The worst thing about the way in which the EPA is killing coal is how sneaky it's being about it. I mean, you'd think that the agency could just be direct about killing off the coal industry, using its regulations and what-not, but instead it's going through this ridiculously complex effort: shifting the international market for energy; diminishing Appalachian coal seams; making it easier to extract natural gas. I mean, you really have to admire it -- so devious, yet so effective.
Here's one example. The Charleston Gazette ran a feature focused on the slowdown in the coal industry. It's a smart, poignant look at affected workers and how the decline in jobs trickles out through a region that is deeply dependent on coal. And then it turns to the EPA.
The belief in Eastern Kentucky is that federal environmental rules are to blame for the loss of coal jobs -- the "war on coal" that officials in the region decry -- but several analysts said other factors led to the layoffs this year.
Most notably, they pointed to historically low prices for natural gas and the unseasonably warm winter of 2011-12, which left power plants with stockpiles of coal.
Other factors, such as the slow recovery in manufacturing and the broader economy, also have played parts in the drop in demand for coal.
Changes in drilling technology have allowed companies to unlock vast new sources of natural gas in recent years, sending supplies up and prices sharply down.
It goes on and on: increases in production costs, decreases in coal spot prices, etc.
It's obviously the federal government that is fracking up all that natural gas. Without a doubt, the EPA is behind coal-seam depletion in Eastern Kentucky. And clearly government regulation made the winter so warm. (See Senate bill S.451 in the Congressional Record.) And yet the Gazette broadly lets the EPA off the hook.