For three years now, the overwhelming answer has been excessive government regulation. It started with the MINER Act of 2006 under the Bush administration. Then, the Obama administration took control in 2008 and began to apply more pressure using the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Now, U.S. power generators have the train wreck of proposed environmental rules.
Granted, the coal mining industry has had to deal with more intense scrutiny from federal regulators regarding mine safety due to recent incidents. What angers people is seeing how this administration could potentially hamstring the country and future generations for the sake of environmentalism.
An internal conflict is brewing among those on the left. Union workers have always been a core constituency for the Democrats. The Obama administration kowtows to the large important unions, such as those involved in the public sector, who are funneling taxpayer dollars to the regime. What happens when the president placates his environmental constituency by erasing thousands of jobs at mines, power plants and factories? The Democratic Party has a problem it does not like to discuss.
Last month, Cecil Roberts, president and CEO of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) was the first to break rank. He finally spoke out after three years of watching the administration pound on this business. His quote appears as part of a larger news story on the EPA’s new national standards for mercury. He refers to President Obama and the EPA as being “tone-deaf” when it comes to dealing with the coal community (See news, p. 5). Unfortunately, his statement leans more toward social welfare when it should be talking about coal as a domestic source of low-cost energy. Nonetheless, Roberts has finally seen the light. Perhaps, the Obama administration will be hearing from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, International Union of Operating Engineers, and maybe even the AFL-CIO.
This is an election year. Who will organized labor support? Assuming they could not support a president who has declared war on coal, they would have to support a Republican candidate. To make their voices heard, they should start to rally around one of the Republican candidates prior to the coal state primaries. Coal exports are one of the few positives the industry has at this point, so Ron Paul and isolationism would not be a viable option. That leaves Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Romney understands business, but could he could be a little cold-hearted when it comes to dealing with organized labor. Newt is politically astute and has the means to effect change in Washington, but he is somewhat misinformed about the climate change. Santorum has already identified his coal roots and could be the safest option for organized labor, but would he be able to defeat Obama?
Unfortunately, organized labor’s hands are probably tied at this point and they will have to secretly hope that the American people vote Obama out. Internal efforts will not work because the rank and file cannot vote in the primaries. They will have to roll with the Republican nominee. If the election is a referendum on Obama’s performance during the last four years, it should be a slam dunk. The coal community can voice its opinion in the general election.