If you were paying attention to the news this week, you might have seen the headlines popping up stating that the EPA was putting a halt to all permits involving blowing up mountains to get at the sweet, sweet coal inside. The elation that flew through the green blogosphere was short lived however as the EPA quickly clarified that they were in fact looking at only two permits out of the hundred or so up for review.

Of course, the mining industry didn't let that fact get in the way of them freaking out, saying that the Obama Administration was practically stealing the food out of the mouths of coal miners children. They're claiming that 14,000 jobs are at stake (quick reality check- they're not) if the permits to blow up mountains and dump the debris into miles of stream bed aren't approved, post haste.

The debate over mountaintop removal mining should not be about jobs. There's a way bigger issue at play here — we're talking about DESTROYING ENTIRE MOUNTAINS. No job is worth that (and let's ignore the fact that mountaintop removal mining provides fewer jobs than tunnel mining, that's why the industry likes it).

It's easy for me to say that — I don't make a living blowing up mountains. But just as the loggers who made a living cutting down old growth forests had to retool their careers when we started paying attention to that back in the 70s and 80s, todays coal miners will have to do the same. Our fight against coal needs to have two fronts — one where we work on phasing out the most polluting power source on the planet, and another where we retrain the workers left behind in the shift and make sure they come out in a better position than when they worked a mile underground.

When cars came onto the scene there were cries from the horsecare industry about their lost jobs. When movies switched from silent to talkies, piano players were fired all around the country. Many a swordsmith has been displaced by the shift to firearms.

Why does it have to be different for coal miners? Why do they, above all, deserve to cling to their dirty, dangerous jobs?

We need to kill coal and we need to convert the coal workers to green workers. The coal industry is going to be the last group on earth to push for that transition, so they must be pushed back whenever they try to hold the line.

Yesterday was a good day for the fight against mountaintop removal mining — Senators Benjamin L Cardin (D-MD) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced legislation that would prohibit the dumping of mining waste into streams. This would effectively end mountaintop removal mining.

I love this quote from Mr. Alexander (a Republican said this!?):

Coal is an essential part of our energy future, but it is not necessary to destroy our mountaintops in order to have enough coal,” said Senator Alexander, a member of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee of the Committee on Environment and Public Works which has jurisdiction over this issue. “Millions of tourists spend tens of millions of dollars in Tennessee every year to enjoy the natural beauty of our mountains — a beauty that, for me, and I believe for most Tennesseans, makes us proud to live here.”

OK, so I disagree with his assertion that coal is an essential part of our energy future, but I give him a lot of credit for seeing the need to preserve mountain ranges.

How bizarre is the world that I give credit to a U.S. senator for realizing blowing up mountains to get at coal is stupid. I feel like I step into the Bizarro World every time I write about this issue.

Alright, I'm climbing down from my rant tower. "The Office" is new tonight.

Shea Gunther is a podcaster, writer, and entrepreneur living in Portland, Maine. He hosts the popular podcast "Marijuana Today Daily" and was a founder of Renewable Choice Energy, the country's leading provider of wind credits and Green Options. He plays a lot of ultimate frisbee and loves bad jokes.

Coal: Jobs should not trump mountains
We need to give coal miners safe, productive, high paying jobs building the green future. Their jobs should not stand in the way of killing coal.