There was some great news for the residents of Oakland, California recently. In an era when shipping in general has fallen off and waterfront jobs are harder to come by, a new marine terminal is set to bring more work to the bay area and stoke the engines of commerce. Of course, I’m speaking in the past tense here because the terminal was going to be shipping coal to Asia, and that means that City Hall needed to shut that idea down pronto. (Reuters)

The Oakland city council voted unanimously to bar shipments of coal through a proposed marine terminal on Monday, setting the stage for a legal battle.

The prospect of train cars carrying millions of tons of coal mined in Utah through Oakland before heading to Asian markets has inflamed passions in the city.

Opponents argue it will harm health and exacerbate climate change. Proponents say it will provide good jobs in an impoverished area.

“Oaklanders know it’s a false choice to say we have to pick between jobs and this community’s health and safety,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, a leading opponent to the shipments, said before the vote.

The pointless nature of this bit of posturing once again raises the question of why the labor unions continue to support the Democrats so enthusiastically, as well as deepening the mystery of why the voters in general tolerate them. First of all, the space under discussion is an abandoned military base on the coast. It’s currently a waste of space and a hole in the local tax revenue structure, serving little to no purpose. Having an active shipping terminal there would provide plenty of short term jobs for construction and then a long term source of steady middle class work. And since we’re talking about dockworkers, the Teamsters would undoubtedly get a huge piece of that action. But for the sake of appeasing the environmentalists, the city council is turning up their nose at it.

And to accomplish what? Much like the situation with TransCanada and the Keystone XL pipeline, that coal from Utah is not going to “stay in the ground.” Canada is already working on pipelines to the west and to the east to ship their product to Asia and Europe. The same goes for this energy supply. There’s a market for it so it will be mined and exported somewhere. The only difference is that the jobs and all of the associated downstream benefits will go elsewhere and the citizens of Oakland can continue to enjoy the view of an empty military base sitting on their shores. Perhaps they can turn it into a bird sanctuary further down the line.

Congratulations, Oakland. Way to stand on your principles and put your liberal activism ahead of the interests of the citizens.

CoalCars