WASHINGTON — A Massachusetts energy think tank is urging Congress to reexamine how the government leases the nation’s coal reserves, saying that the US Treasury has lost out on nearly $30 billion in revenue over the last 30 years because the Bureau of Land Management has sold coal rights way below market value.
The report released Monday by the Cambridge-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis underscored a call by Representative Edward Markey for a review of coal leasing programs. In an April 24 letter to the Government Accountability Office, Markey urged the agency to conduct an investigation into how the Bureau of Land Management operates about 570 million acres of coal-rich land, much of it in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana.
In a story published Monday, The Washington Post reported that the bureau on Thursday will auction off rights to about 720 million tons of coal from the basin, with only one known bidder so far.
That follows past practice, in which the bureau often auctions off coal rights to the same mining firm that detailed the area for leasing, without any competitive bidding. In the 26 coal leases the federal government has awarded in the basin, 22 have gone to a single bidder.
The Post said the lack of competition is because there are only a few coal extraction companies in the Powder Basin. But that same lack of competition means the government is not getting the fair-market value for coal on federal lands. Companies are also selling the coal to overseas buyers, who are willing to pay higher prices.
“The BLM has a legal obligation to the American public to secure a fair-market value for coal on public land,” the Energy Economics analysis said. The last review of the process in which Powder Basin Coal is sold was nearly 30 years ago, the report said. “Historically the agency has sold [Powder River Basin] coal for below fair-market value and continues to fail the public to this day.”
Markey, Democrat of Malden, is seeking a federal inquiry into how coal leasing policies affect the value of US coal. In particular, Markey wants an accounting of the number of lease requests and bids, as well as the amount of royalties generated. Markey also is seeking to better understand the process in which the federal land management bureau determines fair pricing for its coal.
Married mothers are focus
of campaign messages
NEW YORK — In an ad backing Mitt Romney for president, a gold band on the main character’s left hand flashes before viewers as she laments a poor economic future for her two children should President Obama win reelection.
That hint to the character’s marital status reveals one of the subsets of voters that both Obama and Romney, his presumptive Republican opponent, are targeting in the 2012 campaign: married women with children.
They are a slice of the electorate that swings between the parties. They also are less likely than the broader female voting population to skew Democratic. Obama won married mothers by 4 percentage points in 2008 compared to his 13-percentage-point margin among the gender as a whole, exit polls show.
‘‘These women are the Republicans’ best shot,’’ especially in the swing states, said Ange-Marie Hancock, associate professor of political science and gender studies at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
In 1992, the so-called Year of the Woman, when female representation in Congress jumped, Democrat Bill Clinton won the White House with a plurality of women voters overall while losing the married-mother vote by 1 percentage point. Obama won’t win this year if he loses that vote by more than 5 percentage points, Hancock said.
To create a profile of that targeted female voter and learn how she has changed in the past 20 years, Bloomberg News compiled data from the Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Pew Research Center, and exit polls with analysis from Selzer & Co., a Des Moines polling firm.
The lifestyle differences that have occurred carry with them an adjusted view by these women of their place in society, said Christine Percheski, who assisted Bloomberg with the analysis and who teaches sociology at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
Compared to their 1992 counterparts, today’s married mothers are wealthier and more educated. On average, they have annual household incomes of more than $70,000, a 14 percent increase from 1992, and 40 percent earned at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 22 percent two decades ago. They work more hours and contribute more household income. They are older when they marry and when they first give birth. At both the workplace and in politics, more people in power look like them.
‘‘It changes the way they view their role as mothers. It changes the way they relate to their husbands and other people,’’ Percheski said. ‘‘It changes what they need from government and it changes what kinds of policies are important to them politically.’’
Married mothers today are more likely to have lived on their own and worked more years before having children, and thus favor greater independence and identify less with traditional gender roles, she said.