This month, Lee Buchsbaum penned a report (See War on Coal, p. 30), based on two presentations at the National Coal Transportation Association’s annual meeting, which took place recently in Denver. Another article (See Utility Roundup, p. 44) defines the current situation among coal-fired utilities in the U.S. Domestically, the coal industry is headed for troubled waters. There is a chance to reverse course. The first step is to vote the Obama Administration out of office in November.

In 2008, sound energy policy was sacrificed by an electorate that had tired of cowboy diplomacy. When President Obama was inaugurated, I asked readers to give him the benefit of the doubt until he showed his true colors. Illinois is a coal state and he understood the importance of coal. He soon caved to environmental activism and tied his boat to a carbon tax freighter—look for that ship to set sail if he is re-elected. In the Dateline Washington column (see p. 16), the NMA and the United Mineworkers of America (UMWA) take the strongest stand against the Obama administration yet, which is telling because both of those organizations walk a tight rope, supporting key pro-coal Democrats as well.

Today, President Obama has no friends in coal country. Alpha’s announcement broke like a tidal wave. Most of the job losses will take place in Appalachia, where the company is closing eight mines. The decision was blamed on a weak steam market and the uncertainty due to EPA regulations.

In the Utility Roundup article, the authors delve further into the steam market situation with natural gas switching and coal-fired plant closures. Ironically, if the current EPA succeeds, the middle class and the poor (traditional Democrat base) will be hurt the most. In the War on Coal article, Todd Wynn of the American Legislative Exchange Council makes some very good points about the rising cost of energy and who will pay the most. Nearly 50% of American households earn $50,000 per year or less and they will spend more of their income on energy than food.

While the industry can take solace in the NMA’s victories, the uncertainty related to coal persists and it hinges on this election. President Obama and EPA administrator Lisa Jackson drew a line in the sand shortly after taking office. The policies they proposed were not based on science or sound judgment for that matter. Ultimately, the fate of these proposed rules would be decided by lawyers and the courts. Two years ago, Coal Age speculated as to whether the Appalachian coal industry could survive until the Calvary arrived. The Calvary has won a couple of key battles, but many pioneers will lose their jobs. The outcome of this election will have an immediate impact on the U.S. coal industry and huge implications for America’s long-term energy policy.