[Vision2020] Smaller Lumps of Coal in Some Stockings this Year

Nicholas Gier ngier006 at gmail.com
Tue Dec 25 09:20:04 PST 2018

*Season's Greetings:*

For those who do not take the Daily News this is my Christmas column. This
is the longer version that appeared in the Sandpoint Reader and Pocatello's
Idaho State Journal.  I've taken it easy during my recovery from back
surgery, but I'm determined to make my column deadlines.

The very best for the new year, Nick

*Smaller Lumps of Coal in Some Christmas Stockings This Year*

*Every mine safety law is written in a miner’s blood.*

—Phil Smith, United Mine Workers

            Initially, I could not find a connection between the 40-year
decline in coal consumption and Christmas, and then suddenly it came to me:
there will be smaller lumps of coals in the stockings of those who deny
climate change. They are definitely on Santa’s Naughty List.

Way up north Santa has had to strip down to his long underwear during the
warmest five years since he started delivering presents in 1832. He has
experienced first-hand the recession of the glaciers and the permafrost
around his workshop has melted for the first time and has not yet re-froze
this winter.

Despite Trump’s claim that “the coal industry is back,” estimates are that
2018 will experience the largest ever decrease in coal consumption. This is
mainly due to the closing of 250 coal-fired power plants since 2010—three
in October alone. Cleaner natural gas and renewable wind and solar are
gradually edging out coal in the nation’s energy equation.

            Of course Trump has blamed Obama and his alleged “War on Coal,”
but the decline in consumption has been fairly steady since 1979, and the
recent steep drop started during the second Bush administration.
Furthermore, Obama’s Clean Power Plan never went into effect because of a
court challenge, and now Trump has rescinded Obama’s executive order.

Even the easing of regulations for coal-fired plants has not stopped their
removal off-line nor has it encouraged the building of new ones.
“Ironically,” says former Obama official Joe Pizarchik, “the new tax law
approved by the Republican-controlled Congress has encouraged coal plants
to close, as utilities use a provision that allows them to accelerate
depreciation costs for closing plants.”

            Last July, blowhard Trump claimed that he had created 45,000
new coal jobs, but the actual number was 1,001 for 2017. This year the 4
West Mine in southwestern Pennsylvania is slated to close and 400 jobs will
be lost there. Furthermore, over 1,000 miners were let go in Kentucky,
Texas, and Ohio, reversing all the gains in 2017.

Mine deaths have nearly doubled, from 8 in 2016 to 15 this year, the
highest since 2014. During that time there were 60,000 more miners, but the
Obama administration still brought the death toll down below 20. Safety
rules, now under attack, were strengthened significantly after 29 miners
lost their lives in the Upper Big Branch mine in 2013.

Black lung disease is also on the rise, and the Trump administration is
revisiting regulations regarding coal dust put in place by the Obama
administration. Mine safety lawyer Tony Oppegard believes there’s only one
reason for this move: “To raise the amount of dust miners can breathe in or
to create other loopholes where operators could violate the standard.” In
June of 2018, no doubt feeling freer to ignore existing rules, a Kentucky
coal company was fined for not reporting the correct readings on its mine’s
dust monitors.

Former coal lobbyist and climate change denier Andrew Wheeler has replaced
the completely corrupt Scott Pruitt at the EPA. He is determined to
de-regulate the coal plants even more. He has proposed that any new plants
could emit up to 500 more pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of
electricity than the 2015 standard.

With Trump-like denial of the obvious, Wheeler claims that this would not
increase carbon dioxide emissions! He boasts that that these were down 2.7
percent in 2017, but they have been decreasing since 2007 and have nothing
to do with his EPA or Trump.

This year emissions have gone up 2.5 percent because of oil use and greater
demand for cooling and heating. This is just under the 2.7 percent across
the world, pushing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 405
parts per million, the highest in 3-5 million years.

Major health authorities have condemned the EPA proposal declaring that it
is “a major threat to the health of all Americans, particularly those most
vulnerable. Power plant pollution and climate change endangers the health
of every American, but certain groups are more at risk—including children,
older adults, pregnant women, low-income communities and communities of

A bill to shore up miners’ pensions funds has been held up in the GOP
Senate, and Trump has done nothing to promote its passage. Former Obama
official Pizarchik says: “Trump talks tough to the coal miners to get their
support, but he doesn’t deliver for them.”

            Nick Gier of Moscow taught philosophy at the University of
Idaho for 31 years. Email him at ngier006 at gmail.com.


A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they
shall never sit in.

-Greek proverb

“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity.
Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance
from another. This immaturity is self- imposed when its cause lies not in
lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without
guidance from another. Sapere Aude! ‘Have courage to use your own
understand-ing!—that is the motto of enlightenment.

--Immanuel Kant
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