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Sun Dec 7, 2014, 05:33 AM

Deep in Coal Country, Pondering a Future Without It

Harlan KY residents come up against the reality of the old saying "You can't eat the scenery".

For further background, see "Harlan County USA" by Barbara Koppel. It's still the gold standard for documentaries. Oddly enough, it isn't mentioned in this otherwise great read.


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Reply Deep in Coal Country, Pondering a Future Without It (Original post)
Brigid Dec 2014 OP
ColesCountyDem Dec 2014 #1
A Little Weird Dec 2014 #2

Response to Brigid (Original post)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 08:57 AM

1. Substitute place names, and the story could be about my county, in southern Illinois.

In 1980, my county had a population of approximately 42,000. It had 23 coal mines employing slightly more than 4,000 miners in high-wage, high-benefit, union jobs in my county alone. Today, there are 36,000 residents. Only 2 mines are working, both non-union and employing approximately 300 people.

Fortunately, our schools are still good, because our chief export these days is our children. The most common advice parents give their children is, "Stay in school, get your diploma, then leave and don't come back".

Unlike Harlan County, our coal is still recoverable via 'deep shaft' mining, so it could be mined without destroying the environment, but for one obstacle: the cost per-ton is not competitive with Western coal.

I'm not anti-clean air or clean water-- not at all-- but I am realistic about the cost of those things, because I've seen it paid. It's easy to support more EPA regulations promoting these two things, but to deny the very real human cost is insulting to those who must pay it.

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Response to Brigid (Original post)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 01:43 PM

2. They've bailed out everyone except the American worker

[div class="excerpt"; background-color:#CCCCCC;"]He's angry that Congress failed to extend his unemployment beyond 26 weeks. He's aggravated with local politicians who couldn't get the roads and infrastructure that might have made Harlan County more attractive to businesses other than coal.

"They've bailed out every entity in the country," he says. "The banking industry. The airline industry. The car industry. Everybody but the American worker."

I think he's spot on. Thanks for posting, I'm going to cross post to the Appalachian group.

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