The announcement of new powers to regulate carbon dioxide will allow the EPA to hammer the energy sector, particularly coal production and coal-burning electrical plants.  However, environmental activists have hardly sat silent on the sidelines before the EPA “finding” that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are a danger to human health.  As KDKA in Pennsylvania reports from deep within coal country, nuisance lawsuits over mining cost Bickmore, West Virginia 500 jobs this week:

Consol Energy will lay off nearly 500 workers and idle a mountaintop removal mining operation near Bickmore.

Pittsburgh-based Consol notified workers Tuesday. The action affects 104 miners at Little Eagle Coal Co. and 378 at Fola Coal Co.

The layoffs will begin Feb. 7 and be completed within 14 days.

Consol blames the shutdown on a legal challenge the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition mounted to permits granted under the federal Clean Water Act.

U.S. District Judge Robert Chambers recently suspended Fola’s permit for the Ike Fork portions of its operations. The order is effective Jan. 23.

West Virginia’s unemployment rate has nearly doubled from a year ago.  The effort to block coal mining by activists have made it much more expensive for energy producers to retrieve this resource.  That will not only make it more difficult to keep people employed, it will raise the prices of energy on everyone else as well.  If the coal industry comes under sustained attack not just from these activists but the federal government, the people of West Virginia should prepare themselves for a long period of increased unemployment and related secondary business failures.

Any economic recovery relies not just on job stability, but a commensurate decline in expenses in relation to revenues in order to allow for better opportunities for investment.  If prices of energy continue to rise while revenues fall, businesses won’t have the ability to expand.  And with the EPA signaling a much tougher environment for the manufacturing sector, businesses will already be less inclined to prepare for manufacturing expansion regardless of the product.

We need government to encourage expansion, and helping to provide lower-cost energy is a big part of that.  Instead, we’re heading back into the 1970s cycle of energy price shocks, unemployment, and stagnation.  West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and other coal-belt states will be at the epicenter of the economic malaise that follows.