published Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Destroying coal-mining jobs

How wonderful it would be if we had a limitless, free source of energy that would supply our nation’s power needs and do no harm to the environment.

We don’t.

We have a range of energy sources: coal, oil, hydroelectric, nuclear, solar, wind and so forth. Some are cheaper than others but may emit more pollution. Others are cleaner but are terribly expensive. All have positives and negatives.

So what do we do? We strike the best balance we can. For instance, we rely on cheap, plentiful coal and try to find ways to reduce its emissions. And we hope, meanwhile, for technological breakthroughs that may someday make solar or wind power economical. Unfortunately, barring such breakthroughs, we also massively subsidize inefficient solar and wind projects with tax dollars.

But the Obama administration has now embarked on a plan that would devastate the coal-mining industry and destroy jobs.

“The Obama administration’s own experts estimate their proposal for protecting streams from coal mining would eliminate thousands of jobs and slash production across much of the country,” The Associated Press reported. The AP based that news on a document from the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

Nearly one-tenth of America’s 81,000 coal-mining jobs would be destroyed under the regulations. That is awful news for coal miners. While mining may not be most Americans’ idea of a fun job, it is often a relatively high-paying job in some areas of the country that are rather poor.

There is no perfect energy source. But regulations that would decimate the coal-mining industry while doing nothing to enhance energy production seem badly out of balance.

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Plato said...

If there in fact is a resulting decrease in coal-mining jobs of 10% then one must assume that production of coal would also decrease by a similar amount. If coal production is decreasing, and assuming the demand for electricity is constant, then the only conclusion is that production of electricity using different sources would be increased by an offsetting amount - say 10%. That would result in an increase in jobs in those other areas by a similar number.

The economy is dynamic. As jobs are lost in some areas, they are gained in others. The bottom line however is we can't make decisions on the environment and corresponding human health issues, based on how many people will have to look for a different job as a result. If we took that approach we would never have any sort of progress at all in any field.

February 13, 2011 at 3:43 p.m.
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