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Assistance for Coal Miners and Coal Industry Workers

Discussion in 'Energy, Environment, and Policy' started by Skotty, Mar 14, 2017.

  1. Skotty

    Skotty 2014 Model S P85

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    I'd like to start a discussion about what kind of assistance should be in place for coal miners and coal industry workers as coal is phased out.

    First, let me postulate that it is undesirable to continue using coal for power plants, and that we should continue to phase it out down to a minimum. Primarily due to environmental issues, but also because we have better, safer options available to us moving forward (like solar).

    It is therefore a wrong move to try to revitalize the coal industry. However, there are legitimate concerns, especially for places like in Pennsylvania, where a lot of jobs in the coal industry stand to be lost. Hillary Clinton mentioned in one of the debates something about helping out coal workers, but it was not front and center, and I'm not sure anyone really heard her, or if she was really serious about it and had put any thought into it.

    So maybe we can discuss it here. For the future of our country, and a brighter future for our children, we are moving away from coal. But coal and the coal workers of the last century have been vital to the growth and prosperity of our society, and they should not be forgotten.

    What kind of programs could we offer to those who would lose their jobs and careers in coal that they would be receptive to?
     
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  2. S-dog

    S-dog Member

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    How about a gigafactory in West Virginia and a new Model 3 plant in Pennsylvania. That would be a good start.
     
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  3. Saghost

    Saghost Active Member

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    Teach a man to fish...

    I don't think any direct subsidy of coal companies or coal workers makes sense in the longer term. Developing new industries in the areas where coal industries are going away is what's needed, with new jobs and new investment opportunities.

    I'm not sure what's the best approach to make this happen. Tax breaks, investment incentives, sure. But if the area isn't a natural fit for the industry, it still won't be really economically competitive in the longer term.

    Certainly educational opportunities need to be created.
     
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  4. nativewolf

    nativewolf Member

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    It is really quite F'ing simple. They need to move. Period. Rural WV, KY, S Ohio are rife with opiod addiction and even in good years the mines could not hire enough people. Mechanization is eating more jobs than anything else and will continue to do so because there are few good candidates. Simple fix really is that good miners need to leave and go to TX and CA, etc. America's answer has always been to move, just look at the huge ghost towns in the west or even some towns of VA, there is a village a 60 miles south of me that used to have 25k people and now has 200. The people left.

    WV and KY need to see people, and lots of them, pack bags and go.
     
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  5. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

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    The government should buy coal from WV. Ship it to KY and pay them to bury it. Then... once all the coal in WV is mined... buy coal from KY. Ship it to WV and pay them to bury it. Then... once all the coal in KY is mined... buy coal from WV. Ship it to KY. Problem solved :D
     
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  6. gabeincal

    gabeincal Enjoying Napa life the electric way

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    Oh like good old communism :D
     
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  7. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

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    Not at all... in communism the government would buy the coal mines and make competition illegal.
     
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  8. Skotty

    Skotty 2014 Model S P85

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    I could see offering some kind of educational assistance programs (like financial assistance for people to go to college or trade schools), possibly relocation assistance if moving for a new job, and possibly other programs that encourage other industries to pick up former coal industry workers and gives more visibility of those former coal industry workers as well.

    What I'm curious about is how this would play to those workers. Most of them are likely Republicans who take the stereotypical position of vilifying government welfare programs, and efforts to help them would be just such programs. Would they reject assistance? Would they become more open to considering that welfare, if carefully managed, is not necessarily a bad thing?
     
  9. Merrill

    Merrill Active Member

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    Why could you not retrain them to work in the clean energy sector.
     
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  10. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

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    Not a lot of solar or wind resources in the nooks and hollers of WV or KY. Certainly not enough jobs to re-employ ~100k miners.

    IMO we're severely overestimating the ease of relocating these people and underestimating the effect. Many of these people have been living in their communities for 3 or 4 generations. They own land and homes that would be difficult or impossible to sell due to the depressed local economy.

    Their primary goal doesn't appear to be employment for themselves but to revitalize their communities... which is probably impossible.
     
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  11. dhrivnak

    dhrivnak Active Member

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    I live in the area and what is needed are jobs virtually any job over $10/hr has people lined up. When Eastman said they would hire 75 operators we had 1100 applicants in the first half day. They want to work there are just few opportunities. Moving is hard as property values are depressed so most would just have to leave a home and land that has been in the family for generations. Then leaving family is hard as roots are deep.

    And solar does work as we generate 100% of what we use in the house and both cars. We heat with an electric heat pump.
     
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  12. nativewolf

    nativewolf Member

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    Of course solar works fine in coal country, also wind turbines sited on the ridges are great wind producers. However, the basic issue is that some of these communities need to shut. Go rafting on the New River and you'll pass mine shaft after mine shaft all the centers of long dead coal mine boom towns. Done and did, town gone, deserted often flooded ruins. The problem today is that people are not willing to walk away from a $10k lot and mobile home. Crazy that there is even talk of revitalizing the industry.

    Trump May Help U.S. Coal Output, But Jobs Are Another Story

    This is a must read for folks that don't know the industry. 12,600 coal miners in WV today. Really it is a non F'ing issue. Cut off all support, close down all the crazy govt aid that goes to WV (more than most) and get people to move. Offer to move them for free, maybe even buy back the homes at some discount. KY a few more, VA a few less, MD hardly any, Ohio a few less, IL a few less and WY a few. We're talking about an infrastructure move that hardly registers in the national economy.
     
  13. AudubonB

    AudubonB Mild-mannered Moderator Lord Vetinari*

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    As other job sectors in the US have disappeared in relatively quick order, not over many years, what has happened?

    First off, what are some examples? At the moment, the list I've come up with is rather brief:

    • cod fishing off northeastern US: stocks depleted, moratorium announced...but no fish to protect with a moratorium anyway
    • tobacco industry: societal change plus gov't intervention lessened tobacco production significantly. But by how much? # farmers affected? (I've zero idea what occurred here but it should be easy to learn)
    • asbestos mining: although the most draconian changes occurred in southeastern Quebec, not US (larger production), here we had a situation perfectly analogous to what some here are depicting re coal mining
    • uranium mining: here, most affected was southeastern UT and northeastern AZ. But most of those employed were either Uintah-Ouray or Navajo Indians, so it doesn't matter, right?
    Second: once those and other examples are identified, describe the societal changes, mostly local, and isolate the state and federal responses; determine if any responses were effective (one would hope these would be in terms of job retraining, inducements for other industries to enter, etc) and if any such actions would be relevant to the coal patch.
     
  14. Topher

    Topher Energy Curmudgeon

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    Last I checked:

    Coal jobs total: 53,000.
    Increase in Solar Jobs (2016): 65,000.

    What was the question again?

    Thank you kindly.
     
  15. AudubonB

    AudubonB Mild-mannered Moderator Lord Vetinari*

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    The question is what to do with a significant number of workers in a concentrated geography. The 65,000 jobs in the US solar industry are spread over effectively the entire nation, so it's a difficult task to compare them.
     
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  16. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

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    No one is disputing that there's a solar job for every coal worker. The dispute is over wether it's viable to destroy those communities by removing all the working families from them. Someone living in KY can't really take a solar job in NV without selling their house (possibly impossible) and walking away from their extended family and home.
     
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  17. electracity

    electracity Active Member

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    I agree, the typical scots/irish in Appalachia are there because their ancestors moved into that region for jobs. My Scottish ancestors got tired of dying in those mines and moved on. I don't see why I should pay to retrain the people who stayed. It is over, and this fact has been obvious for several decades.
     
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  18. Topher

    Topher Energy Curmudgeon

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    Those communities are already destroyed, by lack of work. I am not willing to destroy the planet just so WV can have some poor people.

    I am happy to pay the $5 it would cost to retrain and relocate those coal miners.

    Thank you kindly.
     
  19. tomas

    tomas Traded in 9 rep bars for M3, used to be somebody!

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    @Skotty, I'm unclear in your original post as to who "we" are. Are you asking what Federal programs should be in place? What State programs? Or maybe what entrepreneurs or investors might do?

    @nativewolf has a point here. The modern (since the euro immigrants moved in and stole the land) "American" response has been to move to opportunities. At what point in the history of this nation did our citizens become so attached to a plot of land that they'd stay there even if there was no longer opportunity? Clearly it has happened. We are a young nation, but I guess there is some number of years/generations at which roots become very hard to dig up. And, if you are a laborer, where do you relocate for sustainable opportunities?

    30 years ago, I would have hoped that some entrepreneurs and investors would recognize an inexpensive labor source and move in. But, we don't really have a lot of traditional 'labor' opportunities anymore, due to ever-increasing automation and productivity in manufacturing. Every part of the country (and the world) is competing for a limited and shrinking number of manufacturing jobs.

    Can the government (either State or Federal) really afford to bail out (i.e., train and find new employment for) every labor-based industry as the labor needs tank... one after the other? Or, as some have suggested, is there a need for a broader solution, like a basic minimum income, and is this problem an illustration of that need?

    Or is there another approach? There's one experiment I would like to see... and maybe this is an example of where to do it. What would happen if a large community (hundred thousand people or more) in a rural area moved to a closed loop local economy? Grow/hunt/fish their own food, make their own clothes, build their own housing, generate their own power, provide their own entertainment. Eschew some of the technology that has become so addictive. Can man return to a more "simple", local life? I know that some like the Shakers are trying hard to preserve this type of lifestyle in the face of all the modern enticements. All humans lived like this for most of our existence. Can we return to it? Or has time rewired our brains? Is there some sort of hybrid of truly local economy that also incorporates global technologies?

    It's our hunger for 200+ TV channels plus high bandwidth internet content, bananas and strawberries year round, the latest car, the latest clothing, etc. that has taken us to this place where people feel so unsatisfied that they turn to drugs if they don't feel the opportunity to have it all. Can we reprogram ourselves?

    I really believe we need to think outside of the box here, because this about a lot more than one disappearing industry's workers, it is a case study for the new sociology that we need to figure out before we go to war with each other.
     
  20. electracity

    electracity Active Member

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    It is not about retraining "people", it is about directing more taxes to a specific group that have manipulated the political system to the detriment of the common good.

    Small towns throughout rural america are half empty with the hangers-on complaining about lack of jobs. There is nothing special about west virginia coal miners.
     

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