In tonight's acceptance speech at the RNC, Romney is widely expected to blame the Obama administration for an overzealous attack on coal. Along the way he'll probably shed a tear or two for the hardship this has imposed on coal country. Smart energy observers won't buy it and neither should you.
The reality is that what is killing coal right now is low cost natural gas. Coal can't compete with the abundant shale gas our nation now enjoys. Due to new drilling techniques gas is so cheap that gas-fired electricity is roughly half the cost of coal-fired electricity.
If anything it is the huge increase in drilling and access to public lands that has occured under the Obama administration that is killing coal--not over-regulation.
The irony of this fact is that a key part of Romney's energy plan is to further relax the rules and expand access to drillers. This would have the effect of reducing gas prices and thereby driving coal usage down even more. So Romney's energy plan would actually worsen the situation for the very people he claims to be helping.
Whatever you hear tonight, don't buy the story that regulation is killing coal. It's not the rules that are killing coal--it's the economics of abundant natural gas that are doing it. And Romney's bid to win coal country votes with his energy plan will actually have the exact opposite effect!