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Coal is Life Sustaining (Coal is Electricity, Electricity is Life, Coal is Life)



By Fred Palmer, Leader, Saving US Coal Campaign

March 23, 2020
To meet the universal threat posed to us all from the COVID-19 virus and to prevent the rapid spread of it, last Thursday Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf issued an order under a State emergency law. The order calls for the shut-down of all businesses save for those deemed by the Governor to be “life sustaining” businesses. In my view, the Governor’s action is called for and represents a proper, even courageous, exercise of Government authority for the well-being of all in Pennsylvania, in the adjacent states and in the United States.  


Fred Palmer

The structure of the Order is prudent as well. Two lists were included, Red and Green, with Green being deemed life sustaining and Red non-life sustaining. 


Reading through the list as originally presented, I had no quarrel, with a jarring and disturbing exception. While oil, natural gas production, electricity generation and steel making were all on the Green List, Coal Mining was not, meaning ‘shut down the Coal mines now’! 


How could this be, was my reaction? 


Oil and natural gas are fossil fuels with a CO2 footprint when combusted. Electricity generation from natural gas has a CO2 footprint as does driving a car with an internal combustion engine. Steel making uses Coal as a feedstock and has a large CO2 footprint in the manufacturing process. And, but for Coal mining in both applications, we would see unemployed workers and destroyed Coal communities with shorter, meaner lives. It is inconceivable to me that a caring Governor would establish a policy resulting in electricity supply curtailed and steel making stopped because they use Coal. Also, as a deep believer in equal treatment for all from government, why the rank discrimination among fossil fuels? 


Reviewing the Governor’s very impressive background, it is hard to accept that the inclusion of Coal on the Red List was inadvertent.  Governor Wolf comes from an impressive family of means and he attended the best schools in Pennsylvania and abroad. His PHD dissertation, the “United States House of Representatives”, was named the best of 1981 by the American Political Science Association. The Governor has been a very successful business man creating substantial wealth in the process. In 2010, instead of running for Governor, he purchased back the family-created Wolf Organization saving it from bankruptcy after having sold it to a hedge fund in 2006. Following that success, Wolf did then successfully run for Governor in 2014 comfortably beating Republican Governor Tom Corbett. In 2018, Governor Wolf was easily reelected doing very well in all regions of the State. 


My thought is that notwithstanding the Governor’s deep understanding of all industries including Coal in Pennsylvania and his election successes statewide, perhaps he is in the same camp as the National Democratic Party, Vice President Biden, Senator Sanders, Mayor Bloomberg and lesser lights. All believe that Coal is a thing of the past and the 2020 Party Platform will have no room for Coal. So ‘shut the Coal mines down’! 


In that political context, perhaps the Governor’s thinking was he cannot label Coal “Life Sustaining” given the risk of offending the Democratic Party, Green New Deal proponents and a potential President Biden. In addition, there is no doubt what the Governor thinks about CO2, and that fits a narrative that putting Coal on the Red List was no mistake, but intentional. 


On June 1, 2017, Governor Wolf issued a formal statement calling on President Trump to stay in the Paris Accord.  He styled Pennsylvania as an “energy leader”, which it is, but no mention of Coal. Instead he highlighted natural gas, renewables and energy efficiency as the path forward. In doing so, he included a list of climate change risks from a University of Pennsylvania Climate Impact Assessment, which document parrots a litany of horribles from the work of the United Nations. Just like the US EPA Endangerment Findings.   


As our recently filed CO2 Endangerment Findings Repeal Petition of the CO2 Center establishes (, the UN scientific work creates an imaginary “virtual climate” where everything is bad and nothing is good about humans using fossil fuels, particularly Coal. The entire work product of the UN and all who embrace it is based on flawed, flux adjusted computer models setting forth a modeled future climate using assumed factors in many key instances The UN also conveniently ignores the observations from all recorded human history where more people live longer and live better by using more Coal for electrification and urbanization, along with oil and natural gas. Periodic climate anomalies notwithstanding. 


But whatever the reason, the great news here is that the Governor corrected the mistake and Coal mining made it on the Green List. He had help in doing so, of course: the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance, Corsa Coal, a helping hand from a neighbor, Congressman McKinley from West Virginia to President Trump asking for federal intervention and CONSOL Energy all intervened and were heard from.   


But he did act correctly and I say all praise for Governor Wolf in doing so. When in error and discovered, the best politicians act promptly and change course as the Governor did. 


There is also a lesson here for all of us that believe deeply in Coal in the great struggle over Coal’s future in the United States. Our activism and educational efforts need to be robust, society wide, always staying on point with Governor Wolf’s new concept in advancing the proposition that: ”Coal is Life Sustaining”. We also need to go back to the activist recommendations made in a 1992 National Coal Council study, “Improving Coal’s Image”. The promote coal nationally recommendations made in the study are more pertinent today than then, given the advance of the Al Gore worldview in his 1991 book, Earth in the Balance. The study itself is easy to find through Google. 


Starting in my Western Fuels days and continuing on while at Peabody Energy and continuing on today, I like to put “Coal is Life Sustaining” this way: 


Coal is Electricity; Electricity is Life; Coal is Life 


And finally, as shown by previous statements on CO2 from Governor Wolf in connection with the Paris Accord, we have to deal with CO2 and we must deal with it at the source of the problem. The source of the problem remains Washington DC under the existing, pernicious EPA CO2 Endangerment Findings. Such Findings have been in effect since December 2009, are the primary driver and coincide with a resulting drop in US coal combustion for electricity generation from 1 billion tpy in 2009 to under 500 million tpy today. This decline continues to have huge, negative effects on Coal Chain Industry employment across the board, destroying many communities across the land and has put many fine coal companies into bankruptcy. Our own version of COVID-19. 


We owe the existing workers and communities, the nation and the world better.