Home Energy and Environment A “War on Coal?” Three Graphs That Tell a TOTALLY Different Story

A “War on Coal?” Three Graphs That Tell a TOTALLY Different Story

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For anyone claiming there’s been a “war on coal” in the Obama administration, I refer you to the following three graphs. Graph #1 (click to “embiggen”) shows coal mining employment in Virginia is actually UP a bit from the George W. Bush years. Graph #2 (on the “flip”) shows an even bigger increase in coal mining employment in West Virginia during the Obama administration, compared to the George W. Bush administration. Finally, Graph #3 shows the long decline of coal mining employment in Central Appalachia, a large chunk of which occurred under Presidents Reagan and George HW Bush (the trend continued under Bill Clinton, then reversed a bit under George W. Bush and Barack Obama).

Regardless, the reasons for the decline in coal mining employment have essentially nothing to do with a “war on coal.” What HAS caused a decline in coal mining employment over the years: 1) mechanization, which has made the industry far more capital intensive and far less labor intensive than it used to be; 2) a migration of coal mining from places where it used to be mined by humans, operating in coal mines, to highly-mechanized Western and/or mountaintop removal operations; and 3) cheap and abundant natural gas, as well as much cheaper (and inexhaustible) wind and solar power. Put that all together, and what do you get? A decline in coal mining employment in the U.S. over many, many decades. For the true believers in a “war on coal,” I guess what they’re arguing is that this “war” has been waged all those decades, by both Republican and Democratic presidents and Congresses, etc. Is that plausible? Well, no, but many of these are the same people who deny climate science, after all, so were you expecting logic or something?

Source: Growth of U.S. Coal Jobs report

  • Some highlights from Rep. Jim Moran’s office:

    “Mr. Speaker, I understand why we are on the floor debating this bill today. Anytime gasoline prices are on the rise “the drill baby drill, drill now” crowd returns to the House floor for another political bill that may evoke a gut reaction but will not bring relief to Americans suffering at the pump. The high prices Americans are experiencing right now in the Midwest, and Chicago in particular, are the result of several refinery failures, not shortages in the supply of oil.

    “This bill is premised on the cynical assumption that a majority of Americans think that the pain of high gasoline prices justifies opening restricted areas for drilling and the weakening of protections that would ensure offshore drilling is done in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.

    “This bill is more about scoring political points and currying favor with the oil and gas industry. They are betting that the next oil spill disaster this legislation could enable through weaker regulation and limited federal oversight will not occur on their watch. Mr. Speaker, our coastal waters are a shared public resource, not the exclusive domain of the oil and gas industry. Introducing drilling in new areas will disrupt established industries like commercial fishing and tourism and risk economic harm.

    “This bill returns to the lax regulatory climate that existed before the disaster. It should be defeated.”

  • Based on this statement, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA04) is either a liar or an idiot. Or, more likely, both.

    “Earlier this week President Obama announced the escalation of his war on coal, which will undoubtedly result in devastating economic consequences across Virginia. Jobs at the Port of Virginia, for example, will be put at risk if there is less coal to ship to global markets; and with power plants already slated for closure in Southeast Virginia, businesses and consumers are facing higher electric bills.

    Two points.

    1) We’ve already demolished the “War on Coal” bull****, but it doesn’t seem like any amount of factual information is going to deter these idiots from spouting their rhetorical nonsense du jour.

    2) The main point, though, is that Randy Forbes gets this EXACTLY backwards. In fact, President Obama’s climate plan calls for the EPA to come up with emissions standards for new and existing power plants (something that was supposed to have happened several years ago, by the way). If that happens, then there’s certainly a possibility that coal consumption at U.S. power plants will decline. As for the production side, Obama’s plan doesn’t appear to address that at all (unfortunately).  So…the net result would be that U.S. coal consumption would fall, production would (ceteris parabis) remain constant, and net exports (again, ceteris parabis) would not only NOT decline, they would INCREASE (Production-Consumption=Net Exports). Bottom line: Randy Forbes’ claim that “Jobs at the Port of Virginia, for example, will be put at risk if there is less coal to ship to global markets” is completely backwards. In fact, if anything, jobs at the Port of Virginia would INCREASE as there very well could be MORE coal to ship to global markets under President Obama’s plan. Did Randy Forbes ever take Econ 101? Did he pass?  

  • Based on this statement, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA04) is either a liar or an idiot. Or, more likely, both.

    “Earlier this week President Obama announced the escalation of his war on coal, which will undoubtedly result in devastating economic consequences across Virginia. Jobs at the Port of Virginia, for example, will be put at risk if there is less coal to ship to global markets; and with power plants already slated for closure in Southeast Virginia, businesses and consumers are facing higher electric bills.

    Two points.

    1) We’ve already demolished the “War on Coal” bull****, but it doesn’t seem like any amount of factual information is going to deter these idiots from spouting their rhetorical nonsense du jour.

    2) The main point, though, is that Randy Forbes gets this EXACTLY backwards. In fact, President Obama’s climate plan calls for the EPA to come up with emissions standards for new and existing power plants (something that was supposed to have happened several years ago, by the way). If that happens, then there’s certainly a possibility that coal consumption at U.S. power plants will decline. As for the production side, Obama’s plan doesn’t appear to address that at all (unfortunately).  So…the net result would be that U.S. coal consumption would fall, production would (ceteris parabis) remain constant, and net exports (again, ceteris parabis) would not only NOT decline, they would INCREASE (Production-Consumption=Net Exports). Bottom line: Randy Forbes’ claim that “Jobs at the Port of Virginia, for example, will be put at risk if there is less coal to ship to global markets” is completely backwards. In fact, if anything, jobs at the Port of Virginia would INCREASE as there very well could be MORE coal to ship to global markets under President Obama’s plan. Did Randy Forbes ever take Econ 101? Did he pass?