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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Hillary, Bernie, and coal

Bernie is jazzed because he won in West Virginia, but I don't think he has to be proud of. Hillary lost there in coal country because she's perceived as anti-coal ... you know, she actually cares about clean energy and the environment. Bernie, not so much. Here's the beginning of an article I saw on this ...

Hillary Clinton, Coal, and the West Virginia Primary

As Hillary Clinton tries to pivot toward the General Election she continues to compete with Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Primary. The next contest for Democrats is West Virginia, where Clinton lags in the polls and remains dogged by comments she made about renewable energy and coal that were seen as disrespectful to coal miners. Clinton has responded, saying that she is worried about the hit that Appalachian coal has taken and the losses to communities.

The outrage over this ‘gaffe’ takes Clinton’s comments entirely out of context. The full quote from Clinton was:

*** I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country. Because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right, Tim?

And we’re going to make it clear that we don’t want to forget those people. Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories.

Now we’ve got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels, but I don’t want to move away from the people who did the best they could to produce the energy that we relied on. ***

The biggest culprit behind the loss of jobs in coal country has not been some nefarious government ‘War on Coal,’ it has been the advent of cheaper, more efficient, and cleaner natural gas. Competition has displaced coal at the same time that coal country’s reserves have run increasingly dry and as greater mechanization has been substituted in place of workers. Coal as an industry is going through its own reorganization as companies move to exploit other reserves and incorporate increasing technological advances while market forces shift the landscape in unexpected ways. The industry may not be dying, but gone are the bygone days of Appalachia mining towns.

We shouldn’t mourn the loss of coal, it is one of dirtiest forms of energy available and has exerted a terrible toll in pollution across the world. One need only look at pictures of smoggy Beijing as a cautionary tale of what our major metropolises might look like had we not begun to transition to alternative sources of energy long ago. And while coal mining has provided well-paying jobs for over a century, it has not been an industry many would want to see their children in. The horrors of mining accidents abound, even today, and even in the safest of conditions coal contributes to a host of serious health disorders. The infamous ‘miner’s lung’ got its name for a reason.

What we should mourn is the loss of employment and business that formed a backbone of so many communities, and this gets to the larger part of Clinton’s quote -the part that went mostly ignored. The coal jobs are not coming back to these Appalachia communities, and rather than pandering and lying that our politicians can somehow ‘save’ or ‘bring back’ those jobs we should acknowledge harsh reality and work to empower and revitalize these formerly coal-dependent communities. That is why Clinton has made rebuilding and revitalizing coal communities a central plank of her energy policy.

We should expect our politicians and elected official to tell the truth, not to pander and lie for votes ....

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