Last week, in a presage of the nearby future, Alpha Natural Resources, a major coal producer, announced that it would be forced to reduce production by 16 million tons of coal per year, which will force the closure of eight mines in Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, and the elimination of some 1200 mining jobs—400 of these miners right away.
There are two reasons for this trouble. One is long-run beneficial and is simply part of the creative destruction that a free economy goes through—quickly and with greater strength on the other side, including for those whose jobs are lost in the near-term, if the economy is free from government interference.
This reason is the improving technology that makes natural gas more cheaply extractable than coal.
But the other reason is government interference. Kevin Crutchfield, ANR’s CEO, puts it plainly and simply at the feet of the government’s
regulatory environment that’s aggressively aimed at constraining the use of coal.
And make no mistake about it; this is a deliberate policy. Here’s what the then-and-now Democratic Presidential Candidate had to say about coal production back in 2008:
If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can, it’s just that it will bankrupt them[.]
It’s important to note that Obama’s policies really are anti-coal—and so, intended or not, anti-job—and not just ANR’s bad fortune or failure to operate cleanly. As Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito (R, WV) points out,
The president’s extreme policies are crippling entire towns and making it harder for workers to find jobs. Because of the president’s War on Coal, thousands of West Virginia families have to worry about where their next paycheck is going to come from.
Is the EPA well-intended, but misguided? Not a bit of it. The timetable for meeting its new standards is virtually impossible to meet, and the standards themselves unattainable.
But it’s alright. All those unemployed coal miners will have clean air. Just no money for food on their families’ tables, or for rent/mortgage payments with which to keep roofs over their families’ heads.