Tuesday, April 27, 2010

About Coal and Coal Miners

ObamaWVEulogySteveHelber The Washington Post has an excellent, plangent photo gallery of the funeral for the 29 coal miners killed in West Virginia. The Post could really have foregone the ad, though.


Here is a bit of President Obama’s eulogy:

Even as we mourn 29 lives lost, we also remember 29 lives lived. Up at 4:30, 5 o'clock in the morning at the latest, they began their day, as they worked, in darkness. In coveralls and hard-toe boots, a hardhat over their heads, they would sit quietly for their hour-long journey, 5 miles into a mountain, the only light the lamp on their caps, or the glow from the mantrip they rode in.

Day after day, they would burrow into the coal, the fruits of their labor, what so often we take for granted: the electricity that lights up a convention center; that lights up our church, our homes, our school and office; the energy that powers our country and powers the world.

All that hard work; all that hardship; all the time spent underground; it was all for their families. It was all for you. For a car in the driveway. A roof overhead. For a chance to give their kids opportunities that they would never knew; and enjoy retirement with their spouses. It was all in the hopes of something better. So these miners lived - as they died - in pursuit of the American dream.

Read the whole thing. It’s very moving.


In West Virginia, Obama lost against Hilary Clinton in the Democratic primary two years ago and against John McCain in the general election. And West Virginia is a heavily Democratic state. Various reasons have been posited for Obama’s loss, but a major reason West Virginians vote or do not vote for someone comes down to coal.

"I think they [the federal government] want to outlaw coal mining," said David Baisden (D), a county commissioner in Mingo County on the Kentucky border, which gets half its tax revenue from coal. "We have the utmost respect for the president of the United States. But his policies . . . have us concerned that he's going to give America away."

To whom, we’re not sure, and writers David A. Fahrenthold and Michael D. Shear don’t say. And there’s more along the same lines.

"You'd be hard pressed to find a president whose actions have been more warlike on coal. There are those who say the president has parked his tanks on our front lawn, and it's hard to dispute that," said Luke Popovich of the National Mining Association.

That’s pretty stark. We went over to the National Mining Association to see what’s upsetting them. (Uranium miners are part of this group, too.) There’s this:

President Obama’s budget proposal, by increasing taxes for America’s most affordable energy source—coal—threatens good-paying mining jobs and jobs in small businesses and manufacturing that depend on reliable and affordable energy to meet payrolls and remain competitive in a global economy.

Which isn’t quite true.

The most interesting this about the energy budget request is just how hard hit the fossil fuel industry would be. About $2.7 billion in subsidies for oil, coal and gas would be canceled under this plan.

Ending subsidies may well have the impact the NMA outlines, but it’s not raising taxes. It is, however, exactly what was feared. Although the 2011 budget request continues with carbon capture and other coal related projects, there is a significant chill when it comes to coal-fueled electricity production where, say, renewable energy sources and nuclear energy are feeling considerable warmth. For the coal industry, it’s like watching a ship turn ever so slowly away while the industry bobs in shark-infested waters.


By the way, here are NMA’s pages on carbon capture and sequestration.


We expect there will be continuing news on Massey Energy and Upper Big Branch mine. There’s been a lot written about this incident and there will be a lot more. We’ll let coal bloggers follow up on all that and return to our nuclear energy brief presently. But as a local (to D.C.) energy-related tragedy, we didn’t want to let the event pass without note.

President Obama after delivering his eulogy. The lady is Linda Davis, the grandmother of deceased miner Cory Davis.

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