Those of us who grew up with coal mines as neighbors and coal miners as friends sometimes find it difficult to understand the hatred - and that's the right word - some people have for anything connected with the industry. But it's very real. So is the determination of coal's enemies to kill it, no matter what that takes or who gets hurt in the process.
Before Barack Obama was elected president, warnings he would attempt to destroy the coal industry were dismissed by his supporters, including those in West Virginia and East Ohio.
Now Obama is keeping his promise to anti-coal radicals, using a multitude of tactics. The Environmental Protection Agency has denied permits for surface mines and plans to declare coal ash, which it just a few years ago recommended using in concrete, a hazardous waste. EPA officials want to crack down on emissions of carbon dioxide, mercury and soot from coal-fired power plants.
But that may not be all. I'm told at least one very liberal member of Congress is considering action to limit or even ban exports of U.S. coal.
Absurd? No one can tell American companies what they can or cannot sell overseas, you think?
Wrong. Two bills in the House of Representatives would do just that for natural gas. One is the North American Natural Gas Security and Consumer Protection Act. The other is the Keep American Natural Gas Here Act. The former would make it more difficult to build terminals needed to export the fuel. The latter would require gas produced from federal land be sold only to U.S. consumers.
About six months ago, gas was selling for around $2 per thousand cubic feet. Now, the price is about $2.80 per mcf. That isn't good news for gas consumers, or for millions of Americans who will be getting their electricity from gas-fired power plants if the Obama war on coal continues.
On the other hand, higher gas prices are good news for many local residents who have mineral rights contracts calling for them to receive royalties when gas is produced from wells drilled into reserves they own. Gas prices 40 percent higher than they were six months ago mean much fatter royalty checks. Higher prices also benefit many other people in gas-rich areas - like ours.
But lawmakers such as U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., have decided their ideas about government management of energy markets should trump what others, such as West Virginians and Ohioans, may want. Markey sponsored both bills mentioned above. You may recognize his name; Markey was one of the sponsors of the original "cap and trade" bill to kill the coal industry.
Limiting exports of gas, for which demand is certain to grow - in part because of Obama's war on coal - is one thing. But curbing exports of coal, for which domestic demand is declining, is another.
Demand for U.S. coal overseas has increased dramatically during the past few years, to the point exports now account for about 10 percent of sales from domestic mines. Without exports, many mines will close. But that's what Obama and his liberal chums want - to destroy the coal industry. Curbing exports would be just one more new weapon in the war against coal.
Not that Obama and the EPA seem to lack new ideas to pursue their goal. Existing initiatives would force most existing coal-fired power plants to close. The liberals insist new ones, meeting EPA regulations, can be built. But a set of "new source performance standards" now on the EPA drawing board would require even new coal-fired generating stations to meet emissions limits so strict there is no economically feasible way of doing so now.
Most power plant executives can read the writing on the wall. They've already decided to close dozens of coal-fired generating stations and switch to gas.
If Obama and his fellow radicals have their way, by the time tens of millions of Americans wake up to what has been done - when they find themselves paying much higher electric bills - it will be too late. There won't be a coal industry to which we can turn for relief.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Mike Myer is executive editor of The Intelligencer and the Wheeling News-Register. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org