“Nevada’s suit mirrors Mr. Pruitt’s trailblazing lesser prairie chicken litigation.”

“Unconstitutional overreach,” “oppressive regulations that threaten our freedom and livelihood,” the Obama’s administration’s effort to “ignore the rule of law and unilaterally change our constitutional system,” and “fringe environmental groups” trying “to impose their climate change agenda at the expense of common sense” are not why coal companies have been going bankrupt.

This is.

Methane natural gas is a cheaper fuel than coal. What’s more, the cost of building gas plants to generate electricity is far cheaper than the cost of building a coal-fired power plant, and has been for going on two decades. The cost of renewables have been dropping steadily, and wind and solar are also now often cheaper than coal. And to be sure, renewables (especially distributed generation, I hope) and efficiency are the future.

But in the now, coal plants are being retired and scant few (if any) new ones are being built primarily because gas has overtaken coal as the largest electricity generator in the nation. State utility commissioners would have to be corrupt or incompetent (granted, not unprecedented) to authorize construction of a coal plant and recklessly saddle customers with more expensive energy. And the financial markets, needless to say, view an investment in coal as presenting about as much opportunity as investing in a DVD factory.

But just because gas is cheap, it’s not free. It’s worth something.

Just not enough – at least not to some oil producers. When a well pumps oil, other stuff can come up with it, including CO2 and methane. Over the years, some oil producers have captured those gases, often to re-inject them into the ground and raise the pressure to enhance oil recovery. And methane can be captured and piped to a gas processing plant, for money.

But a lot of oil producers also figure the return isn’t worth the cost, so they just flare methane into the sky. Did  I mention methane is a greenhouse gas?

Obama’s EPA ordered oil producers to report methane emissions, along with details of what plans and equipment producers did or didn’t have to do something with methane other than vent it into the atmosphere so as to speed civilization’s destruction by overheating the planet.

Oil industry spokesman Scott Pruitt, who currently also serves as Director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, rescinded that order Thursday. The industry told him to. Scott Pruitt is deeply devoted to the “regulatory capture” theory of governance, wherein regulators snap to it and do whatever industry says, and he’s got the emails to prove it.

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There is some petroleum product in the ground in Nevada but not enough in terms of quality or quantity to have warranted any significant development. That’s lucky for Nevada because the oil and gas industry is as ecologically filthy as it is economically unstable — BOOM 🙂 BUST 🙁

And everywhere the oil industry goes it ends up controlling governments. Nevada has enough industries doing that already, thank you.

But of course Nevada’s so-called attorney general, Adam Laxalt, simply could not contain his child-like exuberance over the prospect of Scott Pruitt, industry lapdog, heading up the EPA. As Laxalt (or whoever writes Laxalt’s stuff) wrote in a screed for his own master’s newspaper:

Critics wrongly assert that Mr. Pruitt is in the pocket of “Big Oil” and will singlehandedly dismantle the EPA and allow companies to pollute the nation’s streams and air. This line of attack by fringe environmental groups is a mere scare tactic to sully a man they believe will no longer use the EPA to impose their climate change agenda at the expense of common sense and the will of Congress.

Unlike — ahem — some people, Adam Laxalt did not grow up in the Overthrust Belt during an energy boom and then report on the energy industry for several years early in his career. Laxalt is a product of tony Washington D.C. suburbs, and there is no reason he would know much if anything about coal and oil & gas.

But then, there is little evidence that Laxalt knows much if anything about anything, except a) extraordinarily naked political ambition and b) kneejerk right-wing ideology of the sort commonly found on local-market talk radio. That much is clear from phrases quoted in this blog posts’ first paragraph, all of which can be found in Laxalt’s endorsement of Pruitt and the other “highly-qualified (sic) men and women” Trump has picked to serve in the tire fire that is his administration.

To be fair, however, Laxalt also wrote “Nevada’s suit mirrors Mr. Pruitt’s trailblazing lesser prairie chicken litigation,” and so I must thank him for providing this blog post with what I think is really quite a friendly headline.

Barring an unlikely outbreak of sense, responsibility and regard for the greater good on the part of Nevada Republicans, Laxalt is going to be their nominee for governor next year. It’s going to be a hoot.