Coal Tattoo

Coal commentary from the weekend paper


Kudos to Dawn Miller, editorial page editor here at the Gazette, for putting a ton of interesting coal-related commentary on the Perspectives page of this weekend’s Sunday Gazette-Mail.

If you missed it, one highlight of the page was a piece by United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts, outlining the sorts of changes his union would like to see made to the climate change bill working its way through Congress:

— A reduction of the 2020 emission reduction target from 17 percent to a more realistic number, in order to provide sufficient time for the development and commercial application of carbon capture and storage technology on new or retrofit plants.

— Windfall emission allowance allocations to non-carbon emitting sources should be prohibited. The Waxman-Markey bill uses a formula for the distribution of allowances that gives a windfall to nuclear, hydro and other non-carbon emitting sources. The UMWA favors an allocation approach that reflects historical emissions.

— Assure full funding for commercial carbon capture projects. The Waxman-Markey bill provides $150 billion in bonus emissions allowances for commercial carbon capture and storage applications. However, these bonus allowances should be expanded substantially because they are critical to the widespread deployment of technologies on new and retrofit power plants.

— Strengthen provisions on international participation. If other nations, particularly those like China, India and other developing countries, do little or nothing to curb their increasing carbon emissions then this legislation becomes little more than just another mechanism to transfer American jobs overseas. The legislation must ensure that our nation does not suffer severe economic harm should other nations fail to meet their responsibilities.

— Assure the full and timely availability of emission “offsets” from domestic and international sources. The bill provides generous credits for activities that reduce carbon, but does not assure that utilities will be able to access these credits in a timely way. The Department of Energy’s analysis shows that the availability of emission offsets is a critically important tool to keep coal miners working while emissions are being reduced.

Roberts concluded:

During the discussions and debate in the House about this legislation, the UMWA was just about the only voice at the table speaking out for coal. Because of our efforts and those of coal’s friends like Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), much was done to lay the groundwork for the future for coal in this legislation.

But much was left undone. It is not yet clear if the future for coal under this proposed legislation will be a robust one that recognizes the overwhelming availability and cost advantage coal provides our nation’s energy producers and consumers.

There was also a very interesting piece by John T. Chambers, a retired Charleston physician and business executive,  arguing for stronger protections and a more concrete plan for management of West Virginia’s water.

Finally, also check out the piece by Rob Godbey, program manager for the Create West Virginia Conference, arguing that, “Even when the recession is over, the old jobs won’t come back.”