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New Threat to Coal

August 18, 2010

A threat to coal is a threat to the production of inexpensive electricity and to our economy.

This isn’t to say that all coal production is equal. High sulfur coal has shortcomings. Mountain top coal mining has consequences. Underground mining is inherently dangerous.

But coal mining in the Powder River basin in Wyoming and Montana produces low sulfur, inexpensive coal. Forty percent of U.S. coal is produced in the Powder River basin.

The Powder River basin has become the newest target of environmentalists.

Strip mining in the Powder River basin is the most inexpensive method for mining coal in the United States. Reclamation restores the land so that there are few environmental consequences.

With cap and trade legislation apparently stymied in Congress, environmental groups are now going after coal production as a way to cut CO2 emissions without cap and trade legislation.

China as well as the United States is the target of these uninformed groups.

Coal exports help our balance of payments and provide jobs, not only for miners, but also for truck drivers, dock workers and people employed by railroads. China isn’t dependent on U.S. coal. Australia is a major exporter to China and has substantial low cost reserves. Any reduction in our coal exports will be offset by Australia and others.

We will lose jobs to Australia.

The land that is mined is leased by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to coal mining companies.

Environmentalists are attacking the BLM in an effort to prevent the BLM from leasing land to coal companies, such as Peabody Energy Corporation.

If their lawsuits can prevent BLM from leasing land or make leasing so difficult, time consuming and expensive that production is impeded, the environmentalists believe they can reduce the use of coal in the United States and China.

This will complement the efforts of environmentalists to prevent the construction of new coal-fired power plants, even the highly efficient ultra-supercritical plants.

The efforts of environmentalists have, and will continue to hurt the United States, with high cost electricity making our economy less efficient, which will result in more lost jobs.

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