nd creativity of the American people has fueled the most prosperous and productive nation in the history of the world.
So what gives Americans—or anyone else for that matter—the character to pursue happiness? What animates our capacity to do work?
In a word: Energy.
Quite literally, the classic scientific definition of energy is the ability to do work. And Americans’ ability to perform work, to work hard and to pursue happiness over the years has been supported by an abundant and affordable supply of domestic American-produced energy.
Energy has been the indispensable ingredient in Americans’ ability to pursue happiness.
Think about it: The story of this country has been a story about American energy: coal, oil, natural gas. Abundant, reliable and affordable energy has always been essential to a growing national economy.
It built the railroads and conquered the West. It spawned the industrial revolution and won two world wars. It revolutionized communications and fostered innovation from Henry Ford and the Wright Brothers to Apollo and Neil Armstrong. It propelled us into the information age and the knowledge-based economy.
Energy always has been and always will be the key to Americans’ ability to work hard and pursue happiness.
It is no surprise, then, that the countries with the best human health and the most material wealth on this planet are the countries with the highest levels of energy consumption. The most salient difference between nations in the developed world and nations in the lesser developed world is that nations in the developed world produce and consume the most energy, whereas nations in the lesser developed parts of the world produce and consume the least.
And so before us, we have a choice—and it’s a choice between two futures.
The first is a future of energy freedom and independence in which we continue to embrace the ideals of our founding fathers, of Jefferson and Franklin, where men follow their dreams, can work hard and pursue happiness unconstrained by central planners in Washington D.C., where we can pursue an open energy system, and a diversity of energy sources to create jobs and opportunity and power a future of unlimited economic growth and potential.
The second is a future of energy scarcity and dependency in which we abandon the traditions of our founding fathers, reject the American work ethic and deprive Americans of their ability to pursue their dreams, by limiting the diversity of their energy choices to only those that Washington politicians, not the American people, decide are worthwhile and sustainable.
In short, in the words of Benjamin Franklin, we can be happy man or we can be the idle man. The choice is ours.
Here’s why this is relevant today…we are on the path toward a future of energy scarcity rather than energy freedom. We are on a path that replaces Americans’ right to work hard and pursue happiness with a government directed society in which politicians and bureaucrats restrict Americans’ freedom and limit their choices. And the best example of this is the Obama Administration’s War on Coal.
What is the impact of this great and abundant natural resource?
In 2012, coal was responsible for 37% of electricity generated in the United States, more than any other source of electricity.
Given current consumption rates, the U.S. has more than 230 years left remaining in coal reserves.
Coal is mined in 25 U.S. states and is responsible for over 760,000 U.S. jobs.
My home state of Kentucky has produced energy for centuries, and most importantly, we have produced coal. And our coal industry that ha been built by the hard work of my fellow Kentuckians powers America.
Kentucky was the third largest coal producer in the United States during 2011, and coal mining was by far the greatest source of energy production in the Commonwealth.
In 2011, Kentucky coal mines employed more than 19,000 individuals through the year, and mining directly contributed approximately $4 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy.
What has the War on Coal brought to our country and to Kentucky? Domestic coal decreased by of 4.6 percent just last year. In 2012, U.S. coal consumption for electric power declined by 11.5% in 2012. Within the past year, 226 coal electricity generating units have shut down.
In 2012, Kentucky’s overall coal production decreased by 16.3 percent, reaching its lowest level of production since 1965, and this has an impact on real people.
US coal mining jobs dropped by 7,700 in 2012, and New and Pending EPA Regulations Will Cost 1.65 million jobs.
With 205 coal-fired generators shutting down in the coming years due to stricter environmental regulations, the United States is expected to lose up to 17,000 jobs.
In my home state of Kentucky this War on Coal has been devastating to my fellow Kentuckians.
In 2012, direct employment in Kentucky’s coal industry decreased by over four thousand workers.
Mr. Speaker, this has a real impact on real lives. It is easy to sit in Washington and issue regulations when you don’t have to confront the human cost.
I want to yield time to some of my fellow colleagues in the house but before I do I want to tell a brief story that I think tells the story of the war on coal and why it matters to people all around this country.
It is a story of a young coal miner that I met in my home state of Kentucky. His name is Chris Woods, and Chris commutes over an hour each way, both ways, to and back home every day, and he took me in the coal mine and he wanted to show me his work – and it’s heroic work these coal miners do.
And he took me underground and he showed me what he did and as we were coming out of the mine, and as I recognized what he was doing was providing low cost reliable energy to the American people, you know he looked at me and he said, “you know Andy I don’t really know much about politics, and frankly I don’t care much about politics, but if you can save my job, I’m for you.”
And the thing about Chris Woods was, he wasn’t thinking about himself. His one paycheck takes care of his wife, two children, and both sets of parents. This matters to people, and for every one coal mining job lost there are 3 and a half additional jobs that are dependent on the coal industry.
And so Mr. Speaker, I look forward to having a discussion tonight about the future of coal in America, about the choices we have as a country to pursue our happiness, to work hard, to fulfill and embrace the founding fathers’ vision that we should shoot for the stars. That we should have energy diversity and energy freedom, and we should reject the path we’re on: a path of energy scarcity and dependence. And with that Mr. Speaker I’d like to yield to the gentle lady from Missouri, Anne Wagner.