War on Coal
Posted in the Beckley Forum
#2 Oct 21, 2012
Another good article:
#3 Oct 21, 2012
Between January and June, coal companies in West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky cut a combined 3,000 jobs. But mines in the Virginias still employed more people at the end of June than at the same points in 2008 and 2010, while Kentucky was only down by 1,000.
That coal faces challenges is a fact. It always has. During warm winters like the last one, for example, demand falls and stockpiles grow.
But what's happening now is more than a seasonal slump or even a response to new regulations.
It's a fundamental shift, and it's likely permanent, as even coal executives say. When St. Louis-based Patriot Coal filed for bankruptcy in July, it didn't mention a war. It said the industry is going through "a major correction," a convergence of "new realities in the market."
#4 Oct 21, 2012
Environmental standards are growing tougher as Americans outside coal country demand clean air and water. Old, inefficient, coal-fired power plants are going offline or converting to natural gas, cutting into a traditional customer base. And that gas poses fierce, sustainable competition, thanks to advanced drilling technologies that make vast reserves more accessible than ever.
Even if the reviled regulations fell away, many experts say, coal's peak has passed.
Thin Appalachian seams won't magically thicken and become easier or cheaper to mine, as the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy notes. Production in the East has been already falling for more than a decade, first surpassed by Western states like Wyoming in 1998.
Now, even those states are struggling as domestic demand dwindles. U.S. coal production plummeted 9.4 percent between the first and second quarters of 2012.
By the end of the year, coal is expected to account for less than 40 percent of all U.S. electricity production, the lowest level since the government began collecting data in 1949. By the end of the decade, it may be closer to 30 percent.
Operators are adjusting to survive.
#5 Oct 21, 2012
Obama is an easy target. He armed his opponents during a 2008 campaign interview that touched on global warming.
"If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can," he said. "It's just that it will bankrupt them because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted."
He now espouses an "all of the above" energy strategy that includes a role for coal. But after he took office, the EPA provided more weapons to his critics.
It rolled out tough new air pollution standards, some of which had begun under the previous, Republican administration. It vetoed a permit for a massive West Virginia mountaintop removal mine four years after it was issued by the Army Corps of Engineers, triggering a federal court battle that's still playing out.
And EPA cracked down on the permitting process for mountaintop mining, a highly efficient and highly destructive form of strip mining unique to Appalachia. The practice of flat-topping mountains, then filling valleys and covering streams with rubble has divided communities and led to multiple confrontations between coal miners and environmental activists.
"I know we need the EPA to keep our laws," says Allen Gibson, a disabled surface miner from Elkhorn City, Ky., who recently helped organize a United for Coal demonstration that stretched across several states. "But instead of telling the companies what to do to fix a problem, they shut the whole thing down."
The EPA, he says, just wants to collect fines.
"But when they do that, the miners lose," Gibson says. "I'm sick of seeing the little guy pay."
During the permitting dispute in 2010, companies crammed miners onto buses and packed public hearings, forging a formidable alliance of management and labor that drowned out the environmentalists.
"They have completely turned the men on their heels," says Nick Mullins, a 33-year-old former miner from Clintwood, Va., who blogs about coal country as The Thoughtful Coal Miner.
"They're paying them better, and they've managed to really win the hearts and minds," he says. Younger miners "didn't see how bad the coal companies were to the men before them.... They don't know their own history.
"The industry has done this really, really good propaganda," he says. "It's really easy to buy into it, especially when you only hear one side of the story and you're shutting out the other side."
West Virginia University history professor Ken Fones-Wolf says coal companies have also tapped into a proud heritage, heading off any potential opposition miners might have by reminding them they are valuable family providers.
"They feel that being against coal somehow denigrates all the sacrifices that generations of their families have made to the development of this nation."
#6 Oct 21, 2012
"The idea of taking land in a moving front, there's something there," says Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association.
"Yes, it's part of a PR campaign," he acknowledges. "But people are pretty jaded and pretty quick to recognize false arguments. The idea that we somehow hoodwinked people in the coalfields is a bit of a stretch.
"It's not just some PR machination," Bissett says. "It is a real, real concern."
In Kentucky, more than 55,000 people now drive vehicles with "Friends of Coal" license plates, a slogan that Bissett helped launch to get people emotionally invested. Instead of seeing the industry as faceless men in suits, they see the pickups next to them at the supermarket parking lot, the tags instantly identifying the like-minded.
So too, with the "war on coal."
Today, you're either friend or foe. Meaningful discussions and middle ground have vanished.
In one of his last major speeches in 2009, the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd warned that change was upon coal country. He chastised the industry for "scapegoating and stoking fear," calling it counterproductive.
"To be part of any solution," he said, "one must first acknowledge the problem."
The greatest threats to coal, Byrd warned, come not from regulations "but rather from rigid mindsets, depleting reserves and the declining demand."
Byrd was 91 at the time and revered in his home state of West Virginia. The speech was largely ignored.
But fast-forward three years to another Democrat who's dedicated his political career to the Mountain State.
When Sen. Jay Rockefeller gave a remarkably similar speech in June, deriding the industry for what he said were divisive, fear-mongering tactics, the state's Young Republicans said he'd "gone from out of touch to dangerous."
They even invoked the language of terrorism, suggesting he's "an anti-Mountain State sleeper cell that has lain dormant for 40 years."
Allen Johnson of Christians for the Mountains — a group that opposes mountaintop removal mining and advocates living "compatibly and sustainably" with the environment — sees such verbal smack-downs as nothing less than a threat to democracy.
"If any politician dares step over the coal line ... you will get hammered back into place, and quickly," says Johnson, of Frost, W.Va. "You just metaphorically crack knuckles and knee caps."
Johnson, 64, once worked the coke ovens for U.S. Steel. He worked for a railroad that moved coal and a power plant that burned it. He wants people to have good livelihoods. He also wants balance, and a government that prevents uncontrolled pollution of earth, air and water.
"The EPA," he says, "is a patsy in the war on coal." Don't blame it on Obama. Its a much bigger problem than any of you Topix readers even know.
#7 Oct 21, 2012
What of the plight of the rest of the mountain population, where coal mining runoff fouls streams, making water undrinkable for livestock, and land contaminated with heavy metals? Coal miners are manipulated by the fact that coal companies are the only game in town. What they need is a diversified economy that is sustainable. For those mountains that are already mined, wind turbines might be one way to go.
Seriously...these people need to move on to other industries. It's idiotic to stick with an industry where it's the ONLY industry in your town, basically. Make your move, move on to other jobs, and stop the whining.
To me there is no clearer issue of 'personal responsibility'. And I bet all of these whiners are Republicans complaining about Obama trying to end their way of life. They should have planned their lives better, you know, the same way they tell everyone else to. The fact of the matter is it's just not smart to put all your eggs in the same basket. I'm tired of Republicans defending this type of behavior in their own when they condemn anyone else who makes bad life decisions.
#8 Oct 21, 2012
We all have the ability to change our situation. Most people have known that coal was on its way out as a primary source of energy for some time. Anyone who has lived through the boom and bust times of coal know what to expect, this is not a new thing. People complain and complain their are no jobs except coal. Logan county employs a little over 400 coal miners in the entire county. Im sorry you expected a high school education to net you 100k a year, go back to school, retrain go into healthcare or some comparable field. Quit working 80 hours a week and destroying your life for money and the greed of your company bosses. If anyone is to blame its the local politicians who have fallen to their knees to the coal corporations for generations and not diversified the local economies.
“Don't Start Rumors!”
Since: Oct 09
#9 Oct 21, 2012
I been preachin it to pro coal for couple years now that this was the case. Maybe they will get off their hands, put the tissue away, quit crying about it now and start preparing for a different type of future.
You made some very good points with your last paragraph. Cheers!
#10 Oct 22, 2012
I watch gay porn.
Since: Aug 12
#11 Oct 22, 2012
I believe there is a war on coal.
“Don't Start Rumors!”
Since: Oct 09
#12 Oct 24, 2012
Nope, thats just another "feel good" statement and title given by pro coal with their eyes blind to the fact that the coal industry has always been a boom or bust type of industry. The demand drives jobs and when that demand decrease, so do the jobs. Always has and always will.
In actuality, you are witessing an advancement to a more diverse nation when it comes to energy we need.
#13 Oct 24, 2012
That is just a soundbite used by every political hack there is.
war on coal. war on drugs. war on terorism. war on womens healthcare. war on education. war on anything that a person stands for so that they can selfishly advance their issue. Dont be so gullible to believe that people in washington care about you or coalmining to actually start "A WAR" over it. Coal is a boom or bust industry. Technology is now changing the energy needs of America and wv has to get caught up and change with the coming trend.
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