Coal country eyes renaissance

With the Trump administration just days away from taking the reins of power in Washington, coal country rightfully waits with great anticipation.

The Obama administration’s war on coal cut deep in a number of states that rely on the industry as a backbone of their economies.

The President-elect made no secret during the campaign that he supported advancing clean coal technology.

Consequently, four of the five top coal-producing states voted for Donald Trump last month.

For states like West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio, jumpstarting the economy begins with coal reclaiming its place as part of our long-term national energy solution.

If Washington genuinely cares about rebuilding the middle class, boosting coal must be a top priority.

The Obama administration’s handling of coal country cut against the grain of the proud history of an industry that helped build this country.

America’s status as an industrial power and its global presence as a superpower can be traced to the mines in heartland of this country.  Shutting those mines down without unleashing a fully developed replacement fuel would be foolish.

Demonizing coal has become a cottage industry over the last eight years, but the facts are plain.

Coal is one of the most affordable and largest domestically-produced sources of energy in the United States. It is used to generate upward of 40 percent of the nation’s electrical power.

There can be little doubt that coal plays a critical role in America’s economic strength and national security.

Both need to be pursued simultaneously to allow America to remain the strongest military and economic power in the world.

That means Trump keeping his promise to lift the restrictions on the production of our nation’s

$50 trillion worth of job-producing diversified energy reserves in the first 100 days.

Creating a level playing field by not playing favorites with subsidies for wind and solar would also be an automatic boon to coal country.

Additionally, the incoming administration and Congress need to steadfastly insulate the U.S. energy industry from the kind of draconian environmental regulations that have decimated the European economy.

The Paris UN Climate Change agreement should be reworked with the U.S. taking the lead to ensure what we do balances environmental concerns with the need to grow our economy through the use of existing, proven domestic sources like coal.

Historically, America has always been a leader in energy advancement.

This country has led the way with the development of practices and technologies that made oil, nuclear power, solar, wind and other forms of energy viable on a global scale.

Yet, none have carried the country as successfully as the might of coal. Scientists estimate that the country’s coal reserves could last another 300 to 600 years.

New mining methods and power plant modifications will continue to make the use of coal cleaner and more efficient.

Advancements in coal technologies will increase the longevity of our supply and ensure we finally increase the reliability of our national power grid.

Coal isn’t a throwback. It’s not an ancient power source whose time has passed. It’s more relevant, more needed and more viable than ever before.

Innovation supported by the new administration, Congress, states and the private sector should reinforce coal as a strong foundation for jobs and energy independence.

Trump has a chance to advance this opportunity not just to create jobs but acknowledge the long-term importance of this resource to our economic vitality.

Howard Snow is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for installations, facilities and energy.