Hal Quinn: Coal column is insightful
To the editorTo the editor
To the editor
Danielle Elkins' recent opinion column provided a thoughtful perspective on the stress and anxiety in coal communities across the nation due to the sharp loss of coal jobs recently. It is true that the industry has faced drops in the number of mines and miners in the past, but the remaining and new mines were larger, more productive and miners' wages increased. Today, the average coal mine wage is almost $84,000 and with overtime miners can take home six figures a year.
As recently as 2011, more coal miners were employed than in 1990. Since 2011, more than 67,000 coal miners have lost their jobs. Why? Some credit low natural gas prices. However, the study Ms. Elkins referenced from King University found that natural gas prices only had a modest effect — accounting for a loss of 20 million tons of lost coal production before 2013. Since then, government regulations that came into effect account for the loss of 105 million tons of coal production. The King University study confirms what an earlier Duke University study predicted —low natural gas prices threatened less than 10 percent of the nation's coal power plants while EPA regulations for power plants threatened more than 50 percent of them. EPA's most recent costly power plan would more than double the number of power plants closed to date, but without the new rules coal production would increase and stabilize according to the Energy Information Administration.
Ms. Elkins is correct that the coal industry’s fate remains to be determined. And, she is doubly right that the common thread among coal communities across the country — from Southwest Virginia to Craig — is their tremendous sense of community and willingness to help one another during hard times.
Hal QuinnHal Quinn
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