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Pre 2012 Archives

Letter to the Editor: The Coal Train Controversy

The article entitled “Coal Trains Carry Death to the Philippines” in the February Advocate exemplifies the kind of hyperbole to avoid if labor and environmentalists are to come together to seriously confront the dangers of global warming. My use of the word “labor” embraces organized and unorganized workers.

Opponents of the proposed bulk loading facility at Cherry Point failed to mention jobs. They say things like “new green jobs are needed”, but offer no timeline. Are they willing to sentence a large number of workers to undetermined sentences of unemployment?

Then there is the “anti-train” group – aided and abetted by some lawmakers. They oppose increases in rail traffic without regard to cargoes being moved. Approximately 25% of the jobs in Washington are either directly or indirectly related to trade. Freight mobility is an absolute necessity to trade, and to jobs if Washington is to remain a leader in global exports.

Groups opposing coal exports claim to support “just transition” i.e. new jobs to replace old jobs. At the same time they claim no jobs are being threatened because the jobs do not exist now. Such claims indicate a lack of understanding. “Just transition” also involves moving from unemployment to employment. Construction jobs on the Empire State Building or the Grand Coulee did not exist until they did. They disappeared after the project was completed. It’s always that way. At the same time, the deep water port will create new permanent jobs that are greatly needed by families and the community.

To deal with the threat of climate change we must create “just transition” jobs. Dialogue and hyperbole are contradictory. Mutual respect is required to tackle the problems attendant to global warming. Otherwise Rome will burn while we fiddle.

– Rich Austin –

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