Speakeasy forum

General discussion

'War on coal' label obscures battlefield realities

by JP Bill / October 20, 2012 5:39 AM PDT
'War on coal' label obscures battlefield realities

The war on coal is a sound bite and a headline, perpetuated by pundits, power companies and public relations consultants who have crafted a neat label for a complex set of realities, one that compels people to choose sides.

It's easier to call the geologic, market and environmental forces reshaping coal - cheap natural gas, harder-to-mine coal seams, slowing economies - some kind of political or cultural "war" than to acknowledge the world is changing, and leaving some people behind.

War, after all, demands victims. And in this case, it seems, victims demand a war.

But in war, casualties are often inflated. The numbers are eye-catching, but details are lost. Too often, the narrative overlooks the fact that when layoffs occur, many workers transfer to other locations. One mine closes, another absorbs.

In reality, U.S. Department of Labor figures show the number of coal jobs nationwide has grown steadily since 2008, with consistent gains in West Virginia and Virginia, and ups and down in Kentucky.

Environmental standards are growing tougher as Americans outside coal country demand clean air and water. Old, inefficient, coal-fired power plants are going offline or converting to natural gas, cutting into a traditional customer base. And that gas poses fierce, sustainable competition, thanks to advanced drilling technologies that make vast reserves more accessible than ever.

Even if the reviled regulations fell away, many experts say, coal's peak has passed.

In one of his last major speeches in 2009, the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd warned that change was upon coal country. He chastised the industry for "scapegoating and stoking fear," calling it counterproductive.

"To be part of any solution," he said, "one must first acknowledge the problem."

The greatest threats to coal, Byrd warned, come not from regulations "but rather from rigid mindsets, depleting reserves and the declining demand."
Discussion is locked
You are posting a reply to: 'War on coal' label obscures battlefield realities
The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Please refer to our CNET Forums policies for details. All submitted content is subject to our Terms of Use.
Track this discussion and email me when there are updates

If you're asking for technical help, please be sure to include all your system info, including operating system, model number, and any other specifics related to the problem. Also please exercise your best judgment when posting in the forums--revealing personal information such as your e-mail address, telephone number, and address is not recommended.

You are reporting the following post: 'War on coal' label obscures battlefield realities
This post has been flagged and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.
Sorry, there was a problem flagging this post. Please try again now or at a later time.
If you believe this post is offensive or violates the CNET Forums' Usage policies, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the post). Once reported, our moderators will be notified and the post will be reviewed.
Popular Forums
icon
Computer Newbies 10,686 discussions
icon
Computer Help 54,365 discussions
icon
Laptops 21,181 discussions
icon
Networking & Wireless 16,313 discussions
icon
Phones 17,137 discussions
icon
Security 31,287 discussions
icon
TVs & Home Theaters 22,101 discussions
icon
Windows 7 8,164 discussions
icon
Windows 10 2,657 discussions

Does BMW or Volvo do it best?

Pint-size luxury and funky style

Shopping for a new car this weekend? See how the BMW X2 stacks up against the Volvo XC40 in our side-by-side comparison.