Saturday, September 17, 2016

Local Paper Pimps Nonexistent War on Coal


In a recent editorial, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph complained (for probably the 40th time) about the “war on coal” being waged by President Barack Obama’s EPA.

Ramaco Development apparently didn’t get the memo that Dictator Obama doesn’t permit coal mining in the state of West Virginia. They are foolishly opening two new mines in the area, in blissful ignorance of his evil scheme to shut down the coal industry (but oddly enough, only in the Mountain State).

Seriously, though, the editorial board at the Telegraph needs to quit parroting a line that’s proven to be false.

Experts have been warning for years that a century of mining has eaten away at the most accessible reserves in our region. One industry study published in 2001 warned that “significant blocks of higher-quality Central Appalachian reserves are starting to be exhausted.”

Appalachian coal is no longer competitive on the market, thanks to its higher production costs and pressure from cheap natural gas. Those two items more than anything else are responsible for what’s taken place in our coalfields.

As far back as 2012, when the global coal market was already beginning to implode (largely due to China putting the brakes on new construction), ANR, Peabody and other operators were investing billions in coal operations overseas. It’s no coincidence that 2012 was the last time any of these companies made a profit.

It’s ironic their woes haven’t prevented them from paying their executives millions in bonuses while at the same time they evade their pension and health care responsibilities to their retired and ill miners.

Barack Obama didn’t put Appalachian coal companies out of business. They did a fine job of killing themselves.

Below is the actual editorial that ran in the BDT on September 15, 2016.

While it can be argued that some good has come out of U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz’s visit to West Virginia, it is also a visit that is eight years too late.

Thousands of coal miners in West Virginia, and neighboring Virginia, have lost their jobs over the past eight years as a result of the anti-coal policies of the Obama administration.

Many coal mines have closed, and others have filed for bankruptcy, and a number of related manufacturing companies that have long served the coal industry have also been forced to either downsize or close their doors as a result of the industry downtown.

But Moniz — while in West Virginia Monday — suggested there is no “war on coal,” adding that the Obama administration is working to keep coal as an important part of a low-carbon energy future.

He also attempted to suggest that natural gas is the lone culprit in coal’s decline.

Really? Does Moniz expect anyone in the hard-hit coalfield counties to believe that statement? When, in fact, new emission standards mandated by the Obama administration have made it nearly impossible to operate coal-fired power plants.

The fact that Moniz waited until the waning months of President Obama’s elected term to visit hard-hit West Virginia also is unfortunate.

Area lawmakers have been asking for years for key members of the Obama administration to visit the Mountain State, and to meet first-hand with those coal miners and their families who are suffering as a result of losing their jobs. Why come now — three months before the presidential election?

To his credit, Moniz met Monday with a variety of key stakeholders from West Virginia’s energy sector, and participated in a panel discussion at the West Virginia University Energy Institute Forum. If nothing else the visit put a national spotlight on coal for the day.

Much of the discussion focused on the potential of clean-coal technology for the future. Moniz also toured Longview Power’s coal-fired plant Monday outside Morgantown — a good first step, but still hundreds of miles away from hard-hit southern West Virginia.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., says Moniz accepted his invitation to come to West Virginia to talk about clean-coal technology.

“Coal is an abundant, affordable and reliable energy source,” Manchin said. “It is important that the administration focus on leading the way in the development of clean-coal technology that we can use and export to China and India, nations that will continue to use coal for over half of their energy needs over the next 20 years.”

“Coal is an important part of America’s energy security today and it must be a part of our energy future,” U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., added. “The goal of our policies should not be to harm sectors of the energy industry that use fossil fuels, but instead develop ways to use them cleanly and efficiently. Investing in clean-coal technology will not only help strengthen our economy by creating new jobs, it will allow us to become more energy efficient and competitive on the world stage.”

We agree.

There must be a renewed discussion on the national stage about the benefits of clean-coal technology.

But given the track record of the Obama administration, it is doubtful that Moniz’s visit to the Mountain State will make much of a difference when it comes to coal, and clean-coal technology, in the final months of the Obama administration. His visit is too little, too late.

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