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Article published October 25, 2012
Coal’s decline good
Kathy Smith Butler
I have seen signs around Butler County that note a negative record for the Obama administration when it comes to coal. I’ve also heard people saying how thousands of jobs have and will be lost if we continue using less coal. Coal usage has been declining since 1920. Jobs in coal are lost to technology, too. This has been occurring with both Republicans and Democrats in charge and will continue, regardless of who becomes president. Therefore, this is not an issue of politics, but one of evolving environmental, technological and health concerns. Coal’s decline is a good thing. Remember the pictures of the black skies and buildings we had from coal use? That sight is a thing of the past. Driving east on Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania, it is impossible to avoid the sometimes 40-mile trail of smoke that comes from one of our 40 coal-fired energy plants. For those of us who have breathing problems, “clean coal,” as the marketers call it, is a hoax. While the black smoke is now sickly gray, the particulate matter that comes from these plants is present in the air we breathe. Raised in Butler, my breathing problems subsided while my husband served in the Army and we lived in other states and countries. After 20 years, upon returning to Butler, I have constant breathing and sinus problems. It’s no coincidence either. The American Lung Association gathered information on pollution from the states. Our state has failing grades while other states that use more solar and wind energy have A’s, like Iowa, Michigan and Nebraska. I’ve heard some people say that removing coal will kill jobs. As of 2006, there were 7,500 coal jobs in Pennsylvania, according to sourcewatch.org. We can retrain those people to work in safer, cleaner and more environmentally sound wind and solar plants. There’s a reason coal plants have been closing. They are old and unsafe, and many mining operators have done everything they can to avoid costly safety upgrades. I think continuing a slow progression away from the use of coal as an energy source will save lives, create cleaner air for all of us and advance the use of cleaner, sustainable and renewable wind and solar power. Yes, jobs will die in the coal sector, but jobs will be created in the renewable sector. Some would call that progress.