Coal’s Colossal Comeback

Stephen Moore,

Buried in an otherwise-humdrum jobs report was the jaw-dropping pronouncement by the Department of Labor that mining jobs in America were up by 11,000 in March. Since the low point in October 2016, and following years of painful layoffs in the mining industry, the mining sector has added 35,000 jobs.

What a turnaround. Liberals have been saying that Donald Trump was lying to the American people when he said that he could bring coal jobs back. Well, so far, he has delivered on his promise.

There’s more good news for the coal industry. Earlier this month, Peabody Energy — America’s largest coal producer — moved out of bankruptcy, and its stock is actively trading again. Its market cap had sunk by almost 90 percent during Barack Obama’s years in office. Arch Coal is also out of bankruptcy.

It turns out that, after all, elections do have consequences. The Obama administration and its allies, such as the Sierra Club, tried to kill coal because of their obsession with global warming. Regime change in Washington has brought King Coal back to life.

Donald Trump pledged to coal miners in small towns across America that he would be a friend to American coal and fossil fuels. As promised, Trump has lifted the so-called Clean Power Plan regulations and several other EPA rules that were intentionally designed to shutter coal plants, which it accomplished with ruthless precision. Hillary Clinton had promised her green allies that she would finish off every last coal-mining job in America.

coalscomeback_small Coal's Colossal Comeback Business

The coal miners weren’t too happy about this, and her arrogant disregard for a leading American industry that hires tens of thousands of union workers contributed to her losing almost all the coal states — many of which were once reliably Democratic.

America was built on cheap and abundant coal. Fossil fuels powered the U.S. into the industrial age and replaced windmills and wood burning, which were inefficient, as the primary sources of electricity. America currently has access to 500 years’ worth of coal — far more than any other nation. Despite the last decade’s war on coal, the U.S. still derives about one-third of our power from coal, making it second only to natural gas.

Liberals have argued that coal could never make a comeback, because of cheap natural gas. Clearly, the shale gas revolution — with prices falling from $10 to $3 per million cubic feet — has hurt coal producers.

But economic necessity is the mother of invention, and coal companies, including Peabody, have figured out how to become far more efficient in production. What’s more, clean coal is here. Emissions of lead, sulfur, carbon monoxide and other air pollutants from coal plants have fallen by more than half, and in some cases 90 percent, in recent decades.

The climate-change industrial complex pontificates that the U.S. has to stop using coal to save the planet. But even if the U.S. cut our own coal production to zero, China and India are building hundreds of coal plants.  By suspending American coal production we are merely transferring jobs out of the U.S.

Renewable energy is decades away from being a major energy source for the world. Until that happens, coal and natural gas will compete as low-priced, super-abundant, domestically produced energy sources for 21st-century America. Nuclear power will, I hope, continue to play an important role, too. Meanwhile, for all the talk of the growth in wind and solar industries, they still account for less than 10 percent of our energy. Almost 70 percent comes from natural gas and coal.

Coal isn’t dead in America. It is unleashed. As a Washington Times editorial put it very well recently, “The left gave up on the 100,000 coal workers in America more than a decade ago. Donald Trump has not.” Remember this the next time Elizabeth Warren or Nancy Pelosi lectures us about how much they care about the working class in America.

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  • DrArtaud

    I’m glad to see an emphasis on mining and coal fired power plants.

    Mines can be profitable and as free as possible from accidents, incidents, and catastrophes, but it’s tough work in a dangerous environment. If you’re not familiar with the risks, one very costly incident is detailed below.

    Article: Mining Disasters – An Exhibition – 1972 Sunshine Mining Company Mining Disaster
    Kellogg, Idaho

    Video: You Are My Sunshine

    Published on Oct 5, 2015 Article: CDC – Mining Product: You Are My Sunshine You Are My Sunshine” tells the story of the Sunshine Mine Disaster of 1972, which cost the lives of 91 miners. The story is told through the eyes of 27 people who lived through it. The video explores what happened, what went wrong, and what were the lessons learned.

    Quite often, it’s the little things that get overlooked and cause major incidents.

    Video: Inferno: Dust Explosion at Imperial Sugar

    Video: Live Dust Explosion at FM Global’s Research Campus in West Glocester, Rhode Island

    Did you know that dust can explode? That is to say any organic material—wood, paper, rubber, fiber, food, tobacco, etc.—can create dust given the right conditions. In this controlled demonstration at FM Global’s one–of-a-kind Research Campus in West Glocester, RI, the five ingredients needed to cause dust to explode—air, fuel, heat, suspension and confinement—are provided to cause the explosion, or more appropriately, a partial volume deflagration. Here, one hard hat full (11 lbs. or 5 kg.) of coal dust is placed in a trough approximately 2/3 of the height of the enclosure, which measures 10 ft. wide x 12 ft. deep x 15 ft. high. A small charge was then introduced to disturb and suspend the dust followed by an ignition source (bottle rocket). Although you may not be able to totally eliminate combustible dust from your process or your facility, there are prevention measures you can take to reduce the frequency of dust fires and explosions. Likewise, control measures can reduce the severity of a fire or explosion. Together, these can help you reduce the likelihood of property damage and business interruption. Takeaway: If it didn’t start out as a rock, it can explode. For more information, visit FM Global at http://www.fmglobal.com.

    Not necessarily mining related, but industry related, is a blog I did on Headlamps worn on hardhats or directly on the head. I worked around ignitable gases and vapors, and in a facility with ignitable dusts. The headlamp blog discusses various ratings used to denote whether, or not, any particular device is safe for that environment without a chance of causing ignition.

    Blog: Headlamps I Have Known

    And last, some fun with science as relates to safety. Dust explosions, and gas incredibly dense.

    Video: Dust Explosions – Cool Science Experiment

    Video: Anti-Helium – The Deep Voice Gas – DIY Sci

    Video: Sulfur Hexafluoride – Deep Voice Gas