Climate Action

Is there a “War on Coal” In America? Industry Lobbyists Want You to Think So

With little political traction in Congress to move towards a renewable future, the EPA has been forced to take greater responsibility for addressing climate change and curbing fossil fuels. Over the past few years, they have done that in a number of ways, most recently producing regulations for states to reduce pollution coming from coal-fired power plants. However, the corporate interests that have stalled action in other parts of the political arena have taken notice and will now bring the fight to the courts system. This week an aggressive campaign has begun by a variety of actors related to industry lobbying in an attempt to paint “Obama’s War on Coal” as a battle to take away jobs in coal-dependent states and to take away America’s energy independence. It is also another example of using the concept of “states’ rights” in a misleading manner as a fearmongering framing device. Among the groups fighting the new rules are Peabody Energy, a coal producer that is filing a lawsuit against the new EPA rules. The idea that the EPA is limited freedoms of either states’ of individuals is absurd. It is true that if the EPA’s rules are enacted, the result will be shutting down a large portion of older coal plants around the country. However, it is fallacious and disingenuous to paint this as a populist battle on behalf of workers in the coal industry. Although, for many people, those jobs are a necessity, it is false to assume that they won’t be replaced, either by programs designed to move miners to the green energy sector, or just generally to another field. Furthermore, are jobs in dirty mining really worth holding onto in light of better alternatives? While people rightfully can take pride in the work that they do or the legacies that have been built over time, mining continues to remain a dangerous and difficult field of work. In fact, part of the problem in America is that work and jobs are too often evaluated in dehumanizing statistics that prioritize productivity over personal quality of life. The welfare of coal miners in America, and moving towards a renewable, cleaner energy grid, is not mutually exclusive. The first set of hearings before courts are tentatively scheduled for April.   Aaron Dorman, Intern