Treasury Sec. Slams Coal Days After Dozens of Miners Are Laid Off

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U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew slammed coal-fired energy during a climate change discussion Monday in Beijing, saying it’s not enough that the United States is leading a global effort to raise $100 billion annual to help underdeveloped countries fight climate change.

“[S]upporting low-carbon investments alone is not sufficient. We also need to reduce financing for high-carbon projects, particularly coal-fired power generation that’s not absolutely critical, and take advantage of increasingly cost-effective, low-carbon alternatives,” Lew claimed.

“Climate change affects us all regardless of where the emissions come from, which is why we need to work together to address the challenges globally. That’s why the United States and China are leading by example working to strictly control public investments and (inaudible) projects that generate large amounts of pollution and carbon emissions, both domestically and internationally,” he added.

Lew’s comments come in the midst of a continued downward spiral in the U.S. coal industry, as unemployment soars and local economies tank in former coal mining towns. 

Just last week, Colorado’s leading coal mine laid off about a quarter of their workforce, citing financial struggles and a plummeting demand for coal.

According to the Denver Post:

Owners of the Colorado coal mine that produced the most last year, the West Elk, said Thursday they will cut 80 workers, about a quarter of the workforce — blaming declining U.S. and world demand for coal.

The 300-plus West Elk miners in western Colorado’s North Fork Valley produced 5.1 million tons of coal, more than at six other operating mines in the state.

West Elk manager Jim Miller broke the news, thanking miners for faithful service.

“We regret the need for this difficult action and the resulting impacts on our employees, their families and the North Fork community,” Miller said in a prepared statement.

The West Elk mine is owned by Arch Coal, one of the nation’s largest coal producers. Arch Coal filed for bankruptcy in January amid falling profits and mounting debt.

To make matters worse, the Indiana Business Journal in May released a report detailing that the massive numbers of closed and reclaimed mines could spell out problems for taxpayers, who could find themselves on the financial hook for cleaning up the ever-piling slew of abandoned coal sites left by bankrupted companies.

The news comes weeks after President Obama pledged $15 million for "global climate transparency," in addition to the $30 million pledge he made in December for "climate risk insurance" for underdeveloped countries -- all part of an overall $3 billion commitment the United States has made to mitigate so-called global warming.

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