“Six Threats Bigger Than Climate Change” – Wall Street Journal, 28 August 2014

US Secretary of State John Kerry is concerned about climate change and rightfully so. The habits of people across the world have managed to impact our climate, causing large fluctuations in temperatures and more natural disasters, which significantly hit the world’s poorest nations and damage the global food supply. But yes, there are, as Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso points out, foreign policy issues that are just as important, or more important, than climate change.

Barrasso cites the following international issues that pose greater challenges to America than climate change: ISIS in Iraq; pulling out troops in Afghanistan and the subsequent terrorism; relations with Russia; Iran’s nuclear program; US assistance in Syria; and North Korea’s nuclear program.

While we concede that these are all very substantial concerns, Barrasso frames his argument as one or the other. We shouldn’t be concerned with climate change and new climate policy; we should completely focus our efforts on foreign policy and helping the world. Maybe Kerry made a lapse in judgement by stating that climate change is “the biggest challenge of all that we face right now,” but climate change is indeed a huge problem that can affect, and is affecting, our world.

Obama’s efforts to be diplomatic in regards US foreign policy seem to be a more long-term approach to the issues rather than making swift, rash decisions that could end badly. Conversely, Obama is able to make such swift political and economic issues in the US — such as using his power of executive order to push through new climate policy — because this is his home turf. Barrasso’s points are valid, but they seem to miss a key point — what change is Obama bringing to his own country, and why doesn’t change in America come first?

Though the US has lost a bit of its credibility recently, we have always been seen as the world’s savior and we’re always expected to lend a hand. That is an admirable trait and part of our identity as America, but perhaps it’s time that we — simultaneously, not exclusively — take care of our own for a bit. After all, juggling multiple goals and objectives is the President’s modus operandi.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

September 2, 2014

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“Coal’s Decline Hits Hardest in the Mines of Kentucky” – Wall Street Journal, 26 November 2013

Wall Street Journal

While the US’s stores of natural gas have been boosting the economy and lowering gas prices in unprecedented ways, the influx has also been hurting many Americans, especially those working in the Central Appalachian coalfields, primarily located in Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Over the past two years, dozens of Central Appalachian mines have closed, causing massive layoffs, which are likely to be permanent for the area. The coal industry is now concentrating on two other major coal basins in Wyoming and Illinois that are cheaper to mine.

Data from the Mine Safety and Health Administration shows that 26 Kentucky counties are the hardest hit by mine closings — counties that have been mining for over a century. Before 2011, the number of mining jobs in the region never dropped below 11,400; however, after 2011, the number of mining jobs has declined to 8,000, the fewest number of jobs since the 1920s. Almost 100 mines Kentucky’s eastern coalfields have shutdown since 2011, from 256 active mines to 161.

Many of the unemployed miners blame the layoffs on Obama and the EPA for introducing new regulations that will limit emissions for coal-burning power plants, what many Republicans have deemed the “war on coal.” However, the coal industry sees the layoffs as the sum of many things: new fracking technologies have further depressed the coal market, and Obama’s regulations have only worsened the situation.

Furthermore, many of the affected Appalachian coal mines’ production costs are higher (with a cheaper selling price), more abundant and more polluting than steam coal (used for power generation). Metallurgical coal, on the other hand, requires less production and a lower selling price needed for exportable global iron and steel production.

In 2003, coal produced 51% of US electricity and natural gas produced 17%; in August 2013, coal produced 39% of US electricity and natural gas produced 27%. The EIA has calculated that, while coal will still be power plants’ biggest fuel supply, use of coal by electricity utilities will decline over the coming decades. Around 9% of coal-fired power plants will be closing between 2013-2018.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

December 12, 2013

Phinix LLC

Copyright 2013. All rights Reserved by Phinix, LLC.

www.phinix.net    skdas@phinix.net

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