I am a little frustrated with some of the things that I’ve been seeing and hearing. I’ve seen our current President’s support of coal, and my first instinct (as someone who is concerned about climate change and sustainability in general) was to be opposed to “reviving the coal industry”.
But the important thing to remember is that “saving an industry” isn’t really about the industry, at least not from the citizen’s perspective. It’s about saving the lives and/or livelihoods of our fellow citizens.
When the previous President supported the auto industry, a major regional industry with a large impact on the economy, any detraction from that was mostly booed as missing the big picture and being insensitive.
I don’t believe coal is the fuel of the future, but it is widely used now as a reliable source of energy across the country, and coal pensions are depended on in some of the poorest states in the country. It is a job many people have worked for many years, and the disappearance of those jobs is just as serious economically as the departure of manufacturing to other parts of the country.
I think the problem is that the narratives in the stories I’m reading are being dictated by people who aren’t any more sensitive to the issues involved, regardless of their stated opinions. The big difference is who they happen to know and are friends with. For reasons similar to why so many people were sympathetic to an auto-maker bail out, we should probably be at least a little sympathetic to the fears of coal miners and the impact on their lives. I am not a fan or supporter of bail outs in general, but I’d like to see more sympathy for people who spent their lives working an honest job who are staring down a problem we have seen and addressed before who are looking for a similar solution.
If the government is going to burden and destroy an industry in a state, even one destructive and unhealthy like coal, it needs to take action and provide relief for the economic damage it has done in service to the “greater good” for the citizens who suffer as a result. I don’t think the businesses need to be bailed out, but the workers shouldn’t be forced to suffer for policy decisions.