Guest Opinion: An open letter to Ken Bone

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Oct. 13
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Dear Ken,

We respect that you are undecided in the presidential election. We understand that a lot of Americans are torn about the significant baggage that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton bring with them into this final month of campaigning. Undecided voters like you represent about 15 percent of the electorate.

The fact that you remain engaged, with your priorities in order, makes us respect you even more. While you were attending Sunday’s debate at Washington University in St. Louis, millions of Americans chose to watch football instead.

As a coal plant worker from Shiloh, Ill., your qualms about Clinton are understandable, especially her comments that the coal industry’s days are numbered and that coal miners need to prepare for other lines of work.

Nobody in the coal business wants to hear that. When coal jobs are in jeopardy, you’re in jeopardy. Thus your question to the candidates on Sunday: “What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs while at the same time remaining environmentally friendly and minimizing job layoffs?”

The question reflects an awareness of the conundrum our elected leaders face. The environmental damage caused by rising carbon dioxide levels, of which coal is a major contributor, cannot be ignored. Evidence of devastating climate change is all around us.

At the same time, killing coal jobs is going to entail serious economic disruption. You’re not a statistic on a chart. You’re a real human with legitimate concerns about housing payments, groceries and how to care for your family. That’s why this election could have real impact on your future.

Of the two candidates who stood before you Sunday, one is a former reality show host with no elective-office experience and no record of public service. The other has devoted her entire adult life to public service.

Trump makes broad-sweep promises of employment and prosperity. He’ll produce coal like there’s no tomorrow. Ask yourself: Where is his plan? Compare the shallow solutions he offers on his website to the detailed explanations on Clinton’s website.

Communities built around coal production have been in trouble for years, not just because of greater emphasis on lower-carbon energy sources but also because of plummeting oil prices and cheap domestic natural gas. Trump promises to create “millions of jobs” by expanding domestic petroleum production, yet he simultaneously promises to protect coal jobs. The market cannot support both objectives.

As you get closer to a decision, consider the rude, dismissive remarks Trump makes about sexual abuse. Consider his magic-wand approach to all of America’s problems. Is this man firmly planted in reality? Or does he live in a game-show world?