This year, coal-fired power plants are generating just 36 percent of U.S. electricity, versus 44.6 percent they generated in 2011.

According to Fox news, last week PMJ Interconnection, the company that operates the electric grid for 13 states - including Pennsylvania - held its 2015 capacity auction.

Fox says the market clearing price for new 2015 capacity in Pennsylvania - almost all natural gas - was $167 per megawatt. The current price is just $16 per megawatt.

The reason for the monstrous price increases is the bevy of new environmental regulations which go into effect in 2015 .

Just like the effects of Obamacare, we won't feel the financial - not a pinch, but bloody stabbing - of these new regs until well after the presidential elections. Then it could be too late.

Meanwhile, consider this. Nevada Geothermal Power (NGP), which had been given a $98.5 million loan guarantee from the Obama administration for an alternative energy project in Nevada, is on the verge of bankruptcy. The firm will likely default on the loan.

Previously, Solyndra LLC, a California solar-power manufacturer with a $535 million federal loan guarantee, has already gone bankrupt.

The economy is a major issue in the upcoming presidential election. How can the economy be helped with a deadly assault on an entire industry - the fossil fuel industry which includes coal - without a viable alternative?

A number of major negative happenings will occur over the next few years.

First of all, utility prices - especially electricity - are going to rise dramatically because of the unfair demands on the fossil fuel industry.

Second, such price increases will have a rippling effect since grocery store, hospitals, etc. will pass their higher electric costs onto the consumer. Electricity is one of the overheads of running most businesses.

Third, Americans are being put out of work because of the bureaucrats in Washington under the Obama administration who depend on the fossil fuel industries to feed their families and contribute to our home nation's economy. The unfair regulations are forcing some coal firms to close.

Already a large portion of our mined coal is being shipped to China. Didn't Japan welcome our scrap steel in the 1930s?

Are we stupid enough to give up one our our natural resources to other countries instead of using it ourselves?

The major bankruptcies reported above should tell us we're not ready to put all our proverbial eggs into the alternative energy basket. This isn't to imply we shouldn't be looking at alternative energy sources. On the other hand, we shouldn't be crippling the tried-and-true methods.

Our economy is in very bad condition, and every punch to the gut weakens it more. President Obama has delivered a major blow to the fossil fuels industry. Only if these ridiculous regulations are repealed can we avert what will become very painful eonomic and financial harm.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tonline.com