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The fact is, there is no 'war on coal'

August 6, 2014
Marietta Times

In its editorial of Aug. 1, the Marietta Times resorted to the familiar shibboleth, "war on coal," a phrase which distinguishes the apologists and supporters of the coal industry. As is the case with most big lies, those who use this phrase assume that the more it is promulgated, the more people will believe it. The fact is that there is no "war on coal" on the part of President Obama or others in federal agencies like the EPA. The president has made it clear that his energy policy is "all of the above" and includes coal-at least for the short run. In fact, what has accounted for the decline in jobs in the coal industry is not federal regulations but two factors: the relatively less expensive resource of natural gas and automation of coal mining (the transition from manual labor to extract coal to huge extracting machines, which do the job more efficiently). The inevitable truth about the future of coal, however, is that it is the "eight-track tape" of our array of energy resources-it is outdated, irrelevant, and not cost effective. Coal is expensive in terms of its health impact on miners; black lung disease or "coal miners' pneumoconiosis" accounts for 125,000 deaths per year (as of 2010). Coal's wider negative impact, however, affects all of us. Coal is the largest contributor to carbon emissions, most often from coal-fired power plants. Since 1990 carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased 30%, and in April 2014 carbon in the atmosphere reached the unprecedented milestone figure of 400 parts/million. Human-induced climate change, which we are all experiencing already is an idea which is endorsed by 97% of the scientific community and by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It is happening before our eyes in the form of acidification of the oceans, disappearance of glaciers, rise of sea levels, desertification, and a global temperature rise of 10-18 degrees Fahrenheit over 100 years. The major culprits driving climate change are fossil fuels, particularly coal, and the countries producing the most emissions from coal-fired power plants are the U.S. and China. Why can't we resolve to transition coal-fired power plants to natural-gas power, an abundant resource, especially here in southeastern Ohio, as a bridge to carbon-free energy sources such as solar and geothermal power? Apologists and unquestioning supporters of the coal industry, such as Congressman Bill Johnson, are locking us into unhealthy, expensive, and environmentally destructive policies by promoting this myth that federal regulations are the source of problems in the coal business. There is no "war on coal," but what there should be is a national strategy of environmental sustainability to phase out coal as source of energy in favor of cheaper natural gas in the short run and of non-fossil fuels in the long run.



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