Harlan Daily Enterprise
Coal miners and industry officials in Bell County, Claiborne County, Tenn., and throughout the Appalachian coalfields continue to worry about their jobs and future as a result of the nation’s re-electing President Barack Obama for another four-year term.
With just hours passing after the electoral votes giving Obama another term, coal industry officials say they are now in a position of having to “wait and see” what platform he will take on the coal industry and the environmental regulations that have stiffled the industry during his first term.
“As is often the case after any election, Kentucky’s coal industry is in a ‘wait and see’ position with President Obama’s re-election. Should he embrace a more inclusive position regarding coal in our country’s movement toward energy independence, the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the United States would benefit greatly,” said Bissett. “Our coal miners, especially in eastern Kentucky, continue to see layoffs, not simply because of low natural gases, but also the impact of a federal government that has increased costs of mining at every turn. Using 2011 statistics only hides the downturn in our coal economy that this president has caused through both his appointments and actions.”
Bissett said it is important to note that in Kentucky and West Virginia, the president performed very badly and, in the words of U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler-D “cost” him his re-election bid against challenger Andy Barr-R.
“Our hope would be that the president on the campaign trail hearing from so many coal miners worried about their jobs — worried about their future, would cause a change in this administration and their very severe anti-coal policies,” said Bissett. “However, we also remain cognizant that that isn’t likely.”
Bissett said “only time will tell” if the president got the message from both Kentucky and West Virginia, which overwhelmingly didn’t support him, that people are “hurting here and need him to support the coal industry instead of trying to wipe it out.”
“We did hear a lot on the campaign trail, especially in Ohio, that President Obama sees himself as a pro-coal leader,” said Bissett. “I would disagree respectfully with the president on that point, but maybe his mind is changing. We’ll have to see if there is a follow up there in his actions and appointments. Thus far, this administration has been extremely punitive toward our industry especially in increasing our cost of production, which has made us uncompetitive compared to low-cost natural gas.”
The Kentucky Coal Association will continue to carry the message connecting coal production and use to low-cost electricity and its benefit to the economy Bissett said.
“From the more than 61,000 Friends of Coal license plates on Kentucky vehicles to coal being a major campaign topic at both the state and national level, we are hopeful that the president’s “pro-coal” comments from the campaign reflect a new direction for his administration and not an attempt to shore up an electorate in states who continue to see him as anti-coal in both word and action,” said Bissett.
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or at firstname.lastname@example.org