Sen. Joe Manchin wrote an op-ed column for the Daily Mail Opinion Page (Energy agenda crushing West Virginia, Nov. 2) positing that Environmental Protection Agency regulations out of Washington are killing the coal industry in West Virginia and that we must own up to and acknowledge coal’s continued role to play in our nation’s energy portfolio.

I respectfully disagree, and offer up a counterargument.

First things first: Coal is in decline primarily for market, not regulatory, reasons. Cheap and plentiful natural gas; more foreign competition from developing countries like China and India; harder, more dangerous, and more expensive to mine coal seams — these are the major factors in the decline of coal. The EPA has a comparatively small role to play in coal’s inevitable decline.

Though coal’s slow decline is causing real economic hardship in West Virginia, it is also an unabashedly good thing for our global climate.

Ninety-eight percent of the global science community has reached consensus that anthropogenic (human-centered) global climate change is, and has been, occurring. To paraphrase from the website: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of 1,300 independent scientific experts from countries all over the world, have concluded that there is a more than 90 percent probability that human activities over the past 250 years have warmed our planet.

The modern industrial era has caused an increase in carbon dioxide molecules in our atmosphere from 280 parts per million (ppm) to 400 ppm in just the last 150 years.

This strongly correlates with a greenhouse effect that professionals in the climate sciences believe is already contributing to a range of disturbing phenomena including, but not limited to, sea level rise, melting glacial ice, increased oceanic acidification, increased incidences of drought and wildfires, increases in insect outbreaks, lower crop yields, increased incidences of disease among both flora and fauna and more frequent and far more severe weather events. For more on these effects see the latest issue of National Geographic, numerous IPCC reports, the conversion of physicist Richard Muller, as well as photos by James Balog.

All of these phenomena lead to higher costs for both the public and private sectors of all countries.

The group Citizen’s Climate Lobby (of which I am a volunteer) has a legislative proposal that can begin to reduce the U.S. reliance on fossil fuels and move our economy to long-term strength and stability dependent on renewable and sustainable forms of energy provision.

The proposal is called Carbon Fee and Dividend. To summarize it briefly, the proposal would place a $15 fee on each ton of CO2 at the point of extraction to be collected by the Treasury Department.

The Department of Energy would propose and promulgate fees for other greenhouse gases. Yearly price increases of at least $10 per year would continue until total U.S. CO2-equivalent emissions would be reduced to 10 percent of U.S. CO2-equivalent emissions in 1990. The Department of Energy would decide if more than a $10 annual increase is needed over time.

All fees would be placed in a Carbon Fees Trust Fund and be rebated 100 percent to American households. Carbon-Fee-Equivalent Tariffs would be charged for goods entering the U.S. from countries without comparable carbon fees/carbon pricing. Carbon-fee-equivalent rebates would be used to reduce the price of exports to such countries. The State Department would determine rebate amounts and exemptions if any.

More information is available on Carbon Fee and Dividend at Also available on the website is an extensive REMI study that lays out the various socioeconomic and other impacts of the Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal.