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Columnists
Mr. President: To save coal, join the Paris Accords

Blackjewel’s recent bankruptcy has left seven hundred workers without a paycheck and was the sixth of its kind in only four years. While our delegation in Washington has offered their sympathies to struggling families, what Campbell County and our state economy really need is a plan, not condolences.

Here’s one: re-join the Paris Accords.

For too long our coal communities have been political punching bags. In the 2016 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton promised to put coal miners out of jobs, while Donald Trump promised to save coal by rolling back regulations. Both sides were disingenuous. The Clinton campaign knew that no new coal-fired plants were scheduled to come on line and there was little that could be done to accelerate the planned retirements. And the Trump campaign should have understood that no electric utility will undertake construction of a new conventional coal plant for economic reasons, not because of regulations.

To be sure, the standards for mercury and air toxics (MATS) adopted in 2011, the Clean Power Plan under Democratic President Obama, and the 1972 Clean Water Act signed by Republican Richard Nixon made coal-fired plants more expensive to operate. But the primary reason for declining demand has to do with the deregulation of the electrical grid and the low cost and abundance of natural gas through fracking, two policies which were supported by Republicans. Today if you ask any utility executive whether by rescinding of every Obama administration environmental regulation it would cause them to build a new coal-fired plant, and the answer would be no.

Fortunately, the Paris Accords provide a perfect opportunity to save coal. In its simplest form, the agreement requires each signatory to submit a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Each country has the flexibility to design the program and timeline. When President Trump announced his plan to withdraw two years ago, he got nothing in return because large states like California made clear their intentions to continue to implement elements of the Clean Power Plan and automakers sustained their efforts to invest in electric cars and increased fuel efficiency. Despite Trump’s intentions and increased regulatory roll-backs, not a single new coal plant is being planned in the U.S.

Coal communities don’t need empty promises, they need a viable plan — and that means working with the Democratic Party. Fortunately, by agreeing to join the Accords with two conditions, President Trump can change all that.

The first condition would be to allow Japan and South Korea access to Wyoming’s clean burning coal. This by itself would save the Powder River Basin, because while U.S. demand for coal is on the decline, demand worldwide continues to rise. Japan and South Korea in particular don’t have the land mass for solar or wind and have no large natural carbon reserves.

After the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident there is no appetite for extending Japan’s nuclear energy program, which means one of the easiest ways to reduce worldwide carbon emissions is to export clean coal from here and displace less environmentally sensitive coal from China and Indonesia. The environmental movement has resisted opening export terminals along the Columbia River, but they desperately want to re-join the Paris Accords. There is a deal to be made.

The second condition would be for the Senate and House to pass the USE IT Act, a bi-partisan bill championed by Sen. John Barrasso to push carbon capture technology. Carbon capture has the chance to transform coal into a “carbon neutral” form of electrical generation which, if allowed to succeed, would give coal a viable future. But the USE IT Act authorizes only $50 million in funding for critical research and development and should first be amended. To put this into perspective, in 2016 alone renewable energy research and development received $456 million – down from earlier years when it nearly reached $1 billion. Wind and solar would not have reached commercial viability without public funding—coal technology deserves that same opportunity. The Democratic Caucus wants to reduce carbon emissions and rejoin the Paris Accords. We want to sell our coal. Again, there is a deal to be made.

This proposed deal is also good politics for Republicans because, like it or not, 81% of Americans are concerned about climate change and voters disapprove of President Trump’s environmental policies by a ratio of two to one. Since recent polls suggest the president currently trails all Democratic front runners and is behind in the swing states of Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, cutting a deal to reduce carbon emissions while saving coal would advance his brand as a master dealmaker and improve his chances in 2020.

Fighting environmental groups to simply slow down the demise of coal isn’t working. We have to acknowledge we’re playing a losing hand and that time is running out for Wyoming. The families of Campbell County who just lost their paychecks don’t need political sympathy and they don’t need harsh soundbites that portray Democrats as our enemy. The price of partisanship has become too high. It’s time to stop using our coal communities for votes and tweets and instead save coal by working together.


Columnists
America is greater than 'just OK'

WASHINGTON — Maybe President Trump was right that we needed a “Salute to America” last week, because apparently some Americans have lost sight of the greatness of our country. Case in point: To mark Independence Day, The New York Times posted a video op-ed challenging what it called the “mythology” of American greatness. “America may once have been the greatest,” the Times video declares, “but today, America, we’re just OK.”

The video is like a caricature of how conservatives think the left sees America — except it isn’t a caricature; it’s real. It’s a straw man come to life. As evidence we’re just OK, the video cites statistics showing that other developed countries, such as Luxembourg, Sweden and Norway, have lower poverty rates or better education and health care outcomes than America. And as for our “kick-ass democracy,” the Times says, it’s not that big a deal because “a lot of countries have freedoms.”

Put aside for a moment all the misleading data the video uses to show America is not so great. The fact is, all the freedom and progress those other countries enjoy today would not be possible without the United States.

The reason that “a lot of countries have freedoms” today is because our Founding Fathers pioneered the principle of popular sovereignty, where governments answer to the people instead of the other way around. At the time of our founding, the rest of the world was ruled by monarchs. Our founders established the first country in human history that was built on an idea — the idea of human liberty.

For most of our history, American democracy was a global outlier. In 1938, on the eve of World War II, there were just 17 democracies. It was not until 1998 — just two decades ago — that there were more democracies than autocracies.

That dramatic explosion of freedom didn’t just happen. It was the direct result of the rise of the United States as a global superpower. The U.S.-powered victory over Nazi tyranny in World War II and our triumph over Soviet tyranny in the Cold War defeated the hateful ideologies of fascism and communism, and unleashed a wave of freedom that has spread across the world. Today, 4.1 billion people live in democracies. (Of those who do not, four out of five live in China.)

The unprecedented expansion of liberty has produced unprecedented prosperity. Last September, the Brookings Institution reported that “for the first time since agriculture-based civilization began 10,000 years ago, the majority of humankind ... some 3.8 billion people, live in households with enough discretionary expenditure to be considered ‘middle class’ or ‘rich.’”

None of that would be possible without the Pax Americana guaranteed by U.S. military. Americans liberated a continent, rebuilt much of it from the rubble of war with the Marshall Plan, and then stood watch on freedom’s frontier and prevented a Soviet tank invasion across the Fulda Gap. And today, the only thing that stops North Korea from invading South Korea or China from invading Taiwan is American military might.

So, let’s be clear: Every country that enjoys democratic governance today owes its birth of freedom to our Founding Fathers, and the continued existence of their democracy to the U.S. military.

Today, for all its flaws, America remains the freest, most innovative, most prosperous country in the history of the world. We invented the lightbulb and the iPhone. We put a man on the moon and a rover on Mars. We are a nation of unparalleled military power and unlimited opportunity. There’s a reason we have a crisis on our southern border; millions want to come here so that they can share in the abundance of American prosperity.

The men and women who flew those fighters and bombers over the Mall last week make it all possible. They provide the critical foundation of peace and security upon which our freedom, and the freedom of all the world’s democracies, is built. Maybe Luxembourg scores better on some measures, but no one is counting on Luxembourg to secure the peace of the world. Trump was right to shine a spotlight on our men and women in uniform and to remind those who have lost sight of it that the United States is not simply the greatest nation on Earth; we are indispensable. Without us, the world would be mired in the darkness of totalitarianism rather than the light of liberty.

That is better than “just OK.”


Letters_to_editor
Our president hasn't protected anything

In the News Record the other day Brad Schofield was discussing some stuff and he made the comment that as far as people in other countries, they just needed to be told the truth.

How about the truth of protecting us? The president of the United States took us out of the Iran nuclear deal and now Iran is enriching its uranium enough it can start weapons production. Most people aren’t aware that you can actually pack a nuclear bomb into something not much bigger than an oversized backpack. And the conservatives in Iran have a history of strapping bombs on and walking into places and setting them off. With the backpack nuke you can literally flatten everything in a 450-foot radius and then heavy damage going to no damage for a 2,600-foot radius and add to that the 100% down to 50% radiation kill radius of 2,200 feet. So that’s what our president has done to protect us.

But why would the Iranians do that to the U.S.? I have no idea myself, I do know they have no respect for international law as shown when they invaded our embassy and took our ambassador and all of our personnel there hostage for several years.

The president of the United States has also said he is in love with one of the most brutal dictators presently on earth. And his negotiating ability has allowed that dictator to develop missiles that can now reach farther than they could when he became president and at last count they had six more warheads for those missiles.

All this after he started negotiating.

But instead maybe we should tell the people of other countries the truth of how well the president of the United States has secured our coal jobs.

Bruce Williams

Gillette


Letters_to_editor
Remember those who gave their 'all'

My heart absolutely melted when I read the “Rock-solid patriots” feature in the “Our Life” section of the June 30 News Record with the sub-line “CCHS remembers its fallen with new monument” by Kathy Brown.

It slid me once again into my “I love my local newspaper, their writers, their photographers and everyone else who brings this miracle to our doorstep each day” mode.

The top of the monument reads “Loyalty Is My Honor,” and so it is written, and so it is once again said, as we remember those who have given their “all” for our freedom, lest we forget what they have done for each and every one of us (like so many do).

This Norwegian farmer would never flout the word “honor,” for it carries a special place in my heart for those who deserve it. This feature however, does deserve my honor, as does Kathy Brown, because I treasure those who honor and respect our history, as well as those who served and defended it with their lives.

Succinctly, suffice it to say that Kathy Brown is my hero, for the way she has been there for each and every one of us each and every day for years and years and for the great truth she has told us. God bless all of you at the NR for doing a great job. It is easy to complain, but our lifeline to the conduit of the world starts right here, so start writing.

Brad Schofield

Gillette


In_our_past
Gillette histories

From the July 14, 1927 News Record:

While helping Addie Ruby unload poles, Mrs. Florence Ruby met with an accident Saturday evening. The team became frightened and ran away while Florence was in the wagon. She was knocked unconscious and badly bruised. She is some better at present.

From the July 2, 1993 News Record:

Is that Timber Jack Joe on national television? You bet your life. Gillette “mountain man” Joe Lynde will appear in the final episode of Bill Cosby’s nationally syndicated television game show “You Bet Your Life” on Monday. The show is expected to air at 2 p.m. on cable channel 22, KEVN-Rapid City. Timber Jack Joe taped the episode in early March in Philadelphia. The show’s final episode ends with Timber Jack Joe playing his mouth harp and the king of comedy dancing along. “I just got started and he hit the floor a dancin’,” Joe said. “He sure cut a rug.” Cosby’s short-lived game show was a take-off of the classic Groucho Marx series.