Coal Tattoo

Wind vs. Coal II


In Wind vs. Coal I, I gave readers some criticism of the Coal River Wind Project jobs report, as well as a response from the report author and a reply from a coal industry critic.  Thanks to everyone who has so far contributed comments on that post, especially Bill Howley of the Power Line blog, foro some thoughts nobody has really brought up yet.

Just to continue this debate and discussion, I’m passing on this, from the CNN/Fortune Green Wombat blog:

Here’s a talking point in the green jobs debate: The wind industry now employs more people than coal mining in the United States.

Wind industry jobs jumped to 85,000 in 2008, a 70% increase from the previous year, according to a report released Tuesday from the American Wind Energy Association. In contrast, the coal industry mining employs about 81,000 workers. (Those figures are from a 2007 U.S. Department of Energy report but coal employment has remained steady in recent years though it’s down by nearly 50% since 1986.) Wind industry employment includes 13,000 manufacturing jobs concentrated in regions of the country hard hit by the deindustrialization of the past two decades.

Now,  it’s pretty clear that this doesn’t come anywhere near to telling the whole story of the comparison. The wind industry figures include construction jobs and manufacturing  jobs (folks who make and built the turbines). But that coal industry figure, while accurate as far as it goes, does not include spin-off jobs, vendors, etc. It certainly doesn’t include every person who manufacturers mining equipment. The West Virginia Coal Association claims that every coal mining job creates between five and eight other jobs in the local economy.

So what’s the real number here? How can we really compare these industries in terms of their economic impact? For that matter, what kind of comparison can we make about life-cycle environmental impact. If you include climate change impacts — which we obviously must — the deck is probably pretty firmly stacked against coal, at  least until somebody figures out what to do about those pesky carbon dioxide emissions.

But these are the kinds of debates and discussions that West Virginia and the rest of coal country needs to be having.

I’m told that the Coal River Wind Project folks have worked up a legislative resolution that they hoped to have introduced next week at the West Virginia Legislature. The text of the resolution is online here.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if that happened the same day the Coal Association gets one of its legislative friends to introduce this resolution it’s worked up in support of mountaintop removal?

Let the debate begin!



(By Senators )

Recognizing the importance of the coal mining industry in West Virginia and requesting West Virginia’s congressional delegation to support the coal industry.

Whereas, The Legislature works tirelessly to improve the quality of life for the citizens of the Mountain State; and
Whereas, West Virginia is one of only several states currently on course to have a budget surplus at the end of the current fiscal year; and

Whereas, before the national economic turndown, severance tax collections from coal were at record levels contributing to a budget surplus at the state and county levels; and

Whereas, all fifty-five counties continue to receive a local share of coal severance dollars to support county, local and municipal budgets;

Whereas, important county programs including those for seniors and less fortunate funded by local coal severance dollars are secure and stable

Whereas, better planning and coordination of post mining development has left many usable sites for industrial, commercial and recreational purposes; and

Whereas, Coal mining has been, and continues to be, one of the primary industries responsible for the economic success of West Virginia and its citizens; and
Whereas, Thousands of West Virginians are employed, either directly or indirectly, by the coal mining industry which generates payrolls totaling over $2 billion; and
Whereas, Surface coal mining, including the practice of mountaintop removal, currently represents forty-two percent of the total coal production in West Virginia; and
Whereas, Surface mining currently accounts for the payment of millions of dollars in severance taxes, millions of dollars in income taxes, and millions of dollars in other related taxes paid to the State of West Virginia; and
Whereas, County governments and county school systems throughout the state rely on the taxes from coal companies and coal miners to fund many valuable programs, including public education, ambulance services and law enforcement; and
Whereas, The loss of any of West Virginia’s coal mines and the loss of any mining-related employment ultimately results in significant harm to all West Virginians; and
Whereas, The world market place for coal is severely competitive and supports only mining companies that are dependable, low cost sources of coal; and
Whereas, deliberations have ensued over making even greater improvements in post mine land development involving mountaintop mining and the Governor and the Legislature have responded to those concerns; and
Whereas, By SB 375, provides for master land use plans to be developed in all counties where surface mining takes place with greater focus provided by the Coalfield Economic Development Office on renewable and alternative fuel sources, highways and residential; and
Whereas, over the past decade, an unprecedented level of requirements and controls have been established for mountaintop mining operations by the Legislature and through judicial instruments resulting in higher miner safety and environmental accomplishment; and,

Whereas, Actions and inactions by federal regulatory agencies which have had the effect of closing surface coal mines are more frequent and result in the loss of hundreds of mining and other jobs in West Virginia; and therefore, be it Resolved by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the Legislature hereby recognizes the importance of the coal mining industry and encourages all federal and state agencies regulating the coal mining industry to demonstrate affirmative responsiveness by returning to fair and objective behavior, particularly in the issuance of mining permits and other regulation of the coal industry; and, be it
Further Resolved, That the Legislature supports the continued mining of coal in West Virginia, including surface mining by all methods recognized by state and federal law, and is prepared to cooperate with all federal agencies in an effort to resolve quickly any outstanding issues which are preventing the mining of coal and which are contributing to the loss of jobs in West Virginia; and, be it
Further Resolved, That the Legislature requests West Virginia’s congressional delegation to join in the efforts to support the coal industry in West Virginia and to make every effort possible to assist in securing the needed cooperation from federal agencies to allow the continuation of the mining of coal and to protect the jobs of coal miners and others who derive their employment from coal mining; and, be it
Further Resolved, That the Clerk of the Senate is hereby directed to forward a copy of this concurrent resolution to the President and Vice President of the United States, the Governor of West Virginia, members of the West Virginia’s congressional delegation to the United States Congress, and to the directors of each of the federal and state agencies that regulate the coal mining industry in West Virginia.