Coal miners, buggy makers

Our Congressman Tom Garrett is a co-sponsor of the “Stopping the EPA Overreach Act of 2017.” His motive: to prevent “a negative effect on employment.” He pretends to protect coal mining jobs by allowing coal fired power plants to pollute the air. (As an example of how many jobs we are talking about, here in Virginia in 2015, we had all of 2,993 workers employed as coal miners, as opposed to some 89,389 teachers.)

He pretends to believe that allowing coal burning power plants to continue to spew pollutants will translate into more jobs for coal miners. This, in spite of the fact that the fossil fuel industry is on record for telling their stockholders that regulations have “little impact on their business.” (Reuters, March 28, 2017)

On the other hand as citizens (who read,) we know that the main reason for the decline in the coal industry is the cheap price of natural gas, along with a decline in the international market for coal. And we are aware that even when mines remain open, new technology puts machines in the place of actual men at an ever increasing rate.

The coal industry does not represent a reliable source of jobs for the future. You may as well be trying to restore buggy makers to their place in the economy. The real benefits of continued coal mining do not go to the workers. The benefits will go to the billionaire owners of coal industries, who extract their profits on the backs of their workers. (And because we are allowing them to pass the costs of cleaning up after themselves to us, the taxpayers.)

It would be smarter to sponsor a program to retrain coal workers for jobs in the wind or solar industry, which is the future. In 2016, solar jobs grew in 21 states by more than 50 percent. In the rest of the states, they grew by 25 percent for a total of 260,077 jobs. In addition, jobs in the wind industry surpassed coal mining jobs in back in 2008, as wind employment increased by 70 percent from 50,000 in 2007 to 85,000. These industries are just beginning to take hold.

If he is truly concerned about jobs, he will withdraw his support for this ill considered bill and introduce a bill sponsoring a program to retrain coal workers for jobs in the wind or solar industry. That is where a secure future lies.

Linda Croxson

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