So, what’s going on with coal:
The US Supreme Court has delivered a commodity that is hard to come by in coal country: hope.
Hope that by blocking a new federal rule cutting power-plant emissions, the court has turned the tide after years of regulations and declining production. Hope that the jobs that once brought good wages to people who desperately needed them will come back.
For elected leaders of both parties in coal-producing states, ‘‘Obama’’ has been the easy answer to why the coal jobs are going away. So it’s no wonder the Supreme Court’s ruling was hailed by politicians as a ‘‘real ray of hope.’’
Despite these trends, industry supporters say the stay of the Obama administration’s plan prevents an even harsher future for coal, at least temporarily.
If implemented, the federal rule would drive down mining production from the largest coal state, Wyoming, between 20 to 45 percent by 2030, according to a 2015 report by the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy at the University of Wyoming.
It’s mentioned quickly but the reporters don’t dwell on the fact that the number of workers in the coal industry has been dropping for decades: the numbers peaked at about 784000 in 1920; it was down to about 488000 in 1950; about 229000 in 1980; it was down to about 72000 in 2000 (it actually rebounded a bit after that). Somehow I don’t think the rules of the EPA, never mind President Obama, are responsible for most of those job losses (the EPA was founded in 1970 when there were about 146000 jobs in coal, so the number actually went up for a while after it was founded). Oh, and how many jobs are there in Wyoming? An estimated 6673 in 2013–not very many.
The report details the following major findings:
- The toxics rule would have a modest positive net impact on overall employment, likely leading to the creation of 28,000 to 158,000 jobs between now and 2015. (This estimate reflects the specific findings that follow below.)
- The employment effect of the toxics rule on the utility industry itself could range from 17,000 jobs lost to 35,000 jobs gained.
- The toxics rule would create between 81,000 and 101,000 jobs in the pollution abatement and control industry (which includes suppliers such as steelmakers).
- Between 31,000 and 46,000 jobs would be lost due to higher energy prices leading to reductions in output.
- Assuming a re-spending multiplier of 0.5, and since the net impact of the above impacts is positive, another 9,000 to 53,000 jobs would be created through re-spending.
Wait, they estimate it would increase the total number of jobs? How could that be, wouldn’t the reporters mention something like that?
Oh, and then there’s this:
The clearest take-away from the RIA and other analyses of pollution standards is that the primary economic impact of these rules is on health and quality-of-life outcomes. The improvements to health and quality of life stemming from the proposed rule changes would be very large and make the regulatory change worthy of support in and of itself. Specifically, the EPA estimates (based on the state-of-the-art research) that adoption of the proposed toxics rule would lead to the following outcomes:
- 6,800 to 17,000 lives saved (which the EPA describes as “avoiding premature mortality”)
- 11,000 fewer heart attacks
- 12,200 fewer hospital and emergency room visits
- 225,000 fewer cases of respiratory symptoms
- 850,000 more work days (because workers are healthier)
The “monetized” value of these and certain other health benefits would amount to $55–146 billion per year, dramatically exceeding the $11.3 billion annual cost of the program (figures in 2010 dollars).
You might think this would be worth mentioning, but I guess the health and well-being of people doesn’t matter much.