A Closer Look at Climate Accord–and Our Congressman


By Tom Prigg
TribLive Op-Ed

July 14, 2017 – This is in response to Keith Rothfus’ recent op-ed, “A better ‘climate’ for America,” and honestly, it’s difficult to know where to begin.

In reference to the Paris accord, Rothfus claimed, “The American people would never approve of a deal so harmful to their security and prosperity.”

Yet, as The Atlantic reported, 70 percent of Americans want the United States to remain in the Paris accord.

Rothfus argued that during the 2014 polar vortex, natural gas failed to provide energy to capacity while coal and nuclear energy did just fine.

However, PJM Vice President Craig Glazer stated at the time that coal generation was stymied by “frozen coal or wet coal, frozen limestone, frozen condensate lines, frozen fly ash transfer equipment, cooling tower basin freezing, and freezing of injection water systems for emissions control equipment.”

Rothfus suggest the coal industry’s recent woes are due to President Obama’s policies. While some policies may have affected the coal industry output, the real driving force has been its own market forces.

Charles Bayless, former chief executive of Tucson Electric Co. and Illinois Power, said, “A gas plant is much cheaper to build than a coal plant and it is much simpler to run.”

Even Donald Trump’s director of the White House National Economic Council, Gary Cohn, said coal “doesn’t make sense anymore.”

This response is not an attack on coal, but we do need new energy sectors to boost our economy, generate jobs and drive down energy cost.

We should approach the problem like a venture capitalist. The renewable energy industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. The Department of Energy reports that solar energy alone employs 373,807 workers annually, while coal mining employs 74,804. Those are some sobering numbers.

After combining all the jobs produced by hydro, solar, and land- and sea-based wind, we could potentially see millions of new jobs in the future. These new energy sectors could provide jobs from the high school level to the Ph.D. level.

The worldwide market is taking off, and frankly, the United States is falling behind. Saudi Arabia’s oil ministry says the country will quit using fossil fuels by 2040. China plans to spend $360 billion by 2020 in renewable energy. India Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched an international solar alliance to raise $1 trillion.

If Rothfus was serious about economic and energy development, he would be writing op-eds about renewable energies to create jobs, not politicized, divisive rhetoric.

It’s difficult to believe his position is based on the best intentions for the people of District 12 when he personally profits so much on these “coal” stances.

Discussions toward solving our energy issues shouldn’t become a verbal pit match of coal vs. renewable energies. We need to openly acknowledge what is happening in the world, and take advantage of new opportunities for economic growth.

It’s also not about eliminating all fossil fuels today, an impossible task. What this means is that we need to develop new energy sectors for our economy, national security, and clean air and water for our families.

Tom Prigg, a research associate at Carnegie Mellon University and an Army veteran, is a Democrat running against Keith Rothfus to represent Pennsylvania’s 12th District in Congress.


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