We’ve hit on this issue time and time again, but its importance can’t be overstated. Coal is too important to be left by the wayside.

As the Obama administration pours money into wind and solar energy, which are far from sure bets, it’d be nice if he’d open his eyes and see that our nation’s best source of fuel and energy is right under our feet.

Southern Illinois is a hotbed for coal mining. Always has been, but it won’t continue to be if more money isn’t put into clean-coal research.

We understand the concerns over pollution caused by burning high-sulfur coal, but we also understand how the economy works. And our economy doesn’t work without coal.

Coal is the best source of domestic energy. It’s abundant, and it’s relatively cheap.

If we ever want to become more energy-independent, we’re going to have to rely more heavily on coal, not move away from it.

Even if wind and solar energy were to someday become leading energy producers in the U.S., it’s going to take time. During that time, we’re going to need coal to bridge the gap.

While doing that, research will be the key to making coal cleaner and more efficient. It’s time to invest in coal gasification and other coal-related technologies.

Plus, coal mines offer quality, high-paying jobs. Many of those jobs are in areas dealing with high unemployment, such as Southern Illinois.

With ever-increasing regulations on coal mining, the industry is facing a troubling reality. Without enough money being spent researching ways to lessen emissions and meet these regulations, coal faces an extremely uphill battle.

We also understand coal isn’t the end all, be all of our country’s energy resources.

Hydraulic fracturing is on the horizon for Southern Illinois, and it’s already prevalent in other regions.

People and businesses in our area are preparing for the gas-drilling process known as fracking to begin. It’s expected to bring jobs and money to a region in dire need of both.

We’ve been outspoken supporters of fracking — as long as regulations are in place to ensure the safety of our water supply and natural resources.

But even fracking may pose an undue threat to the local coal mining industry. The idea is that natural gas is cheaper and burns cleaner, but that doesn’t mean coal should be written off.

To help our country kick the habit of foreign oil, it’s going to take fracking, coal mining and other forms of energy being produced in the U.S.

While we begin pulling gas and oil out of the rock, we must continue mining the coal out of the ground.

Our nation’s energy policy, which still needs to be written, must be all-inclusive.

There’s a place for green energy. There’s a place for natural gas. And there must be a place for coal.

Coal is the proven commodity. It can be counted on to keep the lights on and economy healthy.

Hopefully, the president, environmentalists and others will stop putting the horse before the cart. Invest in clean coal, and use it to bridge the gap as wind and solar become viable. By that time, the clean-coal technology should be advanced to the point that makes everyone happy.

People will keep their good, coal mining jobs. Our country will be a couple steps closer to energy independence.

All it will take is clarity on the part of the bureaucrats, who are trying to hammer the final nails in coal’s coffin.

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