Opinion

Coal declines no matter who is in the White House

An editorial from The Charleston Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Politicians in West Virginia and Kentucky shout themselves hoarse claiming that the Obama administration’s enforcement of pollution laws is a “war on coal.” But here’s an irony:

Mine jobs in the Central Appalachian Basin fell more under presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton than they have under Obama. Yet nobody accuses those previous presidents of a war on coal.

Researcher Patrick Reis points out that West Virginia had well above 40,000 miners when Reagan took office in 1981 — but the number dropped to about 25,000 by the time his successor, the first President Bush, left office in 1993. The decline continued below 20,000 under Clinton in the 1990s, then climbed somewhat under the second Bush and Obama.

Regardless, there’s no doubt that Central Appalachian coal is retreating as good seams are exhausted and cheaper fuels grab markets. The economy is a ruthless machine that pays no heed to the wishes of politicians or anyone else.

Latest figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration say the number of West Virginia miners fell from 22,786 in 2012 to 20,751 in 2013…

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