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What the coal sector could look like in the next administration
Joe Biden’s coal miner comments are insulting: Pennsylvania Coal Alliance executive director
Pennsylvania Coal Alliance executive director Rachel Gleason discusses former Vice President Joe Biden’s comments that coal miners should learn coding and the coal industry in her state.
In the tight-knit Shelocta, Pa., coal mining community, a veil of uncertainty lingers.
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U.S. flags flap gently in the fall breeze; children peddle bicycles down the wide-open streets set with the neat wooden homesteads and plots of green grass dusted in beige fall leaves. It is the essence of suburban America.
But Tuesday's presidential election could bring about significant changes for the strong and proud, who for generations have worked far below the earth's surface into the sooty pleats to extract vital sources of energy.
"The mine is the lifeblood of our entire town; 85% of our community depends on keeping this going – right down to the car dealerships and convenient stores which won't survive if the coal mine goes," Todd Reesman, 49, an electrician for Rosebud at the nearby Crooked Creek mine, told Fox News.
Born and raised in the small coal community – lured into the mining world by the promise of good benefits and a respectable income – Reedman's now-28-year-old son also followed his footsteps. But what is to become of both their futures is yet to be seen.
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In the final presidential debate this month, Democratic candidate Joe Biden called for a "transition" away from the long-running staples of oil and gas and has put climate change at the center of his campaign agenda.
For many in the coal sector, this is code for suicide in an industry already struggling to stay afloat.
According to Conor Bernstein, spokesperson for the National Mining Association (NMA), under the Obama administration, coal employment plummeted from 134,000 in 2008, when President Obama took office, to 81,000 when he left in 2016 – nearly a 40% decline.
"Until the pandemic hit this year, this administration stopped those declines and had even begun to reverse them. Stopping such a steep and rapid decline is significant in itself and shouldn't be overlooked," he said. "This administration has worked to address eight years of regulatory overreach to level the playing field not just for coal but a variety of industries. The result has been a return of competition in the energy industry – although we still have a long way to go thanks to outsized subsidies for renewables."
Indeed, that brings with it little sense of security for the tens of thousands of Americans employed by the coal industry. Biden, in keeping with his stance as vice president of the Obama administration, has pledged to end the Keystone XL pipeline project. While he is yet to take a public position concerning the Dakota Access pipeline, his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, has previously encouraged it to be shuttered.