Corporatism in the Contemporary Appalachian Coal Industry

This paper will respond to Tea Party activists and coal operators who accuse their political opponents and economic competitors of corporatism and crony capitalism. I will draw from Appalachian studies literature to show that the Appalachian coal industry has maintained extensive government support since the post-World War Two era, that coal operators have worked in a corporatist fashion alongside sympathetic government regulators and labor bureaucrats, and that the Trump Administration's withdrawal of government regulations of the coal industry contributes to cronyism. Coal operators like Bob Murrray and Don Blankenship accuse renewable energy companies of relying on big government support and undermining fair competition. Pro-coal right-wing populists like Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions accuse their political opponents of corporatism and mercantilism. This essay counters the coal industry's promoters by drawing from scholars of Appalachian political economy like John Bowman, Benjamin Marley, Richard Mulcahy, and William Wishart, who extensively document the long-standing relationships between big government, big labor, and big coal in Appalachia. I will use these scholars' work to contextualize the ongoing government support for coal interests, which persists even in a neoliberal era of weak unions. I will further explore the political ramifications of continuing government protection and subsidies for private industry under the Trump Administration. I devote special attention to public subsidies for carbon capture and sequestration projects, private environmental governance and regulation, and regulatory capture.