Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, in a passionate appeal for American energy independence, proudly proclaimed “I like coal” during the October 4 Presidential debate, advancing his unique and much touted job-creation plan — linking employment opportunity in Appalachia to leukemia, heart disease, cancer clusters, and low birth rate.
“I like coal,” said the former Massachusetts governor, who then went on to deride President Obama for his support, in contrast, for wind, solar, and other ‘green energy’ investments.
Indeed — what’s NOT to like about coal? Coal is linked to:
Romney’s pro-coal comments were expected to boost support for his campaign in Appalachia, where some of the community benefits of the coal industry have been documented in recent medical journals:
- “Coal mining in West Virginia was significantly associated with higher cancer mortality…. Analyses also revealed cancer clusters that corresponded to areas of high coal mining intensity.”
- “Mortality rates in Appalachian counties with high levels of coal mining were significantly higher relative to non-mining areas for chronic heart, respiratory and kidney disease.”
- “Living in areas with high levels of coal mining elevates the odds of a low-birth-weight infant by 16%… the persistence of a mining effect on low-birth-weight outcomes suggests an environmental effect resulting from pollution from mining activities“
In addition to job creation and chronic organ damage, coal is also major contributor to greenhouse-gas-induced climate change. It accounts for roughly 1/5 of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the industry’s current rush to export it for energy-hungry markets (especially India and China) have “profound implications” for carbon emissions.
BACKGROUND — Mitt Romney and “I like Coal”:
Jim Talent, a former Missouri Senator, is now a “key policy advisor and public surrogate“ for Romney, and a “a contender for a Cabinet-rank position if Romney wins the election.” Talent is the co-chairman of Mercury Public Affairs, a D.C. lobbying firm which has received nearly $700,000 for lobbying on behalf of coal from Peabody Energy — the world’s biggest private coal company. Peabody was ranked 500th out of 500 — dead last — in Newsweek’s environmental ranking of America’s 500 largest corporations in 2009 and 2010, because of the impact of mining and burning coal, and because of Peabody’s aggressive stance against regulation. Peabody is also a corporate leader in denying the dangers of global warming. Peabody’s website says: ”The greatest crisis society confronts is not a future environmental crisis predicted by computer models but a human crisis today that is fully within our power to solve… with coal.” (Yes — they are saying that coal can solve our biggest crisis, which is apparently not climate change. George Orwell would be proud.)
So — Mr. Romney is quite clear: he likes coal.
Does he, however, like…. people?
- National Institute of Health
- INTERNATIONAL ARCHIVES OF OCCUPATIONAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH (Heart, respiratory, and kidney mortality “higher” for Appalachia residents living in high-coal producing areas.)
- Maternal and Child Health Journal
- Globe and Daily Mail
- Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
- The Guardian (UK)
Don Lieber's writing and research has been published by the United Nations, The Associated Press, The International Campaign to Ban Landmines, The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, E-The Environmental Magazine and others. He contributes regularly to PlanetSave.com.