John Kerry COP28 12.11.23

Andrea Austria/Media Matters 

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Fox News and Fox Business defend the coal industry after John Kerry announced US phaseout goal at COP28

Fox News and Fox Business hosts and guests are defending burning coal, making an array of false and misleading statements about the hazards it poses to public health, and ignoring its continued decline in the U.S. after Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry announced that the U.S. is joining an international alliance aimed at phasing out the dirtiest form of energy.

  • Kerry announced the U.S. will join other countries in taking a strong stance against coal

    • During a December 2 speech at the COP28 global climate change conference, Kerry announced that the U.S. would join the Powering Past Coal Alliance. The alliance was launched by the U.K. and Canada in 2017, and member governments have “committed to stop building new power plants and to phase out existing ones.” [Mother Jones, 12/3/23; Powering Past Coal Alliance; accessed 12/11/23]
    • In his speech, Kerry said, “There shouldn’t be any more coal-fired plants anywhere.” He emphasized that the fine particulate pollutants from coal-fired plants are particularly dangerous for people. [YouTube, 12/3/23; Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 11/23/23]
  • False Claim: The power grid would not be reliable without coal

    • Fox News host Will Cain exaggerated how much the U.S. relies on coal, saying, “You are dealing with a death cult that John Kerry is the primary prophet.” Cain falsely claimed that coal provides “almost half of electricity in the United States of America” and is “the cheapest, most reliable form of electricity,” demanding, “How are you going to charge all these electrical cars?” [Fox News, The Faulkner Focus, 12/4/23]
    • Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said coal is “what America runs on.” “Climate czar John Kerry was over at the COP summit and essentially what he said was we have got to pull the plug on all coal plants — all coal mining — in the United States,” Doocy said. “He said we can rely on wind and solar and stuff like that, and he's right, we might be able to do that someday. We can't today, because right now for affordable energy, you need coal — that is what America runs on.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 12/4/23]
  • Fact: The U.S. is already rapidly moving away from coal

    • Renewable energy generates a larger share of electricity in the U.S. than coal. In 2022, coal generated less than 20% of U.S. electricity, while renewable energy sources were responsible for roughly 21%. In January, Energy Monitor noted, “The number of states in which coal was used to generate more electricity than any other source has fallen by more than half, from 32 in 2001 to 15 in 2021.” [Energy Monitor, 1/12/23; U.S. Energy Information Administration, accessed 12/11/23]
    • The Biden administration has a goal of generating 100% of electricity from clean energy sources by 2035, which would necessitate phasing out coal anyway. No new coal plants have been built in the U.S. in the last decade, and an April report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis found that “the U.S. is on track to close half of its coal-fired generation capacity by 2026, just 15 years after it reached its peak in 2011.” [The Washington Post, 1/23/23; Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, 4/3/23; The Messenger, 12/4/23]
  • False Claim: The harms of burning coal are not that bad

    • Fox Business host and former Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow said, “The trouble with all these climate crazies is that there’s such thing as clean coal.” “I mean, they're already doing scrubbers and sequestering into the ground to help the coal story,” he continued. [Fox Business, Kudlow, 12/4/23]
    • Fox News host Jesse Watters of The Five said that Kraft macaroni and cheese is killing more people than coal. Watters mocked the family of John Kerry’s wife, which owns Kraft, for killing more people than coal. “Coal isn’t killing that many people,” said Watters. “It’s the mac and cheese. The cheese product. His family is poisoning the people of this country with preservatives and additives and sugar, and that’s what’s actually killing us. A few coal plants? Come on!” [Fox News, The Five, 12/5/23]
  • Fact: The negative health and economic impacts of burning coal are astronomical and well-documented

    • There is no such thing as “clean coal.” In 2018, Reuters found that so-called “clean coal” plants have largely failed to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, which contribute to smog. A 2019 report from several environmental advocacy groups also found unsafe levels of groundwater contamination at 91% of U.S. coal plants. [Reuters, 12/8/18; Inside Climate News, 3/4/19]
    • According to a new study from six universities, coal power plants were responsible for nearly half a million deaths nationwide from 1999 to 2020. [Spectrum News, 12/2/23]
    • Researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research found that the economic benefits of phasing out coal far outweigh the costs. Researchers found: “Benefits from reduced health and ecosystem impacts clearly overcompensate the direct economic costs of a coal exit -- they amount to a net saving effect of about 1.5 percent of global economic output in 2050 -- that is, 370$ for every human on Earth in 2050.” [Science Daily, 3/23/20]
  • False Claim: It is pointless for other countries to phase out coal because China is still building coal plants

    • Right-wing podcast host and former Trump administration official Monica Crowley said that China is “more than happy to have the United States and the West cripple their economies with this nonsense” by phasing out coal. “China and other developing countries have absolutely no intention of crippling their own economies for some climate change nonsense,” Crowley said. “Xi Jinping knows it's all a hoax, it’s all bogus.” [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria, 12/6/23]
    • Fox News host Jeanine Pirro said that the goal of phasing out coal is “hypocrisy” because China is “developing two coal-fired power plants a week.” “I mean the hypocrisy is incredible,” Pirro said. “But I think the one quote that really got me was when Kerry says that we’re not going to tolerate — we’re going to phase out coal-fired power plants all over the world. Except, wait a minute, you are giving China the ability to make lithium batteries and they are developing two coal-fired power plants a week.” [Fox News, The Five, 12/5/23]
  • Fact: There are ample economic and health benefits to phasing out coal

    • Phasing out coal could generate $78 trillion in social benefits globally. According to a 2022 study from the International Monetary Fund, “the net gain in switching from coal to renewable energy sources would be equivalent to about 1.2% of global GDP per year until the end of the century.” [Energy Monitor, 6/10/22]
    • Regardless of what China is doing, phasing out coal makes economic sense for the U.S. A January study from the think tank Energy Innovation found that it’s more expensive for 99% of the country’s coal-fired power plants to keep running than it would be to replace them with brand-new local solar or wind farms. “Coal is unequivocally more expensive than wind and solar resources, it’s just no longer cost competitive with renewables,” said policy analyst Michelle Solomon. [The Guardian, 1/30/23]