More problems. More misery. Fewer resources.
When the coal companies re-open their mines, they do so in communities desperate for jobs, desperate for economic relief, and they have no shame in taking full advantage of the situations they have left behind. The pattern has never changed—and will never change so long as absentee ownership of land and mineral rights continues in the Appalachian mountains.
The best and only option to end this struggle would be to nationalize the remaining coal reserves in Appalachia, along with all of the present mining operations. Not only will this ensure the proper oversight of coal mining, making the process safer for miners and the communities where mining occurs, but by nationalizing the coal reserves we will be ensuring our national security for generations to come. Every ton of high-grade Appalachian coal that is mined, sold, and shipped overseas by private corporations, is another ton of coal we will no longer have if our nation needs it, be it to produce steel or generate energy during a national crisis.
Revenues generated from government produced coal sales would be more equitably distributed to coal miners in the form of government wages and benefits. Additional revenues could be placed into funds to buffer job loss during market downturns by shifting miners from mining to reclamation and remediation work, or public projects to repair dilapidated public infrastructure.
I’m sure many will argue that such an undertaking would cost taxpayers too much money, but in truth, Appalachia’s coal reserves are not as vast as they once were. They are certainly not as vast as what our nation currently owns beneath federal lands in the west. A carbon fee and dividend could offset a tremendous amount of the cost, and let’s not forget the $700 billion dollar bailout of 2008. No, it’s not impossible, but it will take overcoming the political corruption that has maintained the coal industry’s power over Appalachia for 120 years.
It’s either this, or we wait for the last lump of coal to be mined, then hope there will be something left behind for our children to rebuild.