent problems, President Obama should simply stand aside and admire the great American energy boom.

AEA Energy Analyst Alex Fitzsimmons authored this post.

Wind Fall

Wind Fall 600 AEA

The War on Coal in One Map

coalThe Obama administration likes to deny there’s any “War on Coal,” but the numbers don’t lie. West Virginia, the heart of coal country, now has the lowest labor participation rates among all 50 states — less than 50% of people 16 and up are employed. It is the only state in the country with a labor participation rate below 50 percent. Market Watch reports:

West Virginia quietly passed the ignominious milestone of having less than half of its adult, civilian population in the workforce in November.

State data compiled by the Labor Department shows that West Virginia’s civilian labor participation rate has fallen to 49.8%, from 50% in October. The national rate in December was 62.7%.

The Mountain State is the only state in the history of the series, which goes back to 1976, to have fallen below 50%, though Mississippi at 50.8% isn’t far behind.

The fact that West Virginia fell below 50 percent for the first time in the history of the Labor Department measuring labor participation isn’t surprising. US coal companies let 7,700 employees go in 2012 then lost another 2,000 jobs before May 2013. None of these numbers include the pain suffered by communities supported by the coal industry.

These are the results of a coordinated from our government to end American coal, all from the same President Obama, who said “if somebody wants to build a coal powered plant it will bankrupt them” and Vice President Biden, who said “no coal plants here in America”.

While increased production of inexpensive natural gas certainly plays a role in the demand for coal, so too have new regulations. Without approval from Congress, this administration created new regulations attacking existing coal-fired power plants and essentially banning new high-tech coal-fired power plants. Policies like this could increase electricity rates by as much as 80%, hitting those who can least afford it the hardest.

West Virginia is feeling the heat from Obama’s anti-affordable energy policies; the rest of the country should take note of the canary in the coal mine.