Yesterday the West Virginia Attorney General told the National Press Club that Environmental Protection Agency regulations, like the Clean Power Plan, have hurt coal industry jobs. Patrick Morrisey, who is leading a group of state attorneys general in a legal challenge to the CPP, is reported by The Hll to have said that he was “optimistic that, with the Republican nominee, there might an opportunity to withdraw these EPA regulations, and once again, that might give coal a little bit of the boost it really needs.”
A “bit” of “boost”?
Coal miner jobs have been on the decline since the high mark of about 644,000 in the 1920s. That was way before any EPA regulations. More productive miners, technology advancements and natural gas competition have been the real driving force in reducing jobs in this industry.
Yet the advocates for reviving the coal industry, now down to less than 90,000 miners nationally, never complained about more productive workers or new technology when those factors allowed the coal companies to shed workers. The coal company owners weren’t lamenting the loss of jobs then because fewer workers producing more coal meant bigger profits.
But now the demand for coal is decreasing due to less expensive natural gas and, yes, EPA regulations to promote clean air in general and fight climate change in particular.
However, it is profits, not fewer miners, which the coal industry barons are worried about. Mr. Morrisey made this distinction very clear when he is also quoted saying about reduced regulations, “I think that it would lead to more coal jobs, but it’s difficult to predict what that number would be.”
Would that number be 5000, 3000, 1000 or some other number of additional miners? Or, more than likely, no new mining jobs because the existing workers could probably handle any minimal increase in coal demand.
So the “bit” of “boost” the hedging Mr. Morrisey says the coal industry needs is really about profits not workers. Hardly a reason the rest of the U.S. citizens and small businesses, which will benefit greatly from less carbon pollution going into the atmosphere, should find convincing.