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West Virginia governor wants federal incentives to boost Appalachian coal use

Welfare recipients are the worse. They keep demanding more and more taxpayer dollars.

"West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) is proposing a federal homeland security incentive he says would help ensure the security of the Eastern power grid, as well as preserve coal jobs in Eastern states, WV Metro News reports. The proposed incentive would pay utilities $15 for each ton of coal they burn from fields in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. The aim would be to provide an incentive for utilities to burn Central Appalachian or Northern Appalachian coal as a safeguard against potential disruptions such as bombings of pipelines or bridge used to transport natural gas or Western coal, according to Gov. Justice. "

Coal Mining Jobs by State

The Energy Information Agency estimates that there was 65,971 coal mining jobs in 2015. Of those jobs, 40,045 were underground miners, while 25,814 strip and mountaintop removal miners.

The largest state for coal mining jobs was West Virginia, where there were 15,490 jobs coal mining, with 5,497 in the northern counties and 9,993 in the southern counties.

Data Source: 2016 Annnual Coal Report, US Energy Information Agency. Table 18 Employment by State. http://www.eia.gov/coal/annual/

Weekly Coal Production, 1/2/16 – 7/1/17

EIA revises its weekly (and monthly) original estimates of state level coal production using quarterly mine level coal production data from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) as soon as the data are available. This method guarantees that EIA's revised coal production estimates for each past quarter conform with the MSHA survey data. The state level revised estimates include refuse coal.

Data Source: Energy Information Agency, Weekly Coal Production. https://www.eia.gov/coal/production/weekly/

Coal Jobs Created, June 2012-2017

Is the great renaissance in coal mining back in our country? Well since August 2016, there has been somewhat an uptick in coal mining employment in our country, but the renaissance is relatively small and mostly connected to higher natural gas prices. During the first six month's of Trump's presidency, two months there was a slight lost of coal jobs, one month no change, and three months a slight gain in coal jobs. A lot going forward will depend on the price of natural gas but no serious observer thinks there will be a big boost to coal employment in the near future unless natural gas prices greatly increase.

In terms of total jobs, during June 2012 there were 80,600 coal mining jobs in America. In August 2016, there were 48,800 jobs in coal mining. January 2017 there were 50,200 jobs in coal mining, and after six months of the Trump Presidency there 50,800 coal mining jobs. Somewhat of an uptick -- but hardly a renaissance in coal.

Data Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, All Employees: Mining and Logging: Coal Mining [CEU1021210001], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CEU1021210001, July 9, 2017.

Solar jobs now outnumber coal jobs in the US

"That may not be possible: 40 percent of coal-mining jobs have disappeared since 2011, and now only 50,000 of these jobs remain. Experts say automation, lower demand for electricity, and, above all, competition from cheaper fuels are killing the industry. Those fuels include natural gas from fracking, and, increasingly, renewable energy.

Rob Godby, an energy economist at the University of Wyoming, says one of the biggest challenges facing workers in the coal industry is simple: location. “When you are thinking about coal mining in Appalachia, oftentimes there are generations of families in those regions, and it's just very difficult to pick up and move,” Godby says.

Nationwide, coal miners make on average of $35 an hour, Godby says, in part because the job can be so dangerous. In renewables, the pay averages between $20 and $25 an hour. “That doesn't mean you couldn't raise a family on that, but you're a lot closer to the average income in a lot of states in the solar industry than you are in mining industries,” Godby says.

For some workers, however, the switch to a job in the renewable energy industry has proved successful. Wylie Koontz, 23, used to work at a coal mine, though as a lower-paid contractor. When he got laid off last year, he saw a job opening with Energy Independent Solutions, a local solar company."

FACT CHECK: Is President Trump Correct That Coal Mines Are Opening?

"The coal mines that are opening up produce a special kind of coal used in steelmaking, and are opening largely because of events unrelated to federal policy, experts say. The market for the kind of coal used in electricity — the biggest use for coal — remains down relative to where it was several years ago."

"In other words, the industry has rebounded slightly after years of layoffs and closures caused mainly by competition from cheap natural gas. And a handful of new mines in Wyoming, Alabama, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are either opening or slated to open in the next few years."

How it Works: Water for Coal

"Coal-fired power plants, which produce almost half of the country’s electricity, have significant impacts on water quantity and quality in the United States. Water is used to extract, wash, and sometimes transport the coal; to cool the steam used to make electricity in the power plant; and to control pollution from the plant. The acts of mining and burning coal, as well as dealing with the waste, also can have major effects on water quality."