Democrats are right on coal, but here in the Ninth District Virginia, the GOP is more successful in pulling people’s strings. Many people are buying the story that the Democrats support the EPA, which is killing coal, and Republicans will preserve coal jobs. If the Ninth District goes for Republicans, coal will be a major reason for that choice. For Virginia and for coal, Republicans are the wrong choice.
Quite a few coal jobs in Virginia relate to research on clean coal. Finding a way to burn coal without carbon pollution is the best hope for sustainable jobs in coal, and Virginia Democrats support clean coal research. Republicans are not being truthful about problems in the coal industry. Coal in Virginia is suffering not from the EPA, but from several problems:
- Gas is cheaper, and many coal plants have converted to natural gas, reducing the demand for coal.
- Virginia coal production is difficult, since the coal is in mountains. Extraction costs less for coal producers in Wyoming, and they can sell for less, driving down the price of coal and Virginia coal’s profit margin.
- Developing technology is against coal in the market, as wind and solar come into use, and cost of electricity produced by these methods is reduced by innovation and volume.
- Coal is not a renewable resource. Predictions range from about 10 to about 30 years of coal production left in Virginia.
Burning coal does spill carbon into the atmosphere, and environmentalists will continue to work against it. Washing of coal also produces sludge that is harmful to the environment. Gas is cleaner, solar and wind are clean, and the environment is where we live and breathe. So the environmental point is well taken.
As clean coal technology progresses, we no longer have to trade our environment for electricity. The Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center (Dominion) in St. Paul (Wise County), is our largest and most modern coal-burning power plant, using coal, coal waste, and up to 20% biomass, and meeting EPA standards for carbon emission.
All of that said, politics is politics, and our Democrats may still lose the Ninth District because the clean coal message doesn’t fit in a soundbite and isn’t easy to share with people who won’t listen to you or talk to you.
I am three generations away from any actual coal miner, yet I know the words to a dozen songs that recount the heroism and endurance of coal miners. Here in the Ninth there are people who have no direct involvement, but who base their vote primarily on the coal issue. Many such voters do not know the market or the business of coal, but they identify with the culture, legend, and legacy – the song and story of coal. Perhaps this attachment explains in part why the UMWA and the mine owners supported Congressman Rick Boucher, a Democrat with a long friendship to coal, yet his Republican opponent won on the strength of the coal issue by proclaiming that President Obama had a war on coal. Boucher’s friendship was the true story, and still people believed the false GOP claim that Democrats had a war on coal.
Boucher hosted a recent fundraiser in Abingdon for Democrat Ralph Northam, who well deserves every Virginian’s vote for Lt. Governor on Election Day. Boucher continues to work for the Ninth in support of clean coal, and is among leading Democrats involved in The CoalBlue Project, a significant project for both sustainable coal usage and the environment.
If sustainable coal production and jobs is the goal, we owe our votes to Democrats in this election, because Democrats are the ones working on the real issues. A war is exciting, but in coal there is no war. There are resources and results that need to be managed. Democrats have the better plan for coal and energy, just as Democrats have the better plan for transportation, education, business, health care and keeping Virginia a good place for people to live.