It was announced on Mon., June 2, that President Barrack Obama was partnering with the Environmental Protection Agency to form a new rule to lower the effects that greenhouse gases have on the environment, but at what cost?
The proposed rule has three main goals: cut carbon pollution in America, prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change and lead international efforts to combat global climate change and prepare for its impacts. The plan is to cut greenhouse emissions to 30 percent of the 2005 levels by 2030.
According to the United States Chamber of Commerce, the rule’s effect on the national economy could be detrimental, costing the country $8.8 billion annually.
In the past, during economic hardships, the American Government has helped areas that are targeted, i.e. declines in international trade and tobacco farming. Experts are saying that programs could help local communities adapt to a future with less mining.
The White House recently announced that part of eastern Kentucky would be declared a ‘Promise Zone,’ a federal initiative to help high-poverty communities through job creation. Jason Bailey, director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, said similar efforts are just beginning in West Virginia.
According to Bailey, the nation owes coal-dependent areas economic help.
“Central Appalachian coal and the work that has been done by generations of miners helped to power the strongest economy in the world,” Bailey said. “I don’t think that’s a responsibility that’s been fulfilled yet.”
Contrary to the belief that most mining industry officials hold, that job declines can be reversed by loosening federal environmental rules, Bailey insists that, even if the EPA were to shut down immediately, Appalachian coal is too expensive to compete in the energy market.
“It’s very unlikely that central Appalachian coal will regain the predominance that it once had,” said Bailey. “The declining coal resource and the expense which it takes to mine the coal that’s left is not going to change.”
Bailey stressed that an effective transition to other jobs has to come from more than just training. Without community involvement, ex-miners could retrain for jobs that only exist elsewhere.
Bailey recalled the federal government’s assistance of towns hit by military base closings following the Cold War.
“When they’re closed or greatly cut back, there’s resources and a process of community planning,” said Bailey. “And a real, on-the-ground, practical look at what opportunities are there in the future. What are the assets?”
In a press release, United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) President Cecil E. Roberts said “our initial analysis indicates that there will be a loss of 75,000 direct coal generation jobs in the United States by 2020. Those are jobs primarily in coal mines, power plants, and railroads. By 2035, those job losses will more than double to 152,000. That amounts to about a 50 percent cut in these well-paying, highly skilled jobs. When a U.S. government economic multiplier used to calculate the impact of job losses is applied to the entire economy, we estimate that the total impact will be about 485,000 permanent jobs lost.”
— West Virginia News Service attributed to this report