Many coal mines gone for good

A column by Mike Myer, executive editor of The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register 

WHEELING, W.Va. — Some people in the southern West Virginia coalfields believe – literally – that if Donald Trump wins the presidency, their local coal mines will reopen the day after the inauguration, a friend from that area told me last week.

It isn’t going to happen.

Some mines closed during the past few years could never be reopened, except at great cost, my friend added.

Once closed, they were abandoned and a number of them have filled up with water. Some mining companies didn’t just idle their facilities. They closed and sealed the mines, then moved all the equipment elsewhere.

Several big utilities have closed coal-fired power plants and planned or built gas-fired units to replace them. They are not about to tear down their sparkling new generating stations and spend the money to revert to coal.

Unfortunately, the bottom line is that defenders of coal – and the low-priced electricity it generates – have missed the boat.

The Environmental Protection Agency has moved on every front its officials could find to shut down coal mines. The EPA has been wildly successful.

That is, in part, because most utility executives have decided that the global warming campaign was so successful they will have to abandon coal-fired generating stations.

Congress, which could have overruled President Barack Obama, has given the utilities no reason to think otherwise.

At this point, the best we can do is stop the bleeding – for the good of tens of millions of Americans whose power bills will skyrocket if the war on coal continues. Most of what we’ve lost is gone for good, however.

That means West Virginians need to come up with a way of reinventing our economy, which is heavily dependent on coal. How can we do that? As far as I know, no one has come up with a workable plan. Hillary Clinton’s $30 billion promise certainly isn’t a candidate.

As for Trump, he made big promises when he visited West Virginia. But I just finished listening to an audio version of his new book, “Crippled America.” In it, he discusses at length the potential of domestic drilling for oil and gas.

If he mentioned coal even once, I missed it.

Myer can be reached at: [email protected].

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