However, you slice it, Hillary Clinton has a problem. Either she was speaking truth to power when she said last Sunday that she was “going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” or she lacks the capacity to express herself clearly.
Her campaign has opted for Door #2. Kristina Schake, deputy communications director for the Clinton campaign, appeared on CNN on Monday, where she said that Clinton “wasn’t very clear about how she said that. She actually has a plan to help coal miners and their communities transition to clean energy.”
If anything that explanation — and especially the use of the business dysphemism transition — makes things worse. Currently coal provides close to 70% of Ohio’s electricity. Judging from Schake’s clarification, Clinton plans not only to put 33,000 Ohioans (the number directly and indirectly employed by the coal industry) out of work if she’s elected. She also plans to make good on Barack Obama’s 2008 promise to cause electricity rates to “necessarily skyrocket.”
But cost aside, the hard facts suggest the U.S. is still far from a time when alternative energy sources become the norm rather than the exception. Writing in Forbes in 2014, Christopher Helman notes:
Even after a decade of rampant growth solar energy still barely moves the needle in the U.S. energy mix. In fact, solar merely equals the amount of electricity that the nation generates by burning natural gas captured from landfills. And it’s only slightly more meaningful than the 7.3 million Mwh we get from burning human waste strained out of municipal sewer systems.