Sunday, June 21, 2009

Mr. Obama! Coal's costs far outweigh benefits

Ken Ward of the Charleston, West Virginia, Gazette reported today on a study by University of West Virginia researcher Michael Hendryx which found that the costs of coal far outweigh the benefits for West Virginia and the entire Appalachian region.
"Coal-mining economies are not strong economies," Hendryx said in an interview last week. "[Coalfield communities] are weaker than the rest of the state, weaker than the rest of the region, and weaker than the rest of the nation."

Writing with co-author Melissa Ahern of Washington State University, Hendryx reports that the coal industry generates a little more than $8 billion a year in economic benefits for the Appalachian region.

But, Hendryx and Ahern put the value of premature deaths attributable to the mining industry across the Appalachian coalfields at -- by their most conservative estimate -- $42 billion.

"The human cost of the Appalachian coal mining economy outweighs its economic benefits," they wrote.
Far from providing jobs, the report says that the number of jobs has decreased from 122,102 to 53,509 between 1985 and 2005, which
"corresponded to increases in mechanized mining practices and the growth of surface mining, which requires fewer employees than underground mining per ton mined."
Although people point to the cheap electricity you can get by burning coal, the study says that this does not reflect the true cost of coal if you include the costs of the externalities: ruined natural resources on the surface, and particularly the human lives lost or ruined to asthma and other results of coal's toxicity.

The study does not count costs of the loss of jobs, since far more have been lost recently due to mining mechanization. Instead it recommends a new Appalachian economy.
"Potential alternative employment opportunities include development of renewable energy from wind, solar, biofuels, geothermal, or hydropower sources; sustainable timber; small-scale agriculture; outdoor or culturally oriented tourism; technology; and ecosystem restoration," the study says.

"The need to develop alternative economies becomes even more important when we realize that coal reserves throughout most of Appalachia are projected to peak and then enter permanent decline in about 20 years."
The article in the Gazette was written by Ken Ward, who has been following the coal mining situation closely in the Gazette and in his blog Coal Tattoo.

Please, someone, put this article and the report in front of President Obama. He has been listening to the lies of Big Coal and the politicians dependent on Big Coal for too long. Let him know how citizens in Appalachia really live. Let him kick-start a new sustainable economy for Appalachia that will preserve its natural resources and improve the lives of its citizens.

1 comment:

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