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Blunt Calls For End On Government 'War On Coal'

Jo Mannies/St. Louis Public Radio and the Beacon

When it comes to energy, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt says that the federal government has taken the wrong approach for years.

“The refusal to acknowledge that we’re the Saudi Arabia of coal is a big mistake for us,” Blunt, R-Mo., told St. Charles County officials and business people gathered Thursday night at the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce.

Instead, he said, “There’s a clear war on coal.”

Blunt offered the county leaders, including St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann, an assessment of government action — or inaction — on a number of fronts. They included the federal budget, where he'd like to see more debate, and the Affordable Care Act, which he sees as an overall disaster.

The senator was expected to offer similar observations Friday morning in St. Louis before the Regional Chamber at its public-policy forum.

At the event in St. Charles, Blunt's most passionate comments were about energy and coal.  Blunt said that the United States has failed for too long to focus on bolstering its own energy sources. That failure, he said, has led to higher energy costs for the public.

In particular, he said that the United States was ignoring its riches in coal – because of the fossil’s checkered past – and instead relying on sources of fuel, notably oil, purchased from countries “who don’t like us.”

Although emphasizing that he’s all for newer sources of fuel, Blunt said the practical truth was that “the fossil fuels are going to be the fuels for the foreseeable future.”

In that context, he said it was irresponsible to reject coal instead of making better use of it.

The anti-coal approach also hurts the Midwest, where much of the sources of coal are situated.  “Because of coal, we have a big advantage in the broad middle of the country,” Blunt said.

By trying to impose too-stiff restrictions on coal and other U.S.-based energy sources,  Blunt said, energy jobs are going to less environmentally friendly countries like China, Mexico and Brazil, where “they’re much less interested in what comes out of the smoke stack than we are.”

For example, he said, the new Keystone would be built. The only question, he continued, was whether it traveled south through the United States or west to send the oil to China.

Blunt contended that the United States’ penchant for importing oil from other parts of the world has led to too much reliance on purchasing the fuel from unfriendly nations.

“There’s nothing wrong with buying from people who don’t like you,” Blunt said. But he then emphasized that such a practice was wrong when it became a necessity.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.