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President Obama’s climate change speech this afternoon promises to lob a bigger rock at the coal industry, as reported today in the Washington Post. 

Frankly, the only surprise is that it has taken the administration this long into his Presidency to declare war on the coal industry.  And don’t doubt for a second the coal industry leadership – known for their own bare-knuckles-like tactics in the past, have been building a war chest.  Some say $5 million is ready to be spent to battle back.  While the country watches that battle, we need to look closer to home. 

The real issue in Ohio, I think, is the finding a way to move our coal workers into the shale workforce.  It makes no sense to let the more than 2,400 of them stand by and be forced onto the unemployment rolls while out-of-state workers come into the Utica field jobs.  That’s the challenge for workforce development professionals across southeast Ohio.  We need the state and chambers of commerce working in concert to make that happen. 

The bigger picture is becoming more aggressive in developing a state energy policy that makes use of our coal & shale gas resources.  Burning both together, or co-firing, to generate electricity and burn off the emissions is one way.  Something needs to be done, because we are not going to build nuclear plants anytime soon, too many are squeamish about making plans to burn the additional gas from shale for electric generation and now the White House’s new rules many shutter more coal-fired plants than planned. 

First Energy reported last fall they are considering building up to three co-fired plants in Pennsylvania.  That’s what is needed now and in the next couple decades.  We have the resources, technical knowledge (Consol and Dominion included) and workers. 

If we still care about coal, even as it declines in use (  we need to keep coal miners working by training them for shale jobs and work with First Energy to get gas/coal co-fired plants running soon.