Coal is already in decline

When John D. Rockefeller began his political career he campaigned against mountaintop removal and other excesses of coal mining. To succeed in politics he quickly reversed his policy and invested in coal companies. Soon such adaptation may not be necessary.

MSNBC reported that there are half as many jobs in the coal industry as there were 30 years ago and I suspect the losses were mostly in the union jobs. Without union inspectors the mines do not operate as safely, not to mention paying as well, so the remaining jobs are less desirable. Obama was not president throughout all those 30 years and the decline does not reflect a “War on Coal.” Time reported that the solar energy and wind energy industries now employ as many people as coal, although in the same sentence they added that the coal industry has far more political clout.

West Virginia coal production has held up in recent years due to sales to China, which is now experiencing horrible pollution problems. China has made huge investments in solar panel development and has been first on the market with new solar technology, which explains the ballyhooed failure of the Solyndra enterprise: China “got there fastest with the mostest” and Solyndra’s technology did not prevail. (Our other solar enterprises are more successful.) Critics of the multimillion dollar Solyndra failure should consider the multibillion dollar failure of clean coal research.

The new EPA regulations do not ban the use of coal: They merely limit the carbon pollution. If we have clean coal technology, why do we not use it?

The solar and wind energy programs are dependent on federal subsidies. But so are coal, natural gas and oil. In many areas, Time reports, the renewable energy is producing electricity more cheaply than burning coal and, oh yes, an afterthought – it is slowing down our destruction of the planet.

I have seen impressive numbers for the value of West Virginia’s exported coal. But none of the unionized coal companies have their headquarters in the state and their clout is such that we never enacted a significant excise tax, so the benefit to our citizens is moderate. The money that stays in the state largely helps them influence our government and people, as by putting up hysterical billboards like the ones outside Charleston and Morgantown, trumpeting Obama’s war on coal.

The China coal market will not last much longer either.

Michael N. Ireland