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Remember the workers

“We’re going to put a lot of coal miners out of work.”

Those who lived and worked in Appalachia during the 2016 presidential campaign likely have these words burned into their memories.

After Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton made the comments, those opposing her ran countless TV ads of her saying these words.

In a race as close as the 2016 campaign was, these ads likely played a role in the crucial battleground state of Pennsylvania going Republican in the Electoral College for the first time since 1988.

In 2012, President Barack Obama defeated Republican Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania by about 300,000 votes, or 2.9 million to 2.6 million. In 2016, President Donald Trump defeated Clinton by about 44,000 votes, or 2.97 million to 2.926 million.

The southwestern portion of Pennsylvania is still very dependent on coal as a driver of the economy. From the three counties at the southwestern corner of the state, in 2012, Romney only managed to get about 18,000 more votes than Obama.

However, in these same three counties during 2016, Trump beat Clinton by a whopping 48,000 votes.

That means of the 44,000 votes Trump won by in Pennsylvania, he got about two-thirds of them by outperforming Romney in three rural counties that depend on coal.

This is a fate former Vice President Joe Biden hopes to avoid, if he ultimately becomes the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee. Tuesday, Biden unveiled a plan to use $5 trillion – $1.7 trillion in federal spending and $3.3 trillion in private sector funding – to lead the U.S. to net zero emission of carbon pollution by 2050.

“I will lead America and the world, not only to confront the crisis in front us but to seize the opportunity it presents,” Biden said in a campaign video posted online.

“While we’re standing around not doing much, the rest of the world is moving ahead,” Biden said later Tuesday during a New Hampshire campaign stop.

According to Biden’s website, he will not leave coal miners out to dry, the way they perceived Clinton would have.

“Coal miners and power plant workers took on dangerous jobs to power our industrial revolution and the decades of subsequent economic growth. As economic trends continue to shift our country away from coal as an energy source, we have an obligation to help these workers and their communities succeed,” his website states.

There is a long way to go in the 2020 presidential race, even for New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary. And $1.7 trillion in taxpayers’ money is not chump change.

However, we applaud Biden and his staff for showing appreciation for generations of coal miners and power plant workers who have literally risked life and limb so that Americans could turn on their lights.