Coal is also a known cause of health problems to those who work in the industry and because of the air pollution it generates, which is a danger to public health. The National Academy of Science has found that exposure to coal pollution in China lowers life expectancy by five years. And in Europe, a study found that coal pollution causes more than 22,000 premature deaths every year.
But the coal industry is not going down quietly. Even after Obama announced new regulations on coal power pollution, it's fighting back with the only weapon it has: money. It's using the money to buy influence with politicians who have no scruples about supporting an industry known to have a negative impact on public health and on the health of our planet. The politicians use the money for their campaign chests, which helps them get re-elected and perpetuates the problems caused by the fossil fuel industry.
Now it seems that even the money generated by the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision that allows immense private campaign contributions is not enough. It's costing more to buy politicians' souls these days, so coal baron Shaun McCutcheon, a climate change denier, is requesting that the U.S. Supreme Court rule that he and his fossil fuel buddies be allowed to contribute even more to secure the support of friendly politicians. Follow along below the fold as Stephen Kretzmann of Oil Change International writes at The Huffington Post:
Why does Shaun McCutcheon want to be able to spend more on elections? What does he want to do with the increased access and influence this will buy him in Washington? Likely much of the same thing he has been doing -- advocate for his coal industry and peddle climate denial.The SCOTUS heard McCutcheon vs. FEC this past Tuesday. We won't know their decision until 2014. In the video below Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), who attended oral arguments, makes a statement on the case:
McCutcheon's company, Coalmont Electrical Development, makes industrial electrical equipment that is used in coal mines. The coal industry is in trouble both in the United States and globally. Huge amounts of cheap natural gas from fracking has undercut coal, the price for coal has dropped, and the coal market is flooded with supply. All of this is against the backdrop of an increasing grassroots movement against coal, and scientific certainty and elite concerns about fossil fueled climate change.
Sanders, fighting the good fight, pleaded with the SCOTUS to reject McCutcheon vs. FEC as follows:
Let me say one word to you right now about how relevant that is. As all of you know, the government of the United States shut down. Hundreds of thousands of workers are suffering, millions of people are not getting the services they need. Right now, as we speak, in the House of Representatives there are people who are being threatened that if they vote for a clean CR [continuing resolution to reopen the government] that huge sums of money will be spent against them in the next election.Sanders, as always, tells it like it is.
We are living in a society where a handful of people with incredible sums of money, folks like the Koch brothers and others, are undermining what this democracy is supposed to be about. The bottom line here is that if we do not want to move this nation to an oligarchic form of society where a handful of billionaires can determine the outcome of these elections, then it is imperative not only that we overturn Citizens United, but that we put a lid on how much people can contribute in elections.
Freedom of speech, in my view, does not mean the freedom to buy the United States government.
Link to McCutcheon v. FEC here