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Bid to kill coal likely just the beginning

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Thursday, July 31, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

It must be tougher than usual to be a coal miner these days. The future of their living grows murkier.

One would expect better than average job security in work that's dangerous, dirty and never famous for social prestige.

Good pay and benefits, yes, but how many people in this age of clean fingernails care to engage in the digging trades?

And now we've got a government at war with coal. Cheered on by environmentalists who hate it like poison. Literally, like a toxin dangerous to life on the planet, by way of its emissions of “greenhouse gases” when burned. The proliferation of these chemicals in the atmosphere warms the world, intensifies storms, droughts and floods, and in time will raise the oceans, the true believers say.

It's not enough that the Obama administration has practically declared no more coal-fired electric plants will be built in the United States. The implied threat is that it will find a way to stop them, should any utility be so bold as to defy Big Brother.

Now the doomsdayers don't even want coal exported.

Keep it locked in the earth, they plead. It's the only safe place. Shipping it overseas just removes us technically as climate killers. Foreign customers, especially in China, become our hit men.

A onetime counsel at the Environmental Protection Agency the other day called exports of coal “the single biggest flaw in U.S. climate policy.”

It's as if the fellow never heard of a balance of payments problem: how we've got to sell overseas if we expect to buy from there.

Don't cheer energy exports, says another energy consultant. They're “chopping away bit by bit” at the slender gains Americans have made cutting our spews of carbon dioxide into the air.

Particularly objectionable to the kill-coal crowd are three new terminals being built on the West Coast to ship across the Pacific. It's like a funhouse mirror of the normal reaction you'd expect to such improvements (not even to mention the construction work being created).

But environmental fear mongering seems to trump a good thing like exports all the time.

America will export natural gas, perhaps even oil, one of these days too, given economic common sense and the great discoveries being made in deep shale formations. But liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals on the East Coast to serve Europe are getting the fishy eye, and you can bet will face the maximum possible bureaucratic delays.

There's no really practical form of mass-produced energy that environmentalists will cheer for. Their fears have made non-polluting nuclear energy absurdly expensive and over-regulated. They're killing coal. They accept natural gas, but it still (ugh!) burns. Only windmills and solar displays they truly embrace. Now why didn't coal miners think of going into something nice and clean like that?

Jack Markowitz is a columnist for Trib Total Media. Email

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