Attacks on coal are attacks on rail jobs

Published: November 23, 2010

If you are concerned by demands of environmentalists to reduce American coal transportation and American coal use, which will have a negative impact on rail jobs, wages and benefits, you may wish to let your congressional representatives know.

As demands are being made to shut down coal-fired electricity plants in the U.S., and restrict transportation of low-cost and abundant domestic coal, China is sending a fleet of ships to Australia, Canada, Colombia, Indonesia and South Africa to carry back coal for hundreds of new coal-fired electricity plants it is constructing, reports The New York Times.

The bottom line is that as attacks on U.S. coal use escalate, the cost of generating electricity also escalates, and that puts railroad, mining and other U.S. jobs in jeopardy as China reaps the economic rewards. It also makes the U.S. more dependent on expensive foreign oil from unfriendly nations.

Wes Vernon, a former CBS radio reporter, writes in the current issue of Railfan & Railroad magazine that environmental groups are opposing federal approval of a proposed new railroad line that would haul additional low sulfur coal out of the Montana and Wyoming Powder River Basin.

“All over America,” writes Vernon, “environmental groups have mounted major campaigns against building new coal-fired plants and, where possible, to shut down [others].”

Coal currently provides 50 percent of America’s electricity, says Rep. Shelley Capito (R-W. Va.). Railroads deliver 70 percent of America’s coal to meet our demand for electricity — a demand that will continue to grow unless we want to freeze in wintertime as did pioneers 150 years ago; darken our televisions; toss out our computers, cell phones, iPods, iPads, Game Boys, and Kindles; and return to candles to light our way after dark.

Renewable energy sources — such as wind farms — are being developed, but are not practical for the near term. And new technology is being developed making coal-burning power plants more environmentally friendly.

Coal, according to the Association of American Railroads, provides 25 percent of the industry’s revenue and one of every five railroad jobs.

Meanwhile, according to The New York Times, China is consuming half of the world’s annual output of six billion tons of coal. In America, according to The New York Times, one environmental group says it has helped to block construction of 139 proposed coal plants in the U.S.