The West Virginia coal industry, led by Massey Energy's Don Blankenship, has had a good run of it lately, getting protections for their dirty industry into US climate legislation and some victories on mountaintop mining. But one of their protectors, Sen. Robert Byrd, appears to be growing disenchanted with Big Coal, authoring an op-ed called "Coal Must Embrace The Future." While Byrd maintains that coal will be needed well into the future to provide baseload power, he says that the industry needs to rethink its support of mountaintop removal, the devastating technique of leveling mountains to get at the coal buried underneath. And if Byrd jumps ship, other coal supporters might bounce, too.
Let's speak the truth. The most important factor in maintaining coal-related jobs is demand for coal. Scapegoating and stoking fear among workers over the permitting process is counter-productive.
Coal companies want a large stockpile of permits in their back pockets because that implies stability to potential investors. But when coal industry representatives stir up public anger toward federal regulatory agencies, it can damage the state's ability to work with those agencies to West Virginia's benefit. This, in turn, may create the perception of ineffectiveness within the industry, which can drive potential investors away.
Let's speak a little more truth here. No deliberate effort to do away with the coal industry could ever succeed in Washington because there is no available alternative energy supply that could immediately supplant the use of coal for base load power generation in America. That is a stubborn fact that vexes some in the environmental community, but it is reality.
More on Big Coal:
Oh Don, Go On (Saying that Climate Change Isn't Real and that Coal is Good)
Coal Exec Challenges James Hansen to a Climate Change Debate