Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The War on Coal is a War on Jobs & the Economy

When I was asked earlier about the issue of coal…under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket…” Barack Obama, January 2008

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A simple statement made to the San Francisco Chronicle when first campaigning for president, Barack Obama openly announced his “War on Coal” and with the help of environmentalists, leftists, a willing media and the usual slate of ‘joiners,’ a statement that has been seen all too true as electricity rates have gone up over the last 4 years.

But far from just raising the cost of lighting and heating our homes, Obama’s War on Coal deprives America of good paying jobs while we remain in an elongated period of high unemployment and decreasing revenues collected by our treasury.

Coal fired power plants are being forced to close all over America, putting workers out of work and often onto the public dole as so called alternative “Green” energy sources take precedence. That a Spanish Study concluded that 2 jobs were lost elsewhere for every job created in these inefficient, unreliable and overly expensive alternative sources has been ignored in the push for eliminating coal fired plants.

Even though we in America enjoy an abundance of coal reserves that have long provided us with inexpensive and reliable energy, there is little market for it in America due to this “Green” move.

But Asian countries, who have long suffered from large areas deprived of electricity, are seeing the benefit of building power generating plants fueled by inexpensive coal. It has been reported that there are plans to build over 1,000 coal fired plants in Asia, primarily China and India and they want to import coal, America’s coal unable to keep up with their own demands by mining their own.

As you can imagine, such a desire sends shockwaves through the “Green” community, who although claiming they oppose ‘Nation Building,’ feel they have the right to dictate to countries like China and India as to how they generate electricity in remote regions of their countries, fearing pollution will drift back over America. With visions of the hyperbole and hype of “Acid Rain” and the “Ozone Hole” seen back in the 1970’s & 1980’s dancing through their imaginations, the cry has gone out to block construction of terminals to be used to increase the shipping of coal to Asia and to prevent coal from being transported by rail, even though trains have been shipping coal for decades.

With the announcement of the construction of six new terminals to collect and increase shipments of coal to Asia, opponents have flocked to City Council meetings with dire predictions of doom and gloom should cities allow trains hauling coal from mines in Montana and Wyoming to pass through their cities. Tall tales of 60 trains possibly two miles long passing through cities every day and “clouds of coal dust” falling on sandwiches of picnickers next to rail tracks came complete with photos for “proof.”

Not stated was just when or where those photos were taken as coal trains now treat coal cars with a surfactant to prevent coal dust from escaping, as I saw in 2010 when driving back from Texas and passing a train hauling coal. The photos below are of that train I passed that was traveling in the opposite direction at a good rate of speed.

As you can see, no coal dust escaping and these photos were taken on a fairly windy day, as is often seen in Texas.

Addressing some of the “overblown concerns,” BNSF Railway Chairman and CEO Matthew Rose spoke locally in late August, explaining that not all 6 terminal will actually be built nor will “60 to 100 trains a day” pass through our community. Realistically, 12 to 16 would be more likely, Rose said adding that trains carrying loads of coal already pass through the area and have for several years.

Waylaying environmental concerns, the Alliance For Northwest Jobs & Exports brings out
“The Northwest Clean Air Agency, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and Spokane Clean Air Agency have not had a single record of any coal dust complaints as of last year, despite coal trains traveling through the region for years.”

We also see word of a recent study conducted in the Missoula, Montana rail yard that found coal dust from uncovered rail cars “not significant,” but opponents still insist more specifics are needed.

Likewise, a recent study on Australian coal trains found,
“there is no appreciable difference between coal trains and freight trains with some slight variations with passenger trains.”

While all of us wish to protect the environment, we also know that we must balance that with our economy and with the region still being under such an elongated period of unemployment, to put it simply, we need jobs. We need jobs so that our citizens can get back to work and care for their families.

We also need the revenues an increase in jobs will bring as those returning to work will purchase homes and essentials an even wants, paying the state taxes on each purchase. Claims by opponents of no jobs will be created by the passage through our community fall short. Since one terminal likely to be built is in Longview, citizens of Clark County very well may end up working there along with increased rail maintenance locally will likely see more hires.

Stepping outside of the Pacific Northwest, we see Fritz Vahrenholt, one of Germany’s earliest green energy investors recognizing the imbalance between our economy and environment concluding,
“The choice is no longer between global warming catastrophe and economic growth but between economic catastrophe and climate sense.”

A recent poll released by multiple unions indicates Pacific Northwesterners support the exporting of coal by a wide margin. A letter released by labor leaders said,
“Given all the noise being made by export opponents, we thought it was very important for people with a direct stake in this debate – workers, businesses and elected officials – to understand that by a 2:1 ratio, voters in both states support coal exports. Voters know what we know – new bulk shipping terminals and coal exports will put people back to work, will generate badly needed revenue for government services, and can be developed in an way that is environmentally responsible.”

While not taking a firm stand on either side, outgoing Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire told an audience at the Bellingham City Club last summer,
“Let there be no mistake, Wyoming and Montana are going to extract their coal and they’re going to export it. The question is, does it go through Canada or does it go through Washington?”

That is the question all of us must ask ourselves now. As our state faces increasing unemployment again and another steep budget gap, do we want jobs here in Washington and Oregon? Or do we want the benefits to go to our neighbor to the north, Canada?

Opponents have launched a very well organized, very vocal and in my opinion, misguided effort to stop the export of our coal to Asia. We must also arm ourselves with the truth and necessity of exporting our coal to improve our own economy and lifestyle.

To that end, there is a ‘scoping meeting’ scheduled to take place in Vancouver on December 12th at Clark College in the Gaiser Student Center from 4 to 7 p.m. Meetings scheduled in other localities can be seen here.

It is imperative that as many of us who can attend this meeting and begin arming ourselves to push back against the hyperbole and overblown concerns being used by opponents.

Only by being informed with facts and using them can we restore balance and end this “War on Coal” and our Economy.

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