VIEWS FROM AROUND THE STATE

Obama spins coal

Talk about contradictory statements. First, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz says President Barack Obama is committed to coal playing a role in a national energy strategy — a comment met with skepticism here in the coalfields. Then one day later, new EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy tells an audience at Harvard Law school that her agency will continue to aggressively push new rules targeting coal-fired power plants in order to crack down on global warming.

But that’s not all. McCarthy now says that curbing climate-altering pollution will spark “… business innovation, grow jobs and strengthen the economy.” Really? Has she visited the coalfields of southern West Virginia or Southwest Virginia lately? Has she seen all of the mine closures? Has she talked to local coal miners and families who are unemployed, or face an uncertain future? Has she spoken to those employees who work at coal-fired power plants now set to close — such as Appalachian Power’s Glen Lynn, Va., plant in Giles County?

Apparently not. Instead she claims that the tough new environmental regulations “won’t kill” jobs. Instead, she says the rules represent the “opportunity of a lifetime” to address global warming. McCarthy may be the EPA’s new administrator, but her comments represent the same old song and dance that we’ve seen and heard from the Obama administration, and it’s EPA, since 2008.

After all, this is the same president who once promised on the campaign trail in 2008 to bankrupt the coal industry.

That’s not to say that Moniz is intentionally trying to mislead folks. He is correct in pointing out that $6 billion has been invested in clean coal technology with a primary focus on capturing, storing and reusing carbon. We’ve seen such demonstration projects in our own region. But don’t forget that this is the same administration that squandered billions more in federal stimulus funds just a few years ago on unproven green technology companies and projects — some of which later went bankrupt.

Now Obama is launching the first-ever federal regulations on carbon dioxide emitted by existing coal-fired power plants — and he’s doing so without congressional approval. Sometimes actions do speak louder than words. If the administration were truly serious about pushing coal as part of the nation’s national energy portfolio, its politically charged and unfairly overreaching EPA wouldn’t be trying so hard to destroy the industry.

Next time the administration tries to make a play for coalfield votes, it needs to get its message straight.

— From the Aug. 4

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

 

“Sustained outrage” the remedy for bad government

A half-century ago, during the notorious Wally Barron administration, businesses were required to pay secret bribes if they wanted West Virginia government contracts. The Charleston Gazette helped reveal a shadowy network of fake out-of-state firms — mere mailboxes — to which payoffs were mailed. Federal prosecutions sent dozens of state officials to prison.

Later, other U.S. prosecutions occurred during the shady Arch Moore administration. Moore likewise went to U.S. prison. Today, by comparison, state government seems vastly cleaner.

But corruption remains an infection around the world, ranging from massive theft by national leaders to petty payola demanded by local police and inspectors. Remember, the “Arab Spring” wave of uprisings began because a Tunisian fruit vendor refused to pay a bribe to a policewoman, and set himself afire in protest.

A “Global Corruption Barometer” and a “Corruption Perceptions Index” are published by a Berlin-based watchdog group, Transparency International. These reports rank nations by their honesty levels. Scandinavian countries, Canada and New Zealand are cleanest. America ranks high, alongside England and Japan. Less-developed and Third World places are worst.

In Mexico, bottom-rung poor families spend one-third of their income for bribes, one report said.

Transparency International surveyed 114,000 people in 107 nations, and found that one-fourth had been forced to pay a bribe in the past year. A significant number said they refused a demand for a bribe. Public protests and marches have sprung up in Brazil, India, Turkey and elsewhere.

Former Gazette Publisher W.E. “Ned” Chilton III demanded “sustained outrage” against all forms of government dirt. That motto remains a prime need.

 

— From the Aug. 4

The Charleston Gazette

 

Short-term relief for students

Students taking out government loans to pay for college in the next few years caught a break, thanks to action by Congress last week. Down the road, however, student loans may not be such a bargain and the high cost of gaining a college education will continue as an obstacle for many.

The interest rate charged on college student loans had become a perennial debate in Congress, as it was this year and last. That was evident as the rate on new subsidized Stafford student loans doubled to 6.8 percent July 1 because Congress could not agree on a way to keep them at 3.4 percent. So without action by Congress this year, the rate would stay at 6.8 percent, a level that most lawmakers described as unacceptable, particularly with the average student loan debt climbing to more than $26,000.

In a rare show of bipartisanship, first the U.S. Senate and then the House passed legislation that will lower the loan rate to below 6.8 percent, at least for loans taken out in the next few years. Undergraduate students this fall will be able to borrow at a 3.9 percent interest rate for subsidized and unsubsidized loans. Graduate students would have access to loans at 5.4 percent, and parents would borrow at 6.4 percent. Backers of the legislation said the new plan would mean lower rates for 11 million borrowers this year with an average saving in interest charges of $1,500 for undergraduate students.

However, the bill, which President Obama said he will sign, ties the student loan rates to the rates on 10-year Treasury notes from here on out. From the standpoint of the government’s pocketbook, the move makes sense, allowing the government to charge more for the loans when it has to pay out more for its borrowing on Treasury notes. But in the long-term, college students and their families are likely to pay more than they do now. That adds to the urgency of trying to find a better balance between government support of higher education and the costs that students and their families must bear for young people to gain the skills they need to be successful. At this point, the trend is generally not favoring the students.

— From the Aug. 4

Herald-Dispatch in Huntington

 

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