May 12, 2016
safe to assume that Adele
Morris has never heard of Ludwig von Mises.
After all, senior fellows at the left-leaning Brookings
Institution aren’t terribly interested in one of history’s greatest
apologists for the free market.
Morris were familiar with von Mises’s work, she’d understand that her latest
“discussion paper” is a sad manifestation of one of the Austrian economist’s
key insights. Government
intervention, he observed, creates unintended consequences, which serve to
breed further government intervention. The wheel keeps spinning, and the
“public” sector grows and grows.
a Better Future for Coal Workers and Their Communities” is an exploration
of “solutions” for a challenge fabricated solely by misguided government
meddling. Brookings’s “policy director for Climate and Energy Economics” advocates
a “well-designed well-funded package of federal policies” targeting regions
devastated by an industry in decline.
production hit its peak in 2008. But the dropoff is accelerating. Between early
April 2015 and 2016, “U.S. weekly coal production fell by 39 percent.” (In
Appalachia, the dive was 43 percent.) Coal jobs have been disappearing for
decades, thanks to efficiency improvements and regulatory ratcheting. But
Morris notes that since 2014, “coal-related employment … has been bleak, with
recent layoffs even in the most productive Wyoming operations.” Unemployment is
now north of 10 percent “in 19 of 55 counties in West Virginia and in 27 of 120
counties in Kentucky.” Worst of all, at least for technocrats such as Morris,
“tax and royalty revenues to state and local governments” are suffering. The
Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that
a special session of the West Virginia legislature will meet “just 45 days
before a potential shutdown of state services if there is no budget approved
when the new budget year begins July 1.”
never destined to be the dominant energy source in America. Technology evolves.
Consumers switch fuels based on market conditions. Decades ago, a salutary,
science-based crusade against poor air quality in much of the country began to
hamstring the black stuff’s competitiveness.
there’s no doubt that coal’s woes, in 2016, derive primarily from climate-change
silliness. Moonbat America has no problem with a 41 percent illegitimacy
rate, hundreds of trillions of dollars in unfunded federal liabilities, and
healthcare crippled by overregulation and subsidization. But carbon emissions? Horrors! As Chris
Hamilton of the West Virginia Coal Association told Congress in 2013, “the
day after President Obama took office, mining companies in West Virginia began
to receive objection letter after objection letter from the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, raising objections to new permits and even already-active
operations that were previously approved and cleared by EPA, the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers and West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.”
assault’s been long and intense. Earlier this year, the White House suspended
most new coal-mining on “federal” lands, and launched “a
comprehensive review to identify and evaluate potential reforms” to the lease
program “in order to ensure that it is properly structured to provide a fair
return to taxpayers and reflect its impacts on the environment, while
continuing to help meet our energy needs.”
statisticians predict that worldwide “energy consumption is projected to
increase by 48 percent over the next three decades, led by strong increases in
the developing world.” Coal, even in an era when greenie-weenies run the media
here and abroad, will meet quite a lot of that demand. But it won’t be American
coal, as ecochondriacs busily block proposed export facilities. Earlier this
month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers torpedoed a permit to build a terminal
in Whatcom County, Washington. To the south, in Cowlitz County, a similar
proposal will likely meet the same fate.
of course, has no problem with exterminating the coal industry. A professional
climate-change alarmist, she accepts that the campaign must be waged, if the Pale Blue Dot is to be
saved from the Koch Brothers. But wars produce victims. And she believes that
coal’s casualties need, as compensation, a
carbon tax. That’s the tool to raise funds “to help hard-hit communities
and families make the necessary transitions to a more diverse economic base, to
new careers, and through retirement.” (A “truly effective set of measures,” she
gushes, “if done well may even make [beneficiaries] better off than they would
have been absent climate policy.”)
Morris’s bizarre world, only a policy that enhances
the mass hysteria that’s brought so much carnage to Coal Country can offer
succor to unemployed miners, shuttered businesses, and plunging government
revenues. A simpler, and cheaper, alternative: End the War on Coal.
D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.
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