Overheard on CNN.com: Coal mining families aren't only ones facing shifts in industry
Amanda Sedgmer, with her kids in Hopedale, Ohio, worries about the survival of the coal industry and her family's way of life.
July 18th, 2012
04:16 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Coal mining families aren't only ones facing shifts in industry

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Two teams of producers are traversing the country as part of CNN Radio and CNN iReport's Embed America project. They're talking to voters about how the 2012 presidential election affects them, and focusing on issues identified during phase 1 of the iReport debate.

CNN visited Hopedale, Ohio, to meet iReporter Amanda Sedgmer. She's the mother of five children and the wife and daughter of a coal miner. Sedgmer told CNN she feared that if President Obama was re-elected, her family's way of life would be threatened. At the same time, competition from natural gas and a new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency are contributing to the demise of some coal plants. The resulting story garnered thousands of comments. One topic the readers discussed was how other fields have changed due to circumstances. Some offered messages of hope for Hopedale.

The war over coal is personal

The decline of auto manufacturing jobs in the Midwest left this reader out in the cold, and she offered advice to Sedgmer.

Jakes_momma: "Ms. Sedgmer, please don't blame the POTUS for the decline in coal production. The energy industry is changing. Coal was once king, now it's natural gas. That's not the government, that's industry moving on. If you and your husband are smart, you'll make a change quickly and leave the area, as much as it saddens me to tell you that. I've had to leave my childhood home of central Indiana when the auto industry shut plant after plant after plant in the city we lived in during the '80s. There are no longer good paying production jobs of any quantity in that area. We didn't wait until the last plant closed to leave, we sold our home and moved on. We would have loved to have had a GM job like our dads but it was not in our control. You may be voting for Romney but you would be wise to keep the Obama 2012 slogan in mind - 'Forward.' What is really in the future of the coal industry regardless of who is president is more closures. I think they have fracking in Ohio; that's the future (at least short-term). Good luck to you, your family and your area! It's hard and very sad to watch an industry change, even if it's better for all."

Some said readers should try to be understanding of the family.

Andrea Dawn Bignall: "If you were in their situation, you would probably do the same. They have kids to think about, and jobs are harder to come by nowadays. Yeah, its bad for the environment, but so is driving you car back and forth to work everyday. Put yourself in someone else's shoes."

One commenter asked if the family is lucky, in a strange way.

whitefences: "Yes. Families like this one have a head start in planning for change. They should be doing so. To help themselves through the inevitable."

Progress happens, said this reader, who added that they feel skeptical of "clean coal" technologies.

boogbop: "I can understand that this lady is scared of the only way of life she has known disappearing but it is the way of progress. It happened to whalers in New England and blacksmiths all over the world. If she thought about it she is really wishing for her sons to enter one of the most dangerous profession in the world and for her daughters to marry those who practice these professions. Clean coal in an invention of the industry and relying on coal for electrical production might be cheap on the moment but is incredibly expensive in the long run when you start factoring in the health costs associated with the extraction and use of coal and the environmental coasts. If the coal mining industry disappears people will survive and prosper just like the whalers did."

At least one person was critical of liberals' record on energy.

FareTaxVoter: "Liberals have failed to give us alternative energy for 50 years. I don't see them coming through any time soon."

Another suggested alt-energy projects be used to put people to work.

Adam Collins: "Couldn't we build alternative fuel plants in these coal mining communities? Build a series of windmills, and solar panels (maybe even nuclear power?) and hire the people who would lose their jobs to the declining coal business."

This reader said they are concerned about the possibility of pollution as a consequence of coal mining.

kat17954: "I have lived in anthracite coal country Pennsylvania my entire life. The few jobs that coal mining has left (most work done by heavy machinery) are nothing compared to the environmental devastation felt by everyone in these communities. ... Don't get me wrong, coal has its place in nostalgia for me, but it is TIME to move on to cleaner more efficient sources of power across the grid."

Several readers said they sympathize with Sedgmer, but believe the energy industry must advance.

BlueVibe: "Unfortunately, you can't support the coal industry without also supporting massive, and irremediable, environmental destruction. Once it's gone, it's gone. This is a way of life that needs to evolve into something else. I'm not a tree-hugger, but coal is just not sustainable over the long run. These people need to realize that they're smart enough to learn new ways of life and not insist on continuing this because it's basically a cultural habit. It's one we can't afford."

Zorf: "Clean coal technology is a marketing scam dreamt up by the coal industry. It doesn't exist."

A few asked about other industries that have declined in the past as technology progressed.

JeremyClarksonEsquire: "We cant hold the world back (or in this case damage it) because people want to keep their outdated jobs. Should we save the steamboat industry too? The typewriter industry? How is coal mining any different than all the other jobs that were replaced with better things? If these people are too stubborn to adapt and find a new job then its not our problem, barely anyone gets to keep the same job their whole life, things change, coal is dead, learn something new like everyone else."

Boater39: "When the telephone company became automated and no longer required manual switchboard operators, a lot of people lost their jobs. That's what progress is all about. Should we go back to the stone ages of technology so those people should have kept their jobs? Or, should have those switchboard operators learned new trades?"

Vivek Saxena: "I totally feel this lady's struggle. However, that's life. As an example, the Google Penguin/Panda algorithm update destroyed a lot of people's online careers. So should Google reverse the update because of this? Absolutely not! Change is necessary to root out mediocrity. Likewise, coal must - and will in due time - GO. It's an antiquated, environmentally unfriendly method of energy procurement. Some will suffer, but again, that's life!"

And then, this reader noted her need to "go where the money is."

cyberidian: "I so agree with all these comments. I would have liked to be a teacher, like my mother before me, but the need to pay off my college loans turned me into a programmer. I would still rather teach kids than write code, but too bad for me. Economic reality shapes our lives and we must accept it, so I am a programmer and volunteer with the Girl Scouts. My point is sometimes you have to go where the money is even if you would have preferred to continue the family tradition - or accept having less money. Also I was a Dramatic Literature major and would have also liked a career in the arts, but there is no money there either. Did I cry and blame the president because the arts are underfunded and Dramatic Literature degree won't get you a job? No, I hit the books, learned to program and got a job with those skills."

What's your take on coal mining and alternative energy? Have you ever had to change your career direction because of changes in the business climate or technology? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Energy • Environment • Overheard on CNN.com • Politics
soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. Frank

    People of the United States of America and MSNBC Progressives,
    It only makes sense that if something like coal which this country has an estimated 200 years of supply and could be burned in a cleaner form for power, that the Democrats and Progressives would want to shut it down.Mr.President, what are the Coal Miners supposed to do for a living in areas that have produced coal for 200 years.What will they be retrained to do?If your so interested in American JOBS being created, why put these workers out of a JOB!

    July 18, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Coal


      July 18, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • C

      I'm from Eastern KY and I can tell you right now the president has nothing to do with lack of coal jobs. You had better get it straight. Coal jobs are falling because the costs of Eastern coal removal is TWICE that of Western coal. And methods of mining that generate the most coal, such as strip mining, generate the LEAST jobs, because it's all done with big equipment; go out and visit a strip mine and see how many people are working it on a given day. It's the coal companies are lying to these people, just like in the 40's,telling them that they can't mine because of the EPA, all the while trying to squeeze every bit of life blood from the area and keep costs as low as possible to make millions in profits. And coal companies today come in, rip out the coal, then fold, so that hurt miners cannot sue for compensation for their injuries. You care about people and jobs? Then don't let this human abuse go on. We need coal and the US will continue to use coal, as cheaply and efficiently as possible, cutting the jobs to nothing. A miner may have a dinky job for a while, but there will be one or two people that make millions upon millions from off his back.

      July 20, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. banasy©

    I came from a steel mill family.
    My father, my grandfather, my uncles...even me for a while...
    Well, everyone knows what happened to the steel mill industry.
    That's a part of life, unfortunately.
    One door closes; another opens.

    July 18, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Done posting my real name.

    This regime is doing things to naturally occuring power sources, not just coal, but oil too. They want them shut down.
    Take the Keystone pipeline for example. 20,000 people out of work.
    This regime wants to work with bogus "green energy sources", that just can't get it. Of average people who do you know, that can afford a $40,000 loan to pay of an electric car. You cannot make $8-900 a month car payments working, supporting a family at McD's for $7.75/hr.

    July 18, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Obama Mama

      The republicans tied that pipeline to the Bush tax cuts. TransCanada figured 10,000 jobs for 2 years = 20,000 jobs. Permanent jobs would only be 100's. The study from Cornell U. said the pipeline could end up costing jobs in the midwest, with oil prices being higher in the midwest, it would slow consumer spending and cost jobs.
      They wanted to put it over an aquifier in Nebraska.
      Sand oils total greenhouse emission footprint is 5%-30% more than regular oil.
      Uses more water and energy to produce usable oil.
      It is dirty sand crossing the US and can cause crop failures.
      Not to mention they did not have a spill plan.

      July 18, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobcat (in a hat)©

      @ Obama Mama

      In addition to what you have already said here, the research I've done on this "oil" shows it to be highly corrosive and will most assuredly result in pipe failure somewhere along the line. They have already had to major failurs of the pipeline which resulted in spills in a river in Colorado as well as in Michigan.

      July 18, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Obama Mama

    Actually the Bush administration let the coal companies dump whatever they wanted into the ground water and streams during his administration. Dumping dirt. rock, rubble and slurry into streams. Bush allowed Mountain removal the most damaging form of coal mine strip mining. He buried 2000 miles of Appalachiam streams in Kentucky, TN. Virginia and West Virginia with mine waste. Since 1983 it was illegal to dump within 100 ft. of a stream. Bush made it easier not to follow that law, sort of an honor system, say you will try not to get any in or near water. Bush also put burners next to state parks, with the emissions landing on park property.
    When President Obama came into office he decided to adhere to the clean water act. Closing of mines were due to the ones that dumped into water and near streams and made them better burning clean coal companies.

    July 18, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Hi, Obama Mama.
      Voice of reason, as usual! 😉

      July 18, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Obama Mama

    HI, banasy. But can I use syntax and form sentences so it makes sense? lol

    July 18, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Your syntax and form are fine!
      I understood you perfectly...yesterday AND today...

      July 18, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • cartmilln

      Today it is much better. You made full sentences.

      July 20, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. stayinterested

    Of course, when income is threatened it is personal. I remember in my home town a cement plant being shut down, big change in a town of a caution light only. The Vets are being redirectedin education why can't these people also get some redirection?

    July 18, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Done posting my real name.

    Tell me what your messiah did for American entrepeneurs, Obama Mama.

    July 18, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • RJ

      What has YOUR Messiah done?

      July 18, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Obama Mama

      He is not my messiah. He is the person I trust in Wahington out of all of them.
      You have asked what he has done for entrep's. He has given small business credits for hire. Actually given people a reason to start their own businesses instead of letting the wealthy have every corner market. Made it easier to get loans from banks.
      Gave small business tax breaks.
      Put 4.4 million back to work in 4 years. Bush in 8 years only put 1.08 million back to work.
      On an average Bush lost 700,000 jobs a month, Obama has put us on the plus side every month for 21 months.

      July 19, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Done posting my real name.

    Just like your messiahs stimulus act that was supposed to create jobs, rather unemployment stayed unchanged if not higher.
    And I thought I was brainwashed?

    July 18, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Obama Mama

      The stimulus was used by people like Rich Perry for their use. He cried and yelled as many GOP gov's did and then used it to pay down his states debts. Why not ask your gov. what he did with his or hers? Tell me your state, I will research and let you know? unless you really do not know what Obama has done cause you listen to FOX and do not research what they say.

      July 19, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Obama Mama

      Sorry"Rick Perry" of Texas.

      July 19, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. banasy©

    Hi, faux Bombo!
    When are ya going to learn?

    July 18, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Coal

    People truly don't understand the effects of getting rid of coal. It helps keep America going; the railroads are now suffering because of the EPA putting so many regulations on coal. Small businesses in the coal communities will shut down, increasing unemployment rates. I would like to know what jobs will be in place for the welders, machine operators, and coal miners. Has Obama or the EPA even thought about it? How are the people in these communities going to pay their mortgage or bills? I bet half the people against coal hasn't been near a coal mines!

    July 18, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      What jobs were in place for the steel mills?
      For the welders?
      For the fabricators?
      For the machine operators?
      For the auto industry?
      For every manufacturing job sent overseas?
      Placing this squarely in the POTUS's lap because he was enforcing laws already put in place is absurd.

      July 18, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • genomega1

      It goes without saying that they don't understand but displaying their ignorance to the world is what I don't understand.

      July 18, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Genomega, I *know* you weren't referring to me as ignorant, were you?

      July 18, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Obama Mama

      Obama closed mines where Bush had let the honour system of dumping into steams and waterways go into effect. Clean Coal is okay. Haven't you heard all the business were in pollution mode during the Bush administration. Dump at will and smelt whereever. Mountaintop striping the worst of all mining, killing and dumping a area 2000 miles long next to the Appalachian mountains.

      July 19, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Done posting my real name.

    Our little banasy. So steel huh? Sheet metal, angle iron, I-beams, Wide flange W-beams, flat iron, round bar, square bar, hex bar?

    July 18, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. It the truff

    The whole nation becoming puthy whipped. No industrial. All service sector.

    July 18, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. genomega1

    Reblogged this on News You May Have Missed and commented:

    04:16 PM ET
    Comments (23 comments)
    Overheard on CNN.com: Coal mining families aren't only ones facing shifts in industry

    July 18, 2012 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Done posting my real name.

    Are you the one that ran the ladel and melted down my car?

    July 18, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Done posting my real name.

    Even if you did...I still like you.

    July 18, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      I only worked there a short time.
      I didn't melt your car.

      July 18, 2012 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      You got me.
      I freely admit it, lmao!

      July 18, 2012 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
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