Open Letter to DNC Chairman Tom Perez and Deputy Chairman Keith Ellison

I heard Chairman Perez’s 26 Feb statement on Meet the Press, almost in passing, about out-of-work coal miners. Here are some things I think your staff should consider and incorporate into your speeches and writings.

There are few coal miners in the country and they are extremely unlikely to get their jobs back, as you indicated in passing. Though they are a small fraction of the out-of-work and under-employed in the country, I think you (and Hillary when she met with coal miners during the campaign) miss an important opportunity in your messaging on this issue.

Coal-fired power plants have been and will continue to be shut down across the country and even in China (where they were building one new coal-fired power plant per week for many years). China has invested heavily in the manufacture of wind and solar technology — in the process helping to bring their costs down dramatically and giving China a dominant world-wide lead in that manufacturing sector. I have heard that most wind turbines and solar arrays installed in America are manufactured in China.

The reason for this switch is a remarkable fact: Climate change is real and being accelerated by fossil fuel combustion. The UN climate agreement accepts this and China, along with many other nations, has committed to a switch from fossil fuel combustion to clean renewable energy. That country is facing very severe air pollution challenges, making its population restless and demanding clean air.

The world energy market has been taking advantage of the drop in prices for wind and solar equipment by switching gradually from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and renewable energy, a transition that is growing yearly.

While government financial incentives are helpful, this market switch does not depend wholly on government subsidies but on the fact that renewable energy is now cost-competitive with coal- and oil-fired electrical power plants (in some regions and sectors with natural gas ones, as well). The problem is that this market-driven transition is not fast enough to save society from the ravages of climate change.

The U.S. will have to struggle to keep up with (perhaps even surpass) the Chinese in the manufacture of energy efficient and renewable energy equipment. If we succeed, we’ll restore our rightful place of manufacturing leadership in this important growth sector and employ many more people, right here in the U.S.

This would be a better response to out-of-work coal miners: offer them training in the wind and solar manufacturing industries, putting factories to build that equipment in what used to be coal country, and putting them to work in this expanding industry across the country.

If some of those coal miners are deemed too old or insufficiently educated for retraining into the growing clean energy industry, it should not cost that much for the U.S. government simply to pay them a living expense stipend until retirement age or while their retraining is in process, so their families can live and work in the new, more automated renewable energy industry. This retraining can be for manufacturing, selling, installing, and maintaining wind and solar equipment, thereby increasing employment across the country.

I know this is a lot of information to get across in a short TV interview, but having the arguments ready will go a long way toward drawing un- and under-employed people into the Democratic Party. I wish you success with this as both of you lead the Party forward to greater membership and citizen participation.