A NATIONAL energy report released this week delivers bittersweet news to the U.S. coal industry.
The good news is that it forecasts the mining industry will see a modest rebound in 2014. Unfortunately, that is as good as it gets.
The report notes the coal production spike this year will be heavily concentrated in Western states. Western coal production is expected to grow by 24 million tons this year, before declining by almost 15 million tons in 2015.
The Appalachia region, meanwhile, is expected to see a more modest increase in 2014, as an increase of just 3.5 million tons is anticipated. That is followed by a drop by 10 million tons next year.
Coal mining output is projected to fall by more than 25 million tons in 2015, when new rules for mercury pollution kick in. That is an ominous harbinger for the mining industry.
The U.S. EPA has been a major player in coal's dwindling vitality. The EPA's suffocating regulations have resulted in the closing of all too many power plants, some who had called the Ohio Valley home.
The government's projections do not factor in proposed EPA regulations to curtail the release of greenhouse gases that are blamed for global warming. Coal power plants have been targeted as major sources of those gases, including carbon dioxide, and the mining industry already is digging in to oppose the EPA's proposal.
The National Mining Association released a statement Tuesday warning that the EPA's proposal "effectively bans coal from America's power portfolio."
Such a statement is disturbing, misguided and damaging to the nation. Until the U.S. energy policy is coal-driven, not only will the Ohio Valley suffer, but the entire nation will feel its effects in the form of higher unemployment and costlier and less-efficient energy.