Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Let's Wage War On Coal

This article makes an interesting point about jobs and energy.  Recently, the solar industry has become roughly equal with the coal industry in jobs.  Since solar is less efficient than coal, this is a way of saying that solar is still to expensive per KWh.

Of course, the article doesn't seem to account for the fact that solar is sort of a one time cost.  You install the panels and then...well, once they're paid off, that's sort of free energy.

But what's missing is the political piece of this.

Coal is a cheap, filthy fuel that pollutes our planet and tends to enrich a small sliver of the populace - mine owners - at the expense of everyone else.  The article does mention the social costs of pollution associated with coal, but it does not mention how incredibly crappy being a coal miner is.

But the "argument" against solar - and Obama, really - is that he's waging a war on coal to benefit solar companies (hence the Solyandra nonsense).  And this means hard-working coal miners are suffering.

But the reality is that fewer and fewer people are necessary to mine coal.  The article cites the number 174,000 as the entire coal workforce.  So if every coal miner, tender and train operator were to lose their job tomorrow, it would only make a small dent in the national employment picture.

We see something similar with the Keystone pipeline debate.  The pipeline will create a few thousand jobs to build it and then a few dozen to maintain it.  Yet, Republicans are trying to sell it as a "jobs" program.  In return, we can threaten the world's best growing region by laying a pipeline of filthy tar sands through the Oglalla aquifer.

The "war on coal" and the "war on Keystone" are not about jobs for working class Americans.  They are about climate change and a bassackwards energy policy that subsidizes filthy forms of energy.

So, yes, the labor intensive process of installing solar panels adds to its cost economically, but it could be used to make it more politically appealing, if it was done right.

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