Obama Chooses Extreme Environmentalism Over Workers

Mitt Romney campaigned in Ohio today and launched an attack on President Obama’s coal policies, telling the audience that the president is waging a “war on coal.” The extreme left-wing environmental agenda is an obvious wedge in the Obama coalition and the president is on the wrong side.

The left wing has chosen privileged environmental protestors over working-class jobs in the coal industry

The disdain environmentalists have for the coal industry is no secret, but nor can its economic importance be discounted. In portions of Ohio and Pennsylvania, the industry is vital, and in neighboring West Virginia coal is the lifeblood of the state. It’s worth pointing out that West Virginia is one of the poorest states in the country, a fact that has not led the Environmental Left to show it any mercy.

Increased regulations have made it increasingly difficult for coal to be competitive. West Virginia admirably stood up for itself in 2000 and turned from its traditional Democratic pattern and voted for George W. Bush. Undoubtedly the fact Al Gore’s environmental extremism was well-known aided the Bush campaign and in the tight ’00 election, WVA tipped victory into the GOP column. West Virginia again went for Bush four years later.

The environmental agenda sets the financially comfortable liberals of the suburbs against the working-class Democrats in heavy industry. The Left has counted on a strategy of giving working people the rhetoric, while giving the well-connected the actual policy. Because Obama’s persona is not as elitist as the obnoxious Gore’s was, hammering home that disconnect is going to be tougher. But saying it’s going to be tougher is not a reason to give up on the attempt.

That’s why Romney was correct in making this point today even if the whole “war on” line put coal on an increasingly extensive laundry list of things or people that are apparently having a war waged against them this election season.

What’s more important is that on an issue where the left wing has to choose what’s more important to them, the agendas of the well-off or the needs of the working class, they choose the former. Obama has been no different in practice. If the voters of West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania are bold enough to break ranks again in November, the GOP would be wise to remember what it was that motivated them.

Dan Flaherty is the author of Fulcrum, an Irish Catholic novel set in postwar Boston with a traditional Democratic mayoral campaign at its heart, and he is the editor-in-chief of TheSportsNotebook.com



  • Rachel

    Do you have ANY idea what coal mining has done to the residents of Appalachia? Not only does it cause long-term respiratory issues in workers; they are at risk each day that they enter into the mine for work. Fine particulates in the air released from coal mines are responsible for more than 24,000 deaths annually (2004 Report by Clean Air Task Force). This is merely one figure that reflects part of the adverse ramifications of coal mining.

    We know coal pollutes the soil, air, and water in those communities surrounding coal mines, which permeates into their lives through food, breathing, drinking, you name it. Coal mining in this part of the country is one of the most substantial historical reasons why Appalachians are living in abject poverty.

    Not only is coal bringing down the quality of life (and simply ending it) for people who have relied on the myths that it will give them life and a livelihood, but it simply won’t last in the long run. The largest coal mine in the United States, Powder River Basin Mine in Wyoming, has 7 years of remaining life. 7 years. The coal costs in my state (Minnesota) are rising about 9.02% each year. Last year, Wisconsin –one state–spent $850 million on coal. We call renewable energy “expensive,” but what about all the hidden costs of coal? What is a human life worth?

    It has been made clear that coal is completely unsustainable (financially, environmentally, and health-wise) practice that CAN be replaced by other methods of energy that are not only healthy but will last longterm and will provide jobs for our country.

    So, you can see this isn’t just about “the environment”–which by the way, is, as we all know who have eaten food, breathed air, and consumed water (to stay alive), not separate from we human beings, but the foundation upon which we live and are called by God to steward–but it is about life and the dignity of the human person.

  • em1

    This is a supposed critique of “environmentalists” for being “against” coal that seem unaware of the last two Pope’s strong statements of concern for stewardship of the earth, one of the seven principles of Catholic social teaching… a very pro-life one. It seems also caught up in an outdated black/white almost Communist-gov’t type of time warp/dicotomy/perspective in imagining only that economic goals cannot be reconciled with environmental ones. It conveys quite a biased tone.

    What “price” would this author put on preservation of human life/avoidance of serious preventable diseases? Robt Kennedy spoke in Mississippi not long before he was assassinated, e.g., saying the GNP includes Speck’s knife, napalm, etc., everything “made”, in short, that can destroy life — without considering any of the things that make us fully human: the strength of our marriages, beauty of our children, poetry, etc.

    Coal is a much “dirtier” energy source than others to which we thank God have access today (this is not 19th-c. Victorian England where one was pretty much consigned to consumption if had to breathe too much of the air in particular spots in a coal-burning culture). On the public health benefits to human life and quality of life alone, this author’s hostile tone is erroneously misplaced.

    Both of our last great Pope’s were/are very clear as to our obligations not to harm irrevocably our common trust, our planet Earth and its atmosphere. It’s been some years, e.g., since the Vatican became the first carbon-neutral state.

    What mother or father WANTS her/his child to suffer from deleterious effects of polluted air that sickens him/her? — much less when today we now have knowledge how to prevent such outcomes.
    Who gave anyone the “right” to “take” all the profits from our God-given natural resources… while “giving”to the public fisc/health/lives all the detriments that ensue from their private actions?
    As far back as Thomas Jefferson, our third President said it was the appropriate function of gov’t to keep men from harming each other! Please modulate your tone appropriately. Such unwonted derision toward necessary cleaning up of unnecessary man-made pollution and its deleterious effects on all of God’s creation, not least of which on its supposed pinnacle, human beings (see Genesis), is not worthy of the space given it on a Catholic site.

  • tlr

    This is an enormously important issue. It’s about jobs now. It’s about electrical energy in the future. Too many coal-fired power plants are scheduled to shut down over the next two to three years. We must keep these coal miners working for their well-being and that of the country. If they lose their jobs there will be a greater need for missionaries to Appalachia than ever before.

  • tz1

    Perhaps they could just all grow tobacco instead. That is a profitable crop in the area, and we shouldn’t listen to the extreme health fanatics?

    But this is why we can’t have a discussion. The only words which penetrate are acerbic.

    Energy is complex, but now we need all we can get – coal, nuclear, wind. In Iowa, the farmers (with windmills and ethanol) are conservative but campaign against ‘dirty coal’ with more fervor than Obamites.

  • Pammie

    Over 100,000 workers have died in coal mining accidents in the last 100 years. Even with protective measures, coal miners still to this day live shorter lives and most suffer from coal workers pneumoconiosis. The destructive mining operations hurt not only our planet, but real people. I support governmental regulations on this industry, they are necessary and save lives of actual people

    • Joe M

      Pammie. Obama created regulations limiting forms of surface mining that are safer for workers than the under-ground alternative. It’s an example of Dan’s point that Obama chooses environmental concerns over worker concerns.

      • pammie

        Open mines are not safer for the workers, there is still coal dust, spread into the atmosphere. Additionally, huge areas of land are decimated. Water quality is destroyed and adjacent towns are poisoned from these operations. Again, I’m glad that the government is looking out for us.

  • United Mine Worker

    Well, we’ll see who the United Mine Workers endorse in a month or two. Did your Koch Brothers memo clue you into the reality that coal jobs are up 10 percent, and that a $5 billion federal investment in clean coal technology initiated by the Obama administration is one of the largest ever? And ol’ Mitt seems to have forgotten that he himself said at a 2003 press conference in front of a closed coal plant that he “will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people. And that plant kills people.”

    • Joe M

      United Mine Worker. I guess you don’t work at this coal company: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/07/09/patriot-coal-files-for-bankruptcy-protection/ Do you think that in difficult economic times that many Americans are happy that more of their tax dollars are being taken to fund $5 billion dollar coal technologies? — Congratulations on the $5 billion payment for votes. I doubt that the people who paid for it are as amused.



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