Alabama Coal Association Whines About Losing in the Free Market

Stephen Smith | December 10, 2013 | Coal, Energy Policy

In a letter dated December 9th to Senator Richard Shelby, the Alabama Coal Association has called for an investigation of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and other environmental groups, complaining that we have taken money from private philanthropic foundations and calling for Congress to investigate SACE’s use of federal funds in an attempt to “kill coal jobs in Alabama.”  We have already addressed the misinformation that Alabama coal plants support a significant number of Alabama jobs in a previous blog post.

First, for the record, SACE received no federal funds in 2013 and has never received any federal funds for any work related to coal-fired power plants.  What we find most ironic about this ill-informed and misleading press release and letter is that the truth is the Alabama Coal Association is effectively whining about the free market in the United States.  Just to remind the Coal Association: in a free market, when you have a superior product that costs less, it will take market share away from an inferior product that costs more.

While we are flattered that the Alabama Coal Association believes that SACE and our allies have been responsible for shutting down coal plants across the region, the reality is that a cleaner and lower cost fuel, natural gas, has essentially taken market share from a dirtier and more costly fuel source, coal.  In a free market, that’s what happens. We are just pointing out the obvious, coal is dirty, makes people sick and costs more.

Our friends at the Alabama Coal industry should go back to Economics 101 and they might then understand they are getting their butts kicked in the marketplace by a superior product that is taking their market share, and we predict that will continue to happen for the foreseeable future.

Of course Alabama’s captive Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh joined the fray with one of her classic asinine statements.

Blaming the environmental community for these market forces is analogous to the Kodak film chemical industry attacking photographers for the invention of the digital camera, or the buggy whip manufacturers blaming transportation safety advocates for the invention of the automobile.

We welcome any investigation that the senators from Alabama wish to perform, but it would be a waste of both taxpayer dollars and elected officials’ time.  We encourage the Alabama Coal Association to spend less time worrying about the environmental community and more time worrying about how to compete in the marketplace with cleaner, more effective technologies that are truly winning “the war on coal.”

Meanwhile, on December 10th, the Alabama Public Service Commission held its annual “informal public hearing” regarding Alabama Power’s billion-dollar plans to upgrade outdated coal-fired power plants. Our impressions of the hearing are available here.

Stephen Smith
Dr. Stephen A. Smith has over 35 years of experience affecting positive change for the environment. Since 1993, Dr. Smith has led the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) as…
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