A key government report Friday revealed that 2013 culminated in the weakest month of hiring in three years.
According to the Labor Department, U.S. employers added just 74,000 jobs in December after averaging 214,000 in the previous four months. Nevertheless, the U.S. unemployment rate fell three-tenths of point to 6.7 percent. That’s its lowest level since October of 2008, but the drop occurred, primarily, because many workers stopped looking for jobs.
The labor report awakened hibernating bears on Wall Street, where the Dow declined on the news.
Other developments, however, indicate a strengthening economy. The government reported earlier in the week that the U.S. trade deficit fell in November to its lowest level in four years, as strong demand for American-made goods – and significant gains in domestic energy production -- lifted exports to an all-time high.
But America’s dependence fossil fuels is not without its share of problems. This week 300,000 people in West Virginia were ordered not to drink municipal water after a chemical used in coal preparation spilled into local waterways. Even before the accident, environmentalists had been sharply critical of the Obama Administration’s push for “Clean Coal”…
The nation’s newest coal-burning power plant which is scheduled to go on line in 2014 is being promoted as being one of the cleanest on the planet.
Bruce Harrington, Mississippi Power: "In essence, this plant is part chemical plant, part power plant. What we do is we bring the coal in; we gasify it, make some chemical products, and make electricity. In essence, it's a coal refinery with a power plant on the back end."
Located in Mississippi, the Kemper County power plant uses Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle technology to gasify the coal, remove the impurities and capture carbon dioxide before it’s released into the atmosphere. It’s hoped that the nearly $5 billion plant will use carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS, to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 65%.
Kyle Ash, Greenpeace: "They've found CCS, I think, to be a very clever way of having their cake and eating it too. They can pander to the fossil fuel industry and the coal industry and they can also promote what they say is a climate solution. But the problem is it doesn't work."
The captured carbon dioxide at the power plant will be sold to oil companies which will then pump it underground to force more crude to the surface. Some believe the practice of using captured CO2 to produce more oil is at odds with President Obama’s stance on fossil fuels.
Barack Obama, U.S. President (June 25, 2013): What is true is that we can't just drill our way out of the energy and climate challenge that we face. That's not possible."
So far the administration has spent more than $1 billion on carbon-capture projects tied to oil fields and it’s pledged billions more for clean coal As a result, environmentalists feel the government is using green energy programs to subsidize fossil fuels.
Kyle Ash, Greenpeace: "The Obama administration stance seems to be that we can keep coal around forever. And the myth of carbon capture and storage technology is their illustration of how that’s possible. They are not waging a war on coal they are actually great PR for the coal industry,"
America produced an average of 7.5 million barrels of crude a day in 2013. That was up nearly 14 percent from 2012 and the biggest single year jump in U.S. history. Supporters of using captured carbon dioxide to produce more oil say that an increase in domestic oil production creates jobs and moves the nation another step closer to energy independence.
Randall Rush, Southern Company: "The key aspect of the technology is that it frees-up, makes available for power generation, a large share of the world's coal supply that was, as a practical matter, never going to be used, otherwise."