Ensure West Virginia can continue to export coal

The Weirton Daily Times editorial

Use of coal to generate electricity in the United States is expected to make a comeback as Americans begin to understand the reality behind former President Barack Obama’s claims of a cheaper, cleaner future based on wind and solar power.

The truth is that Obama’s war on coal and affordable electricity already is driving utility bills up for millions of Americans. It will get worse as the impact of closures of hundreds of coal-fired generating units hits.

Coal can be burned for electric generation in an environmentally acceptable manner. And, as the price of the natural gas used to fuel many newer power plants rises, low-cost electricity from coal will become more attractive.

All that will take time, however. Many coal miners and communities reliant on them ran out of time years ago, as the Obama administration shut down their mines.

U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., plans to do something about that this week, through a visit with the prime minister of India.

Yes, India. McKinley already has had conversations with that nation’s officials about using more coal to fuel power plants. That coal can come from West Virginia, McKinley believes.

He points out that of the about 1.1 billion people in India, approximately 300 million do not have access to electricity. Coal-fired generating plants offer their only affordable option to enjoy the benefits of power.

Finding new markets such as India for coal is especially critical because of devastation wrought by the Obama administration.

It will take time to develop clean-coal technology and get it online at power plants. While that is happening, the best hope laid-off miners and their devastated communities have is for mines to reopen to feed the export market.

McKinley is right, but his idea will require more than reopening mines. Transportation networks to get coal to seaports will need to be adequate. So will coal-handling facilities at the ports, not to mention ships to carry the fuel.

That is where President Donald Trump — who has proven he plans to keep his pledge to help coal country — comes in. Federal help may be needed to ensure mines in West Virginia, Ohio and other states can get coal to overseas markets. Where possible, the White House should provide it.

Miners, their communities and states need a lifeline to span the time between now and a resurgence of coal-fired power generation. Exports may be the only way to make that happen.

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