Angry at coal? Then turn off your lights

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The willingness of Americans to be persuaded to do things against their own interests seems to have no limits, which must give great encouragement to our enemies.

The latest evidence of that came a little south of Kalispell in the People’s Republic of Missoula (hat tip to Ayn Rand) where the local Revolutionary Council; (oops, I mean City Council!) last week passed a resolution to investigate the “environmental impact” of coal trains passing through the city.

Turns out that in addition to powering up our electric plants and giving us the ability to watch television, do our laundry, cook our food, and generally enjoy the creature comforts of home, coal also has the potential to make you sick.

Well, I suppose if Missoula wants to give up its coal-fired electricity and revert to the 19th century conditions that Thomas Edison and his fellow inventors saved us from, they are welcome to do so.

But hold on a minute before you allow one tiny city in Montana to shut down an entire industry because they are afraid of some coal dust blowing off a train that rides through town.

You see, Montana is the largest repository of coal in the United States, with about 119 billion tons of the stuff known to exist in our hills and plains. That’s one of the reasons we’re known as the Treasure State.

But four states with far less coal than we have are far ahead of Montana in terms of production. Wyoming, which has half the reserve base of coal that we have, produces 10 times as much coal! Kentucky, which has one-fourth as much coal as us, still manages to dig up more than twice as much as we do.

So what’s up? Why is Montana so backwards when it comes to exploiting its natural resources for the benefit they can provide in terms of tax revenue, jobs and powering our civilization?

The answer is, of course, the environmental movement, which has placed one issue ahead of all other considerations — and has used schools, mass media and politicians to press their agenda.

As one rebellious voice in the audience said Monday night at the Missoula City Council meeting, “We are not equally represented in this room for other ideas other than one idea, and that’s the environmental agenda. We’ve already had one mill close because the city of Missoula just drove them to the ground financially… This is what Missoula has become: get out if you don’t want Green.” (Reported by Will Wadley,

So now Montana’s environmental movement are circling the wagons (or perhaps they are eco-friendly Toyota Priuses) and trying to put a stop to a plan that could result in as many as 60 coal trains a day heading from Montana’s coal fields to proposed export terminals in Oregon and Washington.

You see, there is one country that still believes in development, that still believes in growth, that still believes in economic prosperity for its people — and that country is China. Yep, the People’s Republic of China, but curiously the communists in China are more friendly to capitalist development than the good folks in MIssoula, Montana.

But the folks in Missoula are really just pawns in a worldwide enterprise to shut down coal and other natural resource development. In the case of coal, the excuse is “climate change” — that catch-all bogeyman that anti-capitalists have found useful to trick people into opposing development of all kinds. It’s no wonder that a handful of City Council members in one of the most liberal communities in the West felt compelled to throw a monkey wrench into the works. For goodness sake, no one wants the earth to get warmer — especially in Montana! (Well, maybe Montana is the exception. We could actually benefit by pushing the mercury up a degree or two, but that’s another story.)

So Rising Tide North America, the Montana Environmental Information Center, Powershift, Coal Export Action, the Blue Skies Campaign, Climate Justice League, and about 450 other groups have mobilized to convince people — and in particular politicians — that coal is bad. If you want a list of all of these groups, visit and follow the link. The swarm is definitely an appropriate metaphor for their tactics. Until this year, coal trains were not even a blip on the radar of city councils around the Northwest, but today you can Google “Stop Coal Trains” and find stories about protests and blockades in White Rock, British Columbia; Spokane, Wash.; Eugene, Ore.; Bellingham, Wash., and of course Missoula.

In other words, it’s not just something that happened spontaneously because someone got sick from coal, and people thought they had better protect themselves. They may be saying that they want to stop the trains because of “coal dust,” but you and I both know why they really want to stop the trains — because of “coal” — and because of “carbon” — and because of “climate” — and because of “capitalism.” Call it the Four Cs or call it the Four Horseman of the Environmental Apocalypse, but whatever you call it, be aware that it is organized, focused and dangerous.

It is not about making people healthier; it is about making the economy sicker. Indeed, it is the environmental version of Occupy Wall Street, and it is all about using people power to shut down the infrastructure of capitalism. Occupy Wall Street is targeting the banks and the mechanisms of finance; the extreme environmental movement is targeting the natural resource development that is the source of most of our nation’s wealth.

And they are not alone. They have friends in high places. The Obama administration has been targeting coal-fired plants with environmental regulations that are strangling the life out of the industry. Prices for electricity back East are skyrocketing as a result, but wait a minute — isn’t that what candidate Obama promised to do?

Yep, just like I though. Back on January, 17, 2008, Barack Obama promoted cap-and-trade as a way to cut the use of coal and fight global warming, and he said this:

“So if somebody wants to build a coal plant, they can — it’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”

The president also added, as if it wasn’t obvious, “I haven’t been some coal booster.”

Like I said, maybe the people who like coal should be able to keep their electric appliances, and the ones who don’t should be sent back to the horse and buggy era. That seems fair.

In the meantime, President Obama is at least paying the political price for his position. In coal-rich West Virginia’s Democratic primary last month, Obama lost 41 percent of the vote to an imprisoned felon.

Can we say “message sent”?

Frank Miele is managing editor of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell, Montana. His "Editor's 2 Cents" column appears every Sunday.


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