Hoppy’s Commentary for Monday

This week, the coal industry and its supporters will hold a series of meetings around the state to draw attention to its challenges.  Much of the focus will be President Obama’s EPA, which has come down hard on coal through regulatory action.

This is a different day for coal. The industry is used to getting its way because of the nation’s historical dependence on coal to provide massive amounts of cheap energy.

Over the years, environmentalists and others in the anti-coal movement have found themselves on the fringe of the debate. But now, with a sympathetic administration in Washington and an EPA controlled by anti-industry activists, the tables have turned.

The future of coal, at least under this administration, is bleak.  Still, some in the anti-coal crowd remain unsatisfied.  They point to the fact that coal employment in West Virginia has actually increased during the Obama Administration.

That, they argue, is evidence that there really is no war on coal.

If only that were the case, we could all go about our business and depend on coal to continue to be an important source of good paying jobs and tax income for the state. 

But the view is shortsighted. 

Environmentalists celebrated a few months ago when the EPA announced strict new rules on greenhouse gas emissions.  “It will make it nearly impossible to build a new coal plant,” chirped Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune.

Senator John Barrasso, R-Wyo., ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, said, “fifty-seven coal-fired power plants have already announced their closure because of the cumulative effect of these rules.”

Investors Business Daily, in a report about Patriot Coal’s plummet in value, says that while market conditions (the mild winter, for example) are the primary reason for the company’s decline, “new EPA rules limit the size of coal plants and impose costly production restrictions that can affect coal markets’ bottom line.”

In Oregon and Washington, environmental activists, not satisfied with just turning this nation against coal, are trying to block the export of coal from ports in those states to Asian markets.

True, the coal industry is mounting a campaign critical of the Obama Administration and the EPA, but it’s not as though the anti-coal crowd doesn’t have resources.  For example, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg contributed $50 million to a four-year long effort to move the country beyond coal. 

Standard and Poor’s, one of the world’s leaders in market intelligence, said in a recent report, “EPA rules will eventually have the affect of reduced U.S. electricity production from coal.”

Industries and their investors are naturally concerned about the short-term, and, until the mild winter and a softening of the global market, coal was booming. 

But the long-term outlook, especially if this Administration’s EPA continues to hold sway, is gloomy.  What investor wants to take a chance on an industry that is targeted by the federal government for demise?

Arguing that a temporary rise in employment in the West Virginia coal fields is somehow evidence that there is not a concerted effort by the EPA to remove coal from President Obama’s alleged “all of the above” energy portfolio, misses the larger picture. 

The EPA and its environmental extremist acolytes have already delivered the bad news.  And, if left unchecked, it’s just a matter of time before the full impact is felt. 

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