Choosing a new king after coal

Imagine for a moment you are radioactive. And let us imagine that by virtue of this radioactivity you have the power to serve as a generator of energy such that can be harnessed for the production of electricity, creating many jobs. The trouble is, your presence among populations of people causes them to be ill, such that a decision to scale back relying on your power despite the benefit it provided others.

Which brings us to the subject of coal.

The energy goals announced last week as part of the Obama Administration’s climate change policy were not friendly to West Virginia’s coal industry and politicians and pundits alike have twisted themselves into knots trying both to scorch-earth Obama on one hand and see it as a great opportunity for West Virginia to at long last begin to diversify its energy portfolio on the other.

The benefits of scaling back the burning of coal cannot be understated. Coal burned for electricity is the single-biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States (There is only one atmosphere. There is only one Earth. Conservative dismissals of climate change science are remarkably non-conservative).

The downside, as West Virginia politicians quick to criticize Obama’s policy have learned, is that there are many jobs at risk by the re-shuffling of the nation’s energy cards; there is much to worry about West Virginia’s economic health by virtue of the rejection of coal as a source of energy. It is, as we are being told by politicians, one of the losers.

Would that these same politicians were as vocal about the recent state Supreme Court ruling on Patriot Coal, the result of which is that many of these “jobs” have now been denied the pensions they thought their many years of service had entitled them. Would that these politicians were as vocal about the need to address the issue of climate change. Would that these same politicians would invest their clout in seeking to provide West Virginia with an economic picture that did not involve doubling down on a sector that has been responsible for generating tremendous benefit to the country but which must be renegotiated as part of a mix of sources if this nation is to survive the 21st century.

And let’s be honest, here. Trash talking Obama is all political theater. The coal industry has been enduring sizable contractions for generations. All Obama is doing is driving in the nails. Even more, the Climate Action Plan the president announced last week set no hard and fast limits. It will be many years before any restrictions on coal production are finalized. Our leaders decry the policy as one that artificially chooses winners and losers. We are all losers under climate change.

The loss of coal will result in the loss of jobs in the coal industry, but there can be better days ahead and West Virginia’s politicians, rather than commiserating among themselves at the loss of this valuable resource, would do better by working to ensure that West Virginia, rich in natural resources, is able to attract investment as part of a revised national energy strategy and that there are jobs for West Virginians when that time comes.



Kiss, kiss, bang, bang

Whatever is behind a statement by Beretta USA that it would not consider relocating a gun manufacturing facility to West Virginia, it certainly had nothing much to do with the support by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin for legislation that would have stiffened requirements for purchasing a firearm, unless political payback is a reason.

Beretta said it questioned West Virginia’s commitment to gun rights in light of Manchin’s support for the ultimately failed proposal. Hogwash. Manchin’s measure, had it passed, would have been the law of the land, applicable in all 50 states and West Virginia lawmakers practically tripped over themselves during the most recent session to pass legislation that reflected this state’s explicit and unyielding commitment to gun ownership.

Meanwhile, in Maryland, where Beretta is currently headquartered, the General Assembly passed a gun control bill that is among the strictest in the nation. It requires handgun buyers to submit fingerprints to state police, bans 45 types of assault weapons and limits gun magazines to 10 bullets.

Yet, Beretta announced at the end of May it will stick with Maryland at its facility in Prince Georges County rather than relocate to West Virginia, which flung open its doors to the gunmaker.

Manchin’s gun control bill is an easy target. And Beretta is taking a potshot.

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