What’s Wrong with “Beautiful Clean Coal”

January 31, 2018

Trump’s shout-out to “clean coal” in the State of the Union address bore little relationship to the reality that continues to play out in the coal fields.
It’s easy to say, “serves ’em right, they voted for a swindler, and they’re being swindled”.
In fact, I’ll be honest and say, that’s my attitude right now, not just toward coal miners, but anyone who debased themselves, and betrayed the country, by voting for Trump.

There is another perspective.

Huffington Post:

Even before the US Senate recently confirmed President Trump’s pick of a former coal executive to head the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, Appalachians were already bracing for the bitter taunts from self-righteous liberals and environmentalists, “That’s what you get for voting for Trump.”

We hear it. We don’t like it. And attitudes such as these must change if we ever hope to see change.

There are reasons why coal miners have voted for pro-industry politicians, and naïveté and gullibility are not foremost among them. A common misconception is that today’s miners are old style traditionalists dedicated to mining coal as a continuation of the way of life they’ve inherited. This may be the case for foreman wearing white hardhats who receive invitations to the White House, but the rest of us are not quite so obtuse. When mining families defend the industry outside the confines of sheer economic necessity, they do so in response to the assault on their culture by outside elitists and out-of-touch environmental groups.

Those of us who entered the mines during the coal market upswing of the 2000s were facing difficult, if not impossible choices. Some of the men I worked with were tired of being away from home, spending weeks on the road to earn a living as construction workers or commercial truck drivers. Others were prison guards who could no longer handle the mental stresses of working in the region’s super maximum-security prisons. Relocating one’s family was no easy option either. Real estate values in an economically depressed region do not compare to areas with better job opportunities. Even if we had the financial ability to relocate, we were still faced with the prospect of competing for jobs in areas where public schools are better funded and there are more people with college degrees.

In Appalachia, we at least had a sense of place that reaches back generations, and the support of friends and family. When you have that, coal mining doesn’t seem quite so bad, but it no way means you are unaware of your standing within the grand scheme of things.

Miners are still keenly aware that their labor is doing more to benefit outside investors and corporate executives than it is their communities. We have all witnessed friends and family fight in vain for compensation after suffering from permanent injuries and black lung. We have seen the companies file bankruptcy to shirk their financial obligations to our forefathers. Everyone also understands that they must walk a straight company line or else risk finding themselves among the next group to be laid off in a market downturn.

Few people seem to realize the lack of choices miners face. They do not realize that many miners would jump at the chance to earn a decent living without risking their life and sacrificing their health. The problem is, even with re-training, there are no jobs waiting that can match the salaries and benefits they have now. The last thing coal miners need to hear are promises of economic development from environmental organizations and politicians looking for votes and funding.

OK, very nice, but there’s a problem with that narrative…

Reuters:

WAYNESBURG, Pa. (Reuters) – When Mike Sylvester entered a career training center earlier this year in southwestern Pennsylvania, he found more than one hundred federally funded courses covering everything from computer programming to nursing.

He settled instead on something familiar: a coal mining course.

”I think there is a coal comeback,” said the 33-year-old son of a miner.

Despite broad consensus about coal’s bleak future, a years-long effort to diversify the economy of this hard-hit region away from mining is stumbling, with Obama-era jobs retraining classes undersubscribed and future programs at risk under President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget.

Trump has promised to revive coal by rolling back environmental regulations and moved to repeal Obama-era curbs on carbon emissions from power plants.

“I have a lot of faith in President Trump,” Sylvester said.

But hundreds of coal-fired plants have closed in recent years, and cheap natural gas continues to erode domestic demand. The Appalachian region has lost about 33,500 mining jobs since 2011, according to the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Although there have been small gains in coal output and hiring this year, driven by foreign demand, production levels remain near lows hit in 1978.

A White House official did not respond to requests for comment on coal policy and retraining for coal workers.

What many experts call false hopes for a coal resurgence have mired economic development efforts here in a catch-22: Coal miners are resisting retraining without ready jobs from new industries, but new companies are unlikely to move here without a trained workforce. The stalled diversification push leaves some of the nation’s poorest areas with no clear path to prosperity.

trumpcharles2

Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette:

Under Trump, the Mine Safety and Health Administration has also moved to reconsider rules meant to protect miners from breathing coal and rock dust — the primary cause of black lung disease — and diesel exhaust, which can cause cancer.

Other Murray priorities, such as eliminating federal tax credits for wind turbines and solar panels, have floundered, however. The renewable energy tax breaks were largely retained in the final Republican-drafted tax plan signed by Trump last month.

And despite Trump’s campaign pledges to put scores of coal back to work by ending what he and Murray have derided as Obama’s “War on Coal,” the administration’s regulatory rollback has thus far had modest economic benefits.

Only about 500 coal mining jobs were added in Trump’s first year, bringing the total to about 50,900 nationally, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The nation’s utilities have also continued to shutter coal-fired plants in favor of those burning natural gas made cheaper and more abundant by new drilling technologies.

Vox:

During the campaign, Donald Trump billed himself as the “last shot” for coal country. He alone could save regions like Appalachia that had long suffered from poverty and dwindling coal jobs. And voters in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky believed him — choosing Trump over Hillary Clinton by wide, wide margins.

So it’s striking that President Trump’s first budget proposal would slash and burn several key programs aimed at promoting economic development in coal regions — most notably, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Economic Development Administration. In recent years, these programs have focused on aiding communities that have been left behind as mining jobs vanished.

Even some of Trump’s staunchest allies were livid at the proposed cuts. “I am disappointed that many of the reductions and eliminations proposed in the President’s skinny budget are draconian, careless and counterproductive,” said Rep. Hal Rogers, a senior House Republican from a key coal-mining district in southeastern Kentucky.

Meanwhile..

Newsweek:

Coal miner Rodney Osborne was toward the end of a double shift at the Gateway Eagle Mine in West Virginia in June when the 32-year-old was crushed to death by a rotating drill. A subsequent investigation revealed that Osborne, who had been working at the Boone County mine for just five months, had not received adequate safety training on the device.

The state’s junior senator, Shelley Moore Capito, said she was heartbroken by the news of Osborne’s death, then reminded her constituents that “West Virginia coal miners like Rodney selflessly put so much on the line to…power our state.”

Osborne was not the only miner who paid the ultimate price. In all, 15 miners died since President Donald Trump took office in 2017—up from eight in all of 2016.

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3 Responses to “What’s Wrong with “Beautiful Clean Coal””

  1. Sir Charles Says:

    Only idiots believe that this Tramp cares about anything but his own money and appreciation.

  2. neilrieck Says:

    Trump could not force the marketplace back to coal; but he sucked in a lot of gullible voters into thinking he could bring back coal-based jobs. In fact, this applies to a lot of jobs which were lost due to automation and/or outsourcing.

    comment: I know of one Canadian BBQ manufacturer that was making BBQ components in Canada for $75 (this included an aluminum drip tray) who moved the whole thing to China where it is being built for $5 (aluminum tray is now a stainless steel pan) except it is not BBQ components – it is complete BBQ unit. Even if the workers wanted to repatriate this work, the company who has not passed on the saving to their customers would not.


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