Coal, the black sheep resource

IN US President Barack Obama’s recent State of the Union address, the phrase “energy innovations” was a key theme and the future of natural gas was consistently at the tip of the chief executive’s tongue. Not one mention of coal – what does that mean for coal’s future? Donna Caudill spoke with two Appalachian and Illinois basins coal association leaders to find out.
Coal, the black sheep resource Coal, the black sheep resource Coal, the black sheep resource Coal, the black sheep resource Coal, the black sheep resource

Kentucky Coal Association president Bill Bissett.

Donna Schmidt

For Pennsylvania Coal Association director Josie Gasky and Kentucky Coal Association president Bill Bissett, Friday’s order of the day at the West Virginia Coal Association symposium was to speak up against the permitting delays, inconsistencies and vague regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency that continue to plague the country.

In interviews with International Longwall News, however, the attention was turned to Obama’s complete omission of coal from his latest – and what could be his last – annual State of the Union, after years of rallying against the industry and promising to “bankrupt” coal and put thousands of Americans out of work.

By omitting the fuel that creates the electricity for nearly half of the US, Bissett said, Obama’s refusal to even say the word coal “speaks to … his strong belief to move this country away from coal by any means necessary”

In a presentation before the West Virginia Coal Association on Friday, Bissett said the best word to describe today’s coal industry was “uncertainty”

He said the commander in chief’s administration, including the EPA, had been consistent in its push to slow down coal production and that it had left the industry in somewhat of “a paralyzed state”

“I’ll give him credit: he’s been clear in his intent,” Bissett said.

“His pep talk to the EPA shows his support to every anti-coal initiative that this federal government is doing.”

He added it would be the “rate payer”, the public, who would see the brunt of those actions.

Meanwhile, Gasky said diversification was integral to the nation’s future and energy independence and ignoring coal was “shortsighted”

“[To] achieve energy security and economic prosperity, we need to use all our natural resources — no one source should be killed to promote others,” she said, adding that the coal fields of Pennsylvania should play a significant role in any blueprint for energy independence.

“Not mentioning coal shows a lack of understanding as to the major role coal mining plays in keeping electricity costs affordable for families as well as businesses and creating more sustainable, well-paying jobs that allow citizens to invest in this country’s economy.”

She added it was short-sighted to believe US manufacturing could rebuild and the country could achieve true energy security without the use of the largest natural resources in a large role.

“Failure to publicly recognize this major role shows a lack of respect for the hard work [of] our grandparents and great-grandparents in making this country the greatest nation on earth,” Gasky said.

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