For the record: The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation opposes all subsidies—corporate and individual, at federal, state, and local levels, regardless of their rationale. Not even national security justifies subsidies. If the nation needs bombers or computers or fuel for its security, let it buy them, plain and simple. But let it not say, “We’re going to subsidize this industry because its health is important to national security.” No, its health isn’t important to national security, the bombers or computers or fuel it makes are important—so pay for them as end products that the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, NSA, or TSA then owns and puts to use.
I’m prompted to say this by the fact that President Trump—whose decision to leave the Paris climate agreement, and whose executive order reducing the environmental impact permitting burden for infrastructure projects, and whose executive orders setting aside most of Obama’s “Clean Power Plan” and other excesses, we support—is mulling over a request from West Virginia Republican Governor Jim Justice for $4 or $5 billion in federal subsidies to his state’s ailing coal industry.
We opposed the Obama Administration’s war on coal as anti-liberty, anti-market, and anti-poor. But that doesn’t mean we support subsidizing an industry that is dwindling for far more reasons than that past war on coal. West Virginia coal is of comparatively low quality (because high in sulfur) and comparatively expensive to mine, compared with that in Indiana, Wyoming, Colorado, and elsewhere. And the main reason for coal’s decline in share of electric utility consumption isn’t regulations but the declining price of natural gas, its natural competitor.
Mr. President, thank you for making America’s energy market more free by undoing Obama-era excessive regulations and subsidies that advantaged “renewables” over conventional and nuclear. Now, resist the urge to play to your base in West Virginia by making America’s energy market less free by imposing a new subsidy for coal. Let coal compete with everything else on a level playing field, without government policies that advantage one energy source over another. It won’t disappear—at least not soon—but where it gets used, for what, by whom, will be determined by free decisions by free people, not by politicians.
Featured image “Reclaimed strip mines in southwestern Pennsylvania” courtesy of Nyttend via Wikimedia Commons.