Oregon needs to complete the Coyote Island Terminal coal export project and begin importing coal from Montana and Wyoming, which will then be shipped abroad.
The only legitimate argument that the opposition can make against this statement is that coal is bad for the environment. Let’s get this out of the way quickly. Things like nuclear power plants and cars are bad for the environment, yet they are still in existence. Like coal exports in our region, some things that are bad for the environment can be seen as a necessity when viewed through the lens of job creation.
However, the environmentalists’ arguments are not without merit. Their actions have been quite successful at times. Locally, they have crimped logging. Logging is very destructive for the environment and an eyesore. However, is it any worse than the feeling a wife must have when her husband comes home and has to inform her that they closed the mill?
It is stories like this, and anti-job measures such as the protests surrounding the coal terminal, which explain why Oregon has the 14th highest unemployment rate in the U.S.
As a result of reduced logging, counties such as Josephine face double-digit unemployment rates. Another problem caused by the reduction of logging is that this county must busy itself by squabbling with the federal government over timber subsidies.
I have read comments that compare this part of Oregon to Appalachia as a result of years of job decline. This poor area has become literally lawless and has just two officers to patrol an entire county of 80,000 people. This is the result of budget cuts, which are a direct result of no jobs. We should let this tale of Josephine County guide our decision in making better use of our natural resources. We should not be afraid to use natural resources when the payoff is being able to lift Americans out of poverty with gainful employment.
Our statewide unemployment numbers are sad, and we need to raise them. We wonder why our roads are bad and why our schools are failing. A large part of the problem is that there are not enough of us earning a taxable income. Our tax dollars constitute the lion’s share of the state general fund.
The Midwest is experiencing an energy boom, and states like North Dakota and South Dakota lead the way with unemployment numbers hovering around 3 percent due to their proper utilization of natural resources. Why shouldn’t Oregon be able to get in on the energy boom?
Allowing coal exports to happen in Oregon will have a ripple effect. The added traffic of the ships alone will require more workers to get the ships loaded with cargo. The extra train and ship hours nationally, as well as internationally, will have a positive effect on economies the world over.
There is also the idea that if we do not build an exporting industry, and capitalize on it, then someone else will. Coal is going to get exported one way or another, and it is up to Oregon to take this opportunity and make the most of it. So far, the project has passed muster with the Department of Environmental Quality. It has also secured three out of the four permits required for the coal exporting operation to begin. It would appear that it is only a matter of time before we reap the rewards of coal exports.