An editorial on WV job loss
Taking note of the News-Register's assault on economic theory and ethical journalism
Wednesday afternoon's lead editorial, "Taking Note of Assault on West Virginia" references a blog post written by Anna Louie Sussman for the Wall Street Journal last Friday. Sussman's post examines the causes of West Virginia's employment drop. What the News-Register does in its editorial is distort the blog's essential points to fit the News-Register's anti-EPA agenda.
From the editorial's second paragraph:
Between July 2014 and July 2015, West Virginia lost 19,100 jobs, according to the U.S. Labor Department. That is a 2.5 percent decline in employment. In fact, to further quote the Wall Street Journal item, "The coal industry has experienced high-profile layoffs over the past year. . . . " (The ellipses are in the editorial.)
And here's the original (I've highlighted in bold what the Intelligencer drops from the Journal blog post.):
The coal industry has experienced high-profile layoffs over the past year, with mining companies like Murray Energy Corp. and Alpha Natural Resources Inc. shedding jobs as coal prices have fallen by around 15% in the past year.
If you read the original, I think it is quite clear that Sussman is arguing that the jobs were lost because prices have fallen 15%.
The editorial eventually mentions a drop in prices as it shifts to a discussion of jobs in the natural gas industry:
But here was the kicker, the blog said: "West Virginia's growing natural gas industry initially cushioned the fall in coal prices," but now jobs in that sector are also suffering.
Again, the editorial drops what doesn't fit its thesis. Here is the original with the dropped material in bold:
West Virginia’s growing natural gas industry initially cushioned the fall in coal prices. But as a natural gas glut pushed prices down, jobs in that sector also got hit, said Ted Boettner, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.
“Natural gas is a very capital-intensive industry, more so than coal, so it doesn’t employ nearly as many people, and the construction side of natural gas has gone down as well recently,” Mr. Boettner said.
Let's see. The editorial barely mentions the blog's thesis that it is market forces that have affected employment in the coal and natural gas industries and then it ignores the blog's point that natural gas is not nearly as labor intensive as coal as the blog argues. Now the editorial must somehow find a way to blame its favorite scapegoat, the EPA, for why West Virginia unemployment has increased. After putting itself through some incredible contortions, the editorial finally gets there:
Almost as though to ensure the tactics that have already created reduced natural gas prices and a loss of jobs continue to do their work, the Environmental Protection Agency last week announced it planned to add to its attack through a plan to set harsher standards for methane emissions.
Amazing. Defying all economic theory and without any explanation for how it will happen, the editorial claims that increased regulation by the EPA will further extend the reduction in natural gas prices. Huh? This has to be the first time a conservative source has ever argued that government regulations decrease market prices. (My hunch is that the writer probably figured that reader's wouldn't think through the claim.)
Nowhere in the WSJ blog is either the EPA, regulations or methane mentioned and the blog is clear that it believes that market forces are the cause of WV's employment decline. That's apparently not good enough for the Intelligencer so they "do what they gotta do" and find a way to blame the EPA.