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