Time to Move On From Coal

Few things in life are more distressing than losing a job or profession. But nothing is more wasteful than throwing good money after bad, or raising hopes that will never be fulfilled. So it is with coal in the VA9th.

Pictures are worth a thousand words. What the Virgina Coal Extraction image atop the page tells us is that:

  • Despite what Morgan Griffith has inaccurately labeled Obama’s war on coal, coal production in Virginia peaked in 1988 and started its precipitous decline under George H. W. Bush.
  • Coal production and the associated jobs aren’t coming back, despite claims by Griffith and Trump.
  • The best assistance we can provide to former minors is to find alternative opportunities, not make empty promises.

As confirmation, in a recent study, Indiana University researchers found that “Current federal efforts to revive the coal industry will likely do more harm than good to fragile Appalachian communities transitioning from coal as a major source of employment.”  The study’s key conclusions were:

  • Rolling back environmental regulations will not lead to a significant resurgence of the coal industry because those regulations played only a minor role relative to slowing demand for electricity and a surge in cheaper, cleaner sources of energy.
  • Promising coal communities a return of their jobs has the potential to fill them with false hope, which can threaten the very progress that has been made in launching job training programs and other transition steps.
  • Government programs should focus on helping communities find and harness new economic and human development opportunities with a focus on health and education, professional growth, and public services.

It’s natural to feel empathy towards those who have lost jobs through no fault of their own. But the correct focus is on finding new jobs, not promising the return of jobs that will never come back.

Data Sources:

The chart atop the page is from David Roper, Professor Emeritus at Virginia Tech.

You can find data sources for the image here.