MAC: Mines and Communities

London Calling: Down the coal hole - any way out?

Published by MAC on 2015-04-17
Source: PlanetArk

The claim that severely reducing coal production, to combat ultimately fatal increases in greenhouse gas emissions, continues to reverberate - the World Bank announced earlier this week that it would no longer fund new coal-fired plants.

But it's still strenously countered by some pillars of industry, as at Rio Tinto's recent AGM (see: Rio Tinto 2015 AGM reports: Behind closed doors at Rio Tinto) when Jan du Plessis, Rio Tinto's chair, lamented the loss of jobs, and threats to a prime source of power for the world's poor, would inevitably result.

In the face of strong evidence to the contrary, du Plessis also pooh-poohed the idea that generation of so-called renewable energy could
materially contribute to creating new jobs, or satisfying growing electricity demand by the poor among us.

In fact, as China is demonstrating by example, the very opposite is true.

But don't expect a company such as Rio Tinto to acknowledge this - even though it hypocritically vaunts the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from its domestic operations.

The same day as the Rio Tinto AGM, a pro-coal, conservative research group came out with the alarmist prediction that 300,000 jobs would be lost in the US alone, should proposed legislation be allowed to pass.

These dirty industry advocates ignore is the toll coal burning wreaks on life and limb, and (as the US EPA puts it) the billions of dollars over time which "could be saved in doctors' bills from lower output of lung-harming particulates".

As MAC - and others - have pointed out, the writing has long been "on the pit wall". Sooner, rather than later, coal mining will die its death - spurred by mounting disinvestment from banks.

The compelling need to re-train and redirect coal mine workers towards employment in alternative sectors (including cleaner energy) has been recognised, in theory at least, by some trade unions for twenty or so years.

What Rio Tinto (and other miners) should be doing is putting large chunks of money towards that purpose.

Meanwhile it's doing the very opposite - and ironically, racking up the bill for future claims  made by workers suffering coal-triggered occupational diseases like emphysema.

Obama carbon rules to cut coal-related jobs: conservative group

Timothy Gardner


16 April 2015

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. rules to cut carbon emissions could close more than 90 coal plants and eliminate jobs that support mining and power stations that the federal government has not fully considered, a report by the conservative American Action Forum research group said on Thursday.

The Environmental Protection Agency this summer is due to adopt its Clean Power Plan to cut carbon emissions from coal- fired plants.

The rules are part of President Barack Obama's strategy to push the world to cut carbon emissions by reducing them at home. The EPA also says the rules will save consumers billions of dollars over time in doctors' bills from lower output of lung-harming particulates.

But nearly 300,000 jobs could be lost including 80,000 in the energy sector and the rest in secondary jobs that support those workers, such as in manufacturing and services, according the report by the American Action Forum. The group is led by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who was the top economic adviser to Senator John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign.

"We can't expect coal worker jobs to go away and there not be some immediate impacts in the jobs that are supported by that industry," said Sam Batkins, a co-author of the report. (

While many workers would eventually find new jobs, Batkins said there could be serious problems in some communities for up to two years, especially in small towns where a coal plant is a top employer.

Supporters of the EPA rules say the plan could eventually create more than 200,000 jobs in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The AAF report picked the least-efficient power plants to come up with the number of potential closures. EPA officials questioned the conclusion that more than 90 plants would close, as many inefficient plants only run sporadically.

An EPA spokeswoman said many factors would cause such closures, including low prices for natural gas, which competes with coal.

More than a dozen states were set to urge a U.S. appeals court on Thursday to throw out the EPA's rules, in the first major test of the legality of the Clean Power Plan.

(Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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