Mitch McConnell’s Misguided Coal Campaign
Flush from victory final November, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell threw down the gauntlet. “What the administration has completed to the coal industry is a real outrage,” he said, referring to the lack of mining jobs in his house state of Kentucky. President Obama, he continued, is conducting “a warfare on coal and, actually, I’m going to warfare with him over coal.”
Of course, McConnell just isn’t alone. Politicians from major coal-producing states — particularly Kentucky, West Virginia and Wyoming — routinely fulminate in opposition to what they’ve dubbed the Environmental Protection Company’s (EPA) “battle on coal,” and they’ve vowed to block the agency’s new carbon emission guidelines for coal-fired power plants. However with the Republican takeover of the Senate, McConnell — in his new function as majority leader — now has a lot more leverage. For him, coal’s risk to the local weather, public well being and the environment is inconsequential; and to hear him talk, one would assume that curbing carbon emissions will throw thousands and thousands of people out of work.
He is mistaken on both counts.
To start with, coal-fired power plants are the biggest source of U.S. carbon emissions — accounting for roughly 33 % — and the main industrial supply of such “conventional” toxic pollutants as mercury, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide. These emissions have been linked to a variety of cancers and cardiovascular, respiratory and neurological diseases. Coal plant particulate pollution, meanwhile, alone kills an estimated 13,000 People every year. All advised, in line with a 2011 Harvard Medical Faculty research, coal’s “lifecycle” harm — from mining to processing to burning — costs Americans between $345 billion and $523 billion a 12 months.
Second, despite McConnell’s grumbling about coal job losses, there are actually more people working in the industry than there were 10 years in the past. That stated, the variety of direct jobs in coal is minuscule, and has been for some time. In response to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the industry employed only 79,four hundred folks in 2013, which amounts to a measly zero.06 p.c of the whole U.S. non-public, nonfarm working inhabitants. You may match all of them in FedEx Area, dwelling of Washington, D.C.’s NFL crew.
Even the variety of coal industry jobs in the three biggest coal-producing states is comparatively small, in response to 2013 BLS knowledge. In sparsely populated Wyoming, which produces 39 percent of America’s coal, the business employed only 6,700 staff — a mere 2.Three p.c of the state residents working in private, nonfarm jobs. Mines in West Virginia, which account for 11 p.c of the industry’s tonnage, employed 19,980 folks — 2.6 p.c of the state’s workers. And in Kentucky, where miners extract 8 percent of the country’s coal, the trade supported solely eleven,800 individuals — zero.Sixty four percent of the state’s whole workforce.
McConnell’s Coal Business Associates
So when there are viable, cleaner alternatives, why is Mitch McConnell “going to war” to guard an trade that employs an infinitesimal number of staff and whose product costs us hundreds of billions of dollars a year in well being and environmental damages
Maybe it is no coincidence that McConnell acquired more coal business campaign cash in the 2013-2014 election cycle than some other senator — considerably extra. In response to the nonpartisan Middle for Responsive Politics, the $269,050 the industry bestowed on him was roughly three-and-a-half times more than what it gave its second-highest recipient, Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi , who obtained $seventy two,450. McConnell’s prime campaign contributors between 2009 and 2014 included coal giants Alliance Useful resource Companions, Koch Industries, Peabody Energy and Southern Company, which collectively donated more than $300,000, in addition to Chevron, ExxonMobil, Marathon Oil and Marathon Petroleum, which gave him more than $200,000.
McConnell’s assist for the coal trade, as well as his take on local weather and vitality issues writ giant, oklahoma natural gas gas leak dovetail neatly along with his fossil gasoline benefactors’ viewpoint. Throughout his reelection marketing campaign final fall, for example, he deflected a Cincinnati Enquirer editorial board query about climate change with the denier camp’s retort du jour. “I’m not a scientist,” McConnell responded. “I am all for defending Kentucky’s economy. I am fascinated with low-cost electricity.”
Given the paltry number of coal jobs and coal’s rising value relative to cleaner sources of electricity — not to mention the damage it does — McConnell’s claims ring hollow.
Cheaper, Cleaner Alternate options
McConnell and other coal-state politicians like to blame the EPA for the coal trade’s woes. Little doubt, stronger pollution controls impose further prices. But the coal business’s biggest issues nowadays are gradual growth in electricity demand; shrinking reserves, which make coal harder and costly to mine; and the truth that utilities are closing down outmoded coal plants and switching to cheaper options, namely pure fuel and renewables.
These market forces have deposed King Coal. As not too long ago as 2006, coal generated practically 50 p.c of U.S. electric heating jacket reaction kettle electricity. In 2013, its share was down to 39 %.
Not shocking, the shift from coal to cleaner options has produced more jobs in these sectors. Plenty has been written in regards to the natural fuel increase, however renewable applied sciences, especially photo voltaic, have been increasing as well. Last 12 months, the solar trade experienced a 22 % development price, adding more than 31,000 jobs, based on a new Photo voltaic Foundation survey. The survey identified 157,500 full-timers and another 16,300 who devoted at least 50 % of their time to solar tasks. The American Wind Energy Affiliation, in the meantime, estimates its industry employed 50,500 workers on the close of 2013. Add them together, and their mixed workforce is nearly thrice the scale of the coal industry’s.
McConnell insists that the EPA’s plan to curb energy plant carbon emissions is a “job killer.” The truth is, it’s projected to generate tens of 1000’s new jobs, however it is the renewable sector that will profit, not coal. A 2013 research by Synapse Energy Economics projected that the good points in new jobs from carbon controls would far outweigh the inevitable job losses in coal nation. Synapse estimated an initial web achieve of 76,000 jobs nationally in 2016 and 210,000 in 2020 if emissions dropped 26 % from their peak levels in 2005. The actual EPA proposal goes deeper, cutting energy plant emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
The biggest job killer in coal country over the past half century can be oklahoma natural gas gas leak summed up in one word: automation. Many of the job losses might be attributed to technological developments that have dramatically elevated worker productivity.
The numbers inform the story. In 1983, 175,640 staff produced 782 million tons of coal from 3,337 mines, according to the U.S. Energy Info Administration (EIA). In 2013, 79,400 employees produced 985 million tons from 1,061 mines, the EIA reported simply final week. In other phrases, fewer than half the workers at a third of the mines have been ready to supply extra coal in 2013 than three decades ago.
That 2013 output, nevertheless, is the first time production has fallen beneath 1 billion tons since 1993. The EIA attributed the 3 % drop from 2012 to declining manufacturing ranges out West and in Appalachia, the place the biggest decrease was in Kentucky.
Looking ahead, the EIA predicts coal production will stay flat over the following decade, however its analysts have but to issue within the impact of the EPA’s new energy plant carbon emission guidelines. As Synapse confirmed in its evaluation, they are going to mean much more layoffs in communities that cannot afford them.
So the question Mitch McConnell must be asking will not be how to guard coal jobs, but how to help dislocated miners and coal-dependent communities evolve beyond coal.
Fortunately there are signs that elected officials, neighborhood teams, businesses and labor unions are starting to return collectively to discover ways to support miners and diversify coal country economies. In Congress, Reps. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) launched legislation last fall that would provide laid-off coal miners with retraining, job counseling, and relocation assistance. In Kentucky, Gov. Steve Beshear (D) and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers launched Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) in 2013 to develop strategies for expanding financial alternatives in the eastern a part of the state. And in West Virginia, a broad coalition of stakeholders last 12 months began What’s Next, West Virginia , a statewide initiative to encourage progressive academic and business opportunities.
What’s Next, West Virginia was sparked partly by a conference two coalition members — the West Virginia Middle on Price range and Policy and the West Virginia Group Improvement Hub — co-sponsored with the Union of Involved Scientists (UCS) in the fall of 2013. It attracted more than 200 members, together with state and local officials, business house owners, vitality industry executives, labor representatives, teachers, environmentalists and religious leaders.
Jeremy Richardson, a UCS senior power analyst, organized the conference and wrote a comply with-up report titled “A Brilliant Financial Future for the Mountain State.” He firmly believes that is the case.
“The writing is on the mine shaft wall. It’s time to look toward the long run,” mentioned Richardson, who grew up in a West Virginia coal family. “We owe coal miners a terrific debt for preserving the lights on for generations, and we now have an obligation to make sure they’ve a place within the clear vitality financial system. The first step is demonstrating that new opportunities exist.”
Initiatives in Kentucky, West Virginia and other coal states will take time and money, and it will not be straightforward to revitalize coal communities which have been on the downhill slide for many years. But that is the task at hand. Sen. McConnell’s rear-guard campaign to prop up an uneconomic, polluting business is misguided at finest and — given the looming menace of local weather change — downright dangerous at worst. It could also be within the quick-term curiosity of the coal corporations that funded his reelection marketing campaign, however it isn’t in the long-term interest of coal miners, their communities, or the rest of us.
Correction: This post beforehand reported that the American Wind Vitality Affiliation estimated that its business employs seventy three,000 workers. That determine was an average of full-time-equal, year-lengthy jobs during the last 5 years. The trade group estimates that at the top of 2013 the trade employed 50,500 people. It remains to be compiling knowledge for 2014.