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Opinion

Battleground States Depend on Coal

The primaries and nominating conventions are past, and the 2016 race for the White House now enters its general election phase. In fewer than 100 days, a new president will be elected. A new paper just released by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity makes one thing very clear: The candidates need to pay attention to coal.

The paper looks at 2016 battleground states as of mid-July and the importance of coal-fired electricity in each of them. “Battleground states” are defined as states that are considered tossups, or lean for either Trump or Clinton.

Of the 17 states studied, coal-fired electricity is important in at least 13. These 13 states represent 149 Electoral College votes, which is more than half of the 270 Electoral College votes necessary to win the presidency. The electoral vote breakdown in the battleground states analyzed is as follows: Arizona (11 electoral votes), Colorado (9), Georgia (16), Indiana (11), Iowa (6), Michigan (16), Missouri (10), Nebraska (1), North Carolina (15), Ohio (18), Pennsylvania (20), Utah (6), and Wisconsin (10).

A closer look reveals that coal is responsible for an average of 48 percent of the electricity produced in these 13 states. Pennsylvania, with 20 electoral votes, has coal generating 30 percent of its electricity. Missouri, with 10 electoral votes, has the greatest amount of electricity generated by coal, at 78 percent. Additionally, electricity generated by coal supports 370,000 jobs in these states, and nearly $90 billion in economic activity.

The economic numbers are sobering when taken in conjunction with the fact that nearly 200 coal-fired electric generating units across these states have been forced to close due to EPA policies, and another 46 are on the brink of shutting down.

The candidates should pay close attention to what coal represents to these battleground states. For some of them, it not only provides reliable and affordable electricity but also significant economic resources — six are significant coal producers, having produced 142 million tons of coal in 2015. From jobs at the production end to affordable electric rates at the generation end, coal is fueling the economies of nearly half of these tossup states in multiple ways.

The political importance of coal in this election is clear. All candidates, regardless of office they seek, need to recognize what’s at stake and tell voters in critical swing states how their policies will work to ensure an affordable and reliable supply of electricity while protecting jobs and people’s way of life.