The Free Market's War on Coal

The Wall Street Journal somewhat awkwardly pays homage to coal:

Cheap natural gas has prompted utility companies to burn more of it and less coal, which has eroded coal prices. Both industries have been hit by weaker demand for power, partly as a result of warm winter months early this year, though prices for coal and gas have lately begun to recover. Electricity generation fell 1.6% through August, compared with a year ago, according to federal-government data.

"On the coal side, it's really taken a huge bite out of their business," said Steve Piper, associate director at SNL Energy, a research firm. At the same time, though, "inexpensive energy is going to be a good thing for the economy," including in West Virginia, he said.

Even as the country gained about 12,500 oil and gas jobs in the past year, the coal sector lost about 7,000 jobs. The much-larger oil and gas industry added almost 50,000 jobs over the last five years, bringing total employment to 195,000 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Coal employment stood at about 80,000 in October, up slightly from 2007.

Someone tell me again: Why did Republicans expend electoral capital to defend a dying industry from the market forces they so proudly proclaim in nearly every other circumstance?