A lot of laid off coal miners voted for Trump because he got them to believe in the lie that coal was coming back to Eastern Kentucky and Trump would be driving the lead truck. Well that’s just not going to happen if you believe in reality. There is not a single indicator lending evidence that coal is in out future.
While coal consumption has been dying in America the same has occurred in other nations. China just cancelled the construction of 103 coal-fired generating plants in favor of natural gas. China has stopped importing coal and has laid off tens of thousands of their own miners due to lack of demand.
Millions of voters in coal country went for Trump on his promises of renewed mine jobs coupled with greatly improved health care. This past week I watched a town hall in Welch, WV and it was obvious those miners are beginning to regret their vote now that the emotion of the campaign has settled and the cold reality of their situation has set back in.
The realities of coal country are many. they include:
- Too few good jobs in coal.
- Nothing viable to replace coal with.
- Too little flat land for industrial growth.
- A weak technological infrastructure (bad Internet services).
- Physical remoteness and isolation.
- A sick population. Too many people suffering from diseases associated with mining, such as black lung, and not enough health care to meet the demands.
- A population too addicted to painkillers and other opioids. WV was going to build a drug treatment center in Welch but couldn’t find enough non-users to staff it.
I don’t know what the answer is but I’m sure it’s not one single thing. I’ve never been in an abandoned coal mine but is there an alternate use for such places. I know that played out salt mines are used for all kinds of things. Whole office, warehousing, and manufacturing facilities can be found in them. What potential lies with flattened mountain tops from which coal was mined? Maybe the flatter surfaces could become solar banks while the high mountainsides could become home to powerful wind generators. Both these things would create construction and maintenance jobs plus help create the kind of infrastructure that could attract other light industries.
I want good things to happen for all Americans and the best thing would be for it to happen right where multiple generations of Americans have lived and made theirs. But it going to take people with ideas and money, not rookie politicians with pockets filled with bullshit promises.