Friday, September 21, 2012

Reduction in Coal Mining is Great News for the Environment – Horrible News For Some of the Poorest Regions of America

Note to Coal Mining Areas: – Voting Republican Will Not Help You

The decline of thermal coal (the kind that is burned to create heat and electricity) is well documented and a welcome trend in both economics and the environment.  Coal is the worst of all carbon based energy sources.  It wrecks havoc with the environment when it is mined, and it wrecks havoc with the environment when it is burned.  At some time in the future coal will cease to be used to generate electricity and everyone will be better off.  Well, no, not everyone.

Coal mining takes place in some of the poorest areas of America, Appalachia.  So the news that a major mining company will significantly cut operations while good news to the rest of us is not good news for those citizens.

Alpha Natural Resources
 Inc., the biggest coal producer in Appalachia, said it will cut nearly 10% of its workforce and shut mines across West Virginia, Virginia and Pennsylvania as it tries to weather the worst industry downturn in decades.

The total job loss is expected to be about 1,200.  And the areas of the job losses.

In West Virginia, the company will close four mines, near Powellton, Boomer, Gilbert and Wharncliffe, an Alpha spokesman said. In Virginia, it will close two mines near Norton and one near Hurley. In Pennsylvania, it will close the Dora mine in Jefferson County, he said.

are in parts of the nation that have never enjoyed economic success, and now will suffer even more as 1,200 men and women lose their paycheck.

The solution is not lower regulations on coal mining as Republicans propose.  The reason for the job loss is that coal is no longer competitive with the glut of low cost natural gas that has hit the market.  Less regulation will simply result in more pollution without saving any jobs.  What is needed is government action, action to support the unemployed, action to train the unemployed and action to diversify the economy of the regions severely affected.

The voters in these areas will strongly support Republican candidates, because they believe that Republicans will try to do something to help them, while Democrats will do nothing.  That is probably correct, but the efforts of Republicans will not help.  Until government addresses the root cause of poverty and unemployment in Appalachia the misery will continue.  And given the anti-government attitude of Republicans, as more Appalachian voters are successful in voting Republican less and less will be done to help them.

Irony is a powerful, and sometimes destructive force.

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