Should the Government Subsidize Coal to Protect National Security?

Sep 1, 2017

President Trump listens as Gov. Jim Justice speaks at a rally in Huntington
Credit AP

Governor Jim Justice is pitching a proposal to President Trump: the federal government should subsidize eastern coal at $15 a ton to protect the power grid.

Justice says it's a matter of national security - at times of war or terrorist attack, eastern coal is needed to keep the lights on along the Eastern Seaboard.

He says the $4.5 billion pricetag is "just an absolute fraction of the price to pay for security for protection."

But experts aren't so sure. Jason Bordoff, who directs Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, said, “This seems like a rather transparent effort to subsidize an industry that has been in structural decline for not only years but decades."

“While concerns about fuel supply reliability are legitimate, picking winners by subsidizing the production in the name of national not as smart or cost-effective solution.”

On this week's Front Porch podcast, we debate government subsidies for fossil fuels, renewable energy, and ethanol. Is there ever a good reason for government to intervene in the energy marketplace?

Also, we debate what the lessons West Virginia can learn from Harvey and the disaster in Texas.

And, what food nicknames should Scott, Rick and Laurie have?

Welcome to “The Front Porch,” where we tackle the tough issues facing Appalachia the same way you talk with your friends on the porch.

Hosts include WVPB Executive Director and recovering reporter Scott Finn; conservative lawyer, columnist and rabid "Sherlock" fan Laurie Lin; and liberal columnist and avid goat herder Rick Wilson, who works for the American Friends Service Committee.

An edited version of “The Front Porch” airs Fridays at 4:50 p.m. on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s radio network, and the full version is available at and as a podcast as well.

Share your opinions with us about these issues, and let us know what you'd like us to discuss in the future. Send a tweet to @radiofinn or @wvpublicnews, or e-mail Scott at sfinn @

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