Coal Tattoo

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As the nation waits to hear more details of President Obama’s new jobs plan, the National Mining Association sought today to inject its own agenda into the mix — issuing a news release criticizing the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign:

On the eve of the president’s address to the nation on job creation, a new report shows potentially 1.24 million jobs in 36 states have been destroyed by the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign aimed at stopping coal-based power plants. The finding, from an analysis released today by the National Mining Association (NMA), shows that while the Sierra Club boasts of stopping coal plant projects it is also destroying high-wage jobs for American workers in a struggling economy.

Aside from its news release, the NMA made public just two charts (see here and here) from the analysis, but said:

Applying coal plant employment data from the U.S. National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) to the Sierra Club’s own claims of halted power plant construction, the analysis shows Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign has targeted for destruction 116,872 permanent jobs and an additional 1.12 million construction jobs represented by the power plants they have prevented from being built. Examples include Illinois, where proposed power plants could have supported 126,612 total jobs there and in surrounding states, and Texas, where blocked power plant construction represented 122,065 total jobs and where potential shortages of electric power exists today.

NMA President Hal Quinn said:

From this analysis, only two conclusions are possible: Either the Sierra Club is exaggerating its effectiveness, or its effectiveness is genuine but at the cost of hundreds of thousands of high-wage jobs for Americans struggling to find work in the middle of an historic employment crisis.

Of course, the Sierra Club is exaggerating its own effectiveness. Not all of the plants on their list were specifically blocked by the group. A variety of factors played into decisions about not building new power plants, not the least of which was the economic downturn in the country.

But obviously, the mining industry and other coal supporters were none to pleased with the announcement that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was going to pump another $50 million into the Sierra Club’s campaign against dirty coal-fired power plants.

The other thing is, as the Sierra Club’s Bruce Nilles pointed out to me earlier, the NMA numbers only tell part of the story — they assume that no economic activity or jobs were created in place of these coal plant positions. Wind and solar are both making major gains. As Bruce told me:

They don’t answer what do these coal plants get replaced by? We had record investment in wind and gas this past year. They are in fact creating a lot of jobs.

Unfortunately, one of the only comparisons between these industries and their job count that is tossed around is the bogus one that compares every single person working in the entire wind industry to just those coal workers who actually do the mining.

Without better numbers on cleaner energy development, the National Mining Association’s new figures are only telling part of the story.