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View Diary: Appalachia: National Sacrifice Zone (51 comments)

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  •  I don't at the moment (0+ / 0-)

    There are a couple of reports I could point you to. Email bigfriendly.austin@gmail.com and he could probably get that for you.

    "If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide." Abe Lincoln

    by faithfull on Wed Jun 28, 2006 at 06:58:54 AM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  Paris Hilton or a coal mine? (0+ / 0-)

      Park City, Utah; was listed as a ghost town in the 1950's.

      Now they have Malibu-level real estate prices and the Sundance Festival.

      I'm not sure if I would want Paris Hilton hanging around my town.  But some people don't mind.

    •  Some numbers (0+ / 0-)

      about coal:

      The coal industry pays approximately $70 million in property taxes annually.
      The Coal Severance Tax pumps approximately $214 million into West Virginia's economy.
      Twenty-four million dollars of coal severance taxes collected each year goes directly into the Infrastructure Bond Fund.
      All 55 counties, even the non-coal producing counties receive Coal Severance Tax funds.
      The coal industry payroll is nearly $2 billion per year.
      Coal is responsible for more than $3.5 billion annually in the gross state product.

      So, let's see: (1) $284 in direct dollar contributions/taxes to the state's coffers, (2) two billion in payroll, and (3) three and a half billion in the state's GSP.

      It's ok to be anti coal mining, but I don't like the assertion that:

      Tourism brought in far more money to WV than coal did last year.

      without a shred to back it up. (Even the report you cite above only talks about $70 million of tourism dollars, which is quite a lot of money to us as individuals, and still important to the state, but it pales next to a $2B payroll for coal.) Coal means big dollars to the state.  As much as some might wish, it simply cannot be stopped in favor of other stuff.  Develop a plan for tourism that will pump that kind of money into the states coffers and we can talk.  Develop a plan for the alt fuels to generate the electricity that we're all burning here at the keyboards, and we can talk.

      Oh, and it's much more than that.  Let's say that we decide to stop mining coal.  Expect your electricity bill to double or more.  Are we willing to do that?

      •  selective numbers (0+ / 0-)

        You're absolutely right that vast amounts of money are involved with coal in West Virginia. I don't doubt your figures for a minute. Unfortunately:

        1. The more the state is ruined by coal operators, the less future tourism we may ever have.
        1. Coal money doesn't talk in WV Politics - IT SHOUTS. So there's little incentive to ever look anywhere else for state revenue. (And little interest in studying or documenting same!)
        1. As ever, much of this money is still being exported out of West Virginia's third-world economy.
        1. Under the charming regime now in power in Washington, vast strides have been made in screwing the miners over ever more for the sake of ever- increasing profits for the owners. This specifically includes reductions of safety, licensing, and inspection safeguards - as recent disasters attest.

        I think that at heart this situation is a failure of vision typical of the Dubya years: the temporary maximization of short-term revenues for a few versus the long term good of the many. What's good for Massey is not necessarily what's good for those of us in WV.... or other living things.

        "Save Blair Mountain" - http://www.pawv.org/...

        •  The bias in your reply (0+ / 0-)

          is shown quite clearly by your word choice.  You use words like "ruined" and "third-world economy."

          Look, coal is not some benevolent gentle giant, nor is it some evil conglomeration out there.  It is big business just as is auto manufacturing and any heavy industry.  If the coal could be moved to Mexico to be mined, it probably would be.  That's the nature of all capitalistic businesses.  I do agree that we need some serious government regulation of the industry (and we do have some already).  I do concede that the current cabal in power in DC has harmed the environment on many fronts, including coal mining and procuduction.  If those folks were nuke power gents and ladies, we'd be seeing a lot of lax regs on nuke power.

          I do take exception to the "ruined" claim.  Surface mining and MTR are messy, but reclaimed sites are being used for many different purposes.  

          • Pete Dye Golf Course, Bridgeport; Scholar Oaks Golf Course, Putnam County, two premier golf courses in the state.
          • New Hope Village - McDowell County; built on 20 acres on Tom's Mountain in late 2001. This area provided homes out of the flood plain for 70 families displaces from the flooding in that year.
          • Knight of Columbus Community Park - Tucker County ; this baseball/softball field hosts everything from t-ball to women's softball in the Thomas area. Built in the 1980's by Buffalo Coal Co.
          • Robert C. Byrd High School - Harrison County , 70 acres mined in the late 1970's.
          • Morgantown Hall - Monongalia County , 69 acres mined in the 1980's
          • Logan County Airport - Logan County ; on 75 acres this is the only airport in Logan County
          • The FBI complex in Clarksburg, WV (above) provides more than 3,000 West Virginia jobs. Completed in 1995, the complex is located on 986 acres of reclaimed land.
          • Mount View High School was built on an area that once was a mountaintop mining site. With McDowell County more than 90 percent hillside, land available for economic development is in short supply.
          • Southwest Regional Jail - Logan County, located on corridor G in Logan County the area is part of an industrial complex. The facility opened in April 1998.
          • East Pointe Mall Area - Harrison County, Interstate 79 and U.S. 50 interchange is considered one of the busiest interchanges in the state; includes Wal-Mart, post office, numerous retail stores and the Bridgeport City Hall
          • Weirton - about 85% of modern day weirton is built on mountaintop mining sites that have been reclaimed and developed in the late 1970's. Weirton's post mining land use includes housing developments and the city's hospital which was built in 1978
          • Mt. Olive Correctional Facility - Fayette County, due to the limited supply of accessible, sufficiently large level tracts of land, planters considered building two facilities to replace Moundsville. However, reclaimed surface mine sites have the potential for redevelopment and could provide an acceptable site.

          That's a partial list.  There are many more.  But worth noting is that as mentioned above, developable land is hard to come by in WV since so much of the state is hillside terrain.  Surface mining does leave behind often developable flat land.

          Coal money doesn't talk in WV Politics - IT SHOUTS. So there's little incentive to ever look anywhere else for state revenue. (And little interest in studying or documenting same!)

          In reply, I'd point you to faithfull's argument that tourism is growing in this state.  Other posts in this thread by me indicate that construction is growing.  We are trying to make it better here.  We're not a bunch if people who don't know better.  We are diversifying our economy.  We are improving our state.  Your statement above has a visceral quality in that it makes one feel righteously angry, but I'd like to see some data behind it.  Otherwise, it's just empty rhetoric.  Is your statement baseless?  Nope.  There is some truth in it, but it's an awfully wide brush to be painting us with.

          As ever, much of this money is still being exported out of West Virginia's third-world economy.

          Yes, and similarly in Alabama with Hyuandi, and Tennessee with Bridgestone tires, and anywhere with Toyota plants (like WV!).  Foreign and out of state owned businesses will always "export" their profits.  But, No one's disputing the $$ I mentioned above as being pumped into the economy of this state by coal.  $2B in payroll after the 7X economics multiplier of money is a lot of money.  Are we being taken advantage of?  Yes, I suppose in some light of that word/phrase we are, but we are benefiting from coal also.

          Aristotle spoke of the life of the "mean" (average).  The truth is in the middle somewhere.  I am in the coal industry, so I am biased that way.  But I'm not blindly cheering on coal and being a pollyanna about it.  When you use emotionally charged words like "ruined" and "third-world" you tend to poison the debate somewhat, and that does the debate a disservice.  This is stuff we do need to be talking about in this state and on a national level, but we need to do it in as dispassionate a way as possible.

          •  Robert (0+ / 0-)

            First, thanks for helping to branch out this discussion.

            But...over 300,000 acres of West Virginia have received surface mine permits. Less than 1 percent of mined land is currently reused for any development purpose. (Source)

            Two more things I came across...

            1. Tourism pumps far more money into West Virginia economy each year than does the coal industry. Source: Citizens Coal Council
            1. Surface mining (which includes MTR mining), accounts for only 1.2% of jobs in WV and brings in just 2.6% of the state’s total revenues. The counties where surface mining predominates are some of the still poorest counties in the country. Source: 2002 economic census data;

            "If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide." Abe Lincoln

            by faithfull on Wed Jun 28, 2006 at 09:20:30 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Again, piece by piece... (0+ / 0-)

              The citizens coal council link does not work (404).  The base page www.citizens etc .org is an empty page.  Again, I just refuse to believe that tourism is bigger in terms of dollars or employees in WV than coal until I see hard numbers comparing the two.  IF tourism were so big, how would coal hold sway over the economy and politicians?  Wouldn't the tourism industry be more able to fight off coal if it were bigger and had more money?  It's just not logical.

              I eventually got the census link to work (there's an error in the link you provided), but you're going to have to point me to the specific table relating to your claim.  And on top of that, your claim is absolutely refuted by the Mohter Jones article you refer to!  From the mother Jones article: "Coal production accounts for 13 percent of West Virginia's gross state product, commands an annual payroll of $900 million, and provides more than a third of the state's business-tax revenues."  So which way would you like it?  Is coal statistically irrleevant, which is what you seem to want to be saying in point 2 above?  Or is is as big as Mother Jones claims it is?

              I know it's late and I'm tired, but please snip the one percent reclamation line from the MJ article for me.  I read the thing twice and searched for the words "percent" and "reclaim" and reuse" and cannot find the one percent claim.

              At a personal level the impact can be quite bad.  Stipulated.  But we must concede that anecdotal evidence, while moving, is ... well anecdotal.

              WV is 24,087 square miles in size.  That converts to 15,415,680 acres.  (While I'd like to see a cite on the permitted acres you state of 300,000 acres permitted, I'll run with it for now.)  That's slightly less than 2% of the land permitted for MTR.  At a macro level, that's not abhorrent.  At a personal level, it can be sad/angering/etc/etc, but...

      •  Robert (0+ / 0-)

        Respectfully, in the post I said this...

        Coal will play a part in our energy equation, probably for quire a long time. And that's OK.

        Neither I, nor the App Voices organization, supports ending coal mining. We work with coalfield residents every day.

        We do oppose mountaintop removal coal-mining.

        And as the tourism statistics see here, but as it is unsited, I'll gladly retract my statement until I get the hard numbers.

        And before you talk about how coal employs people and brings jobs, lets talk about

        1. how nearly 90% of coal jobs have been lost, largely due to the automation of labor. and...
        1. ...how unemployment in coal counties FAR outpaces the national average

        1. Lets also talk about how WV remains the poorest state in the country.

        Just like with middle eastern oil, a few people make it HUGE off coal, and the rest are left for scraps

        "If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide." Abe Lincoln

        by faithfull on Wed Jun 28, 2006 at 12:06:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Fair enough (0+ / 0-)

          Point by point:

          Neither I, nor the App Voices organization, supports ending coal mining. We work with coalfield residents every day.

          Fair enough.  My mistake.

          We do oppose mountaintop removal coal-mining.

          I'm assuming that given your stated desire not to see an end to coal mining, that you'd suggest replacing MTR with underground mining.  Do you know what that would do to the cost of mining coal, and by extension the cost of our electricity in this country?
          According to the UCS, "Coal generates 54% of our electricity, and is the single biggest air polluter in the U.S. " (I'm trying to be fair by not lopping off the last half of that sentence.)  Truth is truth.  Actually that link does not paint a favorable picture of coal, but the significant portion of electricity we get from coal is important.
          Jobs
          The number of coal jobs is decreasing.  That is true.  Automation and mechanization has taken a large bite out of the number of folks doing the mining.  My grandfather used to haul a pickaxe unserground many years ago and manually dig coal out of the ground.  Not much of that goes on today.  But to use that statistic to paint coal as some evil industry that is slashing employees for kicks and grins is not quite fair.  Ask Detroit and GM and Ford about job loss in auto manufacturing from 1950 to now (which is what the graph you link to above does for coal).  Ask Pittsburgh about the loss of steel jobs.  Ask Boeing about the loss of manufacturing jobs in airplane construction.  Job loss in heavy industry is a sad fact of life.  Coal is not unique in that regard.  But not all is bleak in my lovely little state:

          Now, in this poorest corner of the poorest state in the nation, something remarkable is happening: Jobs are coming back.
          It's not only here. It's a microcosm of the state. West Virginia is benefiting from a recharged coal industry at the same time that construction and tourism also are going strong. Its unemployment rate has dipped below 4 percent in recent months, better than the nation -- better than the state has ever seen."

          And that's dated June 13, 2006.  I think that that trumps your 2002 data above.
          Poorest State
          This line of argumentation is so old and tired.  Are we somehow less worthy here because we're a poor state?  Life is not Lake Woebegone.  Not everyone can be above average.  Yes we're a poor state when you rank us on many things.  But things can be cheaper here, too.  Look I've been to a lot of places in this country and have seen abject poverty in all states I've been to.  San Diego is a lovely city, but has abject poverty that rivals anything you can find in WV.  Yes, we're a poor state, but what's your conclusion from that?  Should we strive to be richer just to be richer?  And the "left for scraps" line is so denigrating that I almost let it pass.  But I will point out that quite a few people in this state do quite well.  We have rich folks and poor folks, but I challenge you to find an place where everyone's rich.

          •  Werd... (0+ / 0-)

            Robert,
            Thanks for your respectful reply. Its good to keep each other on top of our numbers and stats, so please know that I appreciate the dialogue.

            I'm assuming that given your stated desire not to see an end to coal mining, that you'd suggest replacing MTR with underground mining.  Do you know what that would do to the cost of mining coal, and by extension the cost of our electricity in this country?

            Two things about this...

            1. Automation of labor means that coal jobs in WV have decreased 90% (we hit that last time) from a high of about 150,000 to around 15,000 now. Your argument ignores the fact that losing 90% of industry jobs HURTS poor people.  That means people who want to work are being kept out of jobs. Coal towns are becoming ghost towns. Poor people aren’t getting wealthier, they are getting poorer, and often getting displaced.
            1. Longshaft/deep/underground mining employs more people, and keeps more people earning a decent wage. MTR keeps more people in poverty. A friend of mine, Mary, lives in Sylvester. She’s 78 years old and lives under an MTR site. Her house has depreciated from $144,000 to $12,000. That’s a loss of $132,000. She doesn’t have enough money to bury herself. That’s a hell of an economic cost.
            1. Theres more to it than economic cost. The ecological cost it huge. The Appalachians are the oldest mountains on the North American continent. Once as big as the Himalayas, they have lost 6 kilometers in height over billions of years of natural weathering and erosion. They are one of the most distinctive and inviting landscapes in the world. They are more indicative of our heritage than anything else in the universe! And now Appalachian Mountains are being taken down in a year. To me, that’s not worth ANY price.
            1. Theres the human cost. Marsh Fork Elementary. Rawl in Mingo County. Sago (a deepshaft mine yes, but my concern would be the continuing negligence of the coal companies). Thee Buffalo Creek Flood that killed 125 and wiped Townsend, WV off the map.) Kayford Mountain. Larry Gibson. Mary Miller. Pauline Canterbury. These are the people and place of the coalfields that are being systematically destroyed, poisoned, or forgotten. Many of them don’t even have clean drinking water. That’s what Massey will do to you.

            (OK, so that was 4 things...)

            According to the UCS, "Coal generates 54% of our electricity, and is the single biggest air polluter in the U.S. " (I'm trying to be fair by not lopping off the last half of that sentence.)  Truth is truth.  Actually that link does not paint a favorable picture of coal, but the significant portion of electricity we get from coal is important.

            Absolutely. I agree with you completely. Also, as you said (and were honest enough not to omit,) burning coal is terrible for the air and the rest of the environment and for human health. Coal-fired power plants kill over 1400 people annually in NC alone, and cost $177/medicare patient/year extra. That’s a terrible price. We need to be replacing coal long-term. Not abolish it immediately. That’s impossible.

            The number of coal jobs is decreasing.  That is true.  Automation and mechanization has taken a large bite out of the number of folks doing the mining....But to use that statistic to paint coal as some evil industry that is slashing employees for kicks and grins is not quite fair.

            Coal is not neccesarily a bad product. And nothing is perfect, but that’s not the point. Negligent companies or industries, no matter their product, which over-exploit the labor and resources of our home without giving a significant contribution back to the community – that’s bad. Evil might be a stretch, but sometimes they are evil. I am singling coal out here because that is my main area of interest. I do NOT think that they are the only bad industrial player in the country by any means. And I don’t think that they are universally bad. They just effect our home in a far more negative way, long-term, than any other industry does.

             Ask Detroit and GM and Ford about job loss in auto manufacturing from 1950 to now (which is what the graph you link to above does for coal).  Ask Pittsburgh about the loss of steel jobs.  Ask Boeing about the loss of manufacturing jobs in airplane construction.  Job loss in heavy industry is a sad fact of life.  Coal is not unique in that regard.  But not all is bleak in my lovely little state:
            Now, in this poorest corner of the poorest state in the nation, something remarkable is happening: Jobs are coming back.
            It's not only here. It's a microcosm of the state. West Virginia is benefiting from a recharged coal industry at the same time that construction and tourism also are going strong. Its unemployment rate has dipped below 4 percent in recent months, better than the nation -- better than the state has ever seen."
            And that's dated June 13, 2006.  I think that that trumps your 2002 data above.

            Robert, please don’t get me wrong. I love West Virginia. I think its amazing, and I fight for the region and its people all the time. I’ve tried to make it clear that I’m in no way slamming WV or coal or low electricity costs or anything like that. I hope you understand that we’re on the same side. We want what is best long-term for Appalachia.
            As I already pointed out, the current 4% unemployment rate (while awesome) is a far-off-cry from the reality of the situation in coal-counties (see the graph in the previous post.)
            My grandfather was a steeler from Pittsburgh. We just buried him up there this winter. Apparently, there is like one operating steel mill left in the city. Awful.

            This line of argumentation is so old and tired.  Are we somehow less worthy here because we're a poor state?... Yes, we're a poor state, but what's your conclusion from that?

            No, please don’t put words in my mouth. Me calling WV the “poorest state” wasn’t a moral judgement, just a census fact you can see for yourself. The fact it, WV is a poor state because your labor and resources are exploited by people living in Malibu who don’t give two shits about the land or people of WV. That we can change. Not everyone will be rich. And that’s fine. But we can improve the lives and well-being of a hell of a lot of people!
             

            But things can be cheaper here, too.  Look I've been to a lot of places in this country and have seen abject poverty in all states I've been to.  

            Again, I LOVE WV!

            And the "left for scraps" line is so denigrating that I almost let it pass.  But I will point out that quite a few people in this state do quite well.  We have rich folks and poor folks, but I challenge you to find an place where everyone's rich.

            Umm...Northern Virginia?
            Now, let me clarify that I wasn’t calling people scraps. I was saying that the proverbial “scraps” off of coal’s table were left for them. And they deserved more. That’s not denigrating. That’s a fact. And WV does have some rich folks. Many of them are rich off coal. Great! As you said, 54% of our energy comes from coal. There damn well better be some rich West Virginians! That’s all Im saying!

            Id love to keep this dialogue going. This might not be the best place for it, cause we could lose track, but please keep in touch with me at jwrandolph@gmail.com if you want to keep it up. Thanks 

            "If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide." Abe Lincoln

            by faithfull on Wed Jun 28, 2006 at 09:10:33 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Point by point again... (0+ / 0-)

              Automation of labor means that coal jobs in WV have decreased 90% (we hit that last time) from a high of about 150,000 to around 15,000 now. Your argument ignores the fact that losing 90% of industry jobs HURTS poor people.

              Would you rather we dig coal by hand to artificially pump up the employee count?  Are you willing to pay for that in terms of doubled or more electric bills?  YES, automation has decimated the numbers of people actually digging coal.  But it has in auto manufacturing, airplane manufacturing, etc, etc.  The argument is not specific to coal in any way shape or form.  It is simply an economic reality in a capitalistic market-based economy and society.

              Longshaft/deep/underground mining employs more people, and keeps more people earning a decent wage. MTR keeps more people in poverty. A friend of mine, Mary, lives in Sylvester. She’s 78 years old and lives under an MTR site. Her house has depreciated from $144,000 to $12,000. That’s a loss of $132,000. She doesn’t have enough money to bury herself. That’s a hell of an economic cost.

              OK, so you want to artificially employ more people in underground mines?  I know quite a few employees at surface mines and they earn a decent to nice living.  I know it sounds crass, but your friend Mary is an anecdotal piece of evidence.  Was she offered a buyout of the land by the mining company?  That kind of loss is terrible, but it happens.  She might have lost her house to eminent domain for a new mall just as well.  Again, not trying to be crass, but this is a reality.

              We need to be replacing coal long-term

              That's a nice sentiment, but what do you propose.  It's easy to say "No Coal!", but where do we go from there?  Here's a sample conversation I've had many times with self-named "environmentalists:" "Stop mining"  Me:OK, we'll need nuke plants for electricity" Them: "God no!  Nuke waste! Are you kidding me?!" Me:  How about hydro power?" Them: "Damn a river.  Good God no!  Environmental catastrophe." Me" "Wind farms?" Them: "Visual pollution, and the birds getting killed.  Nope."  It's easy to say "no." Coming up with alternatives is leadership in action.  Even your own website on the "about page" talks about your organization simply wanting to end MTR.  OK, so what do we do then?  Show me a plan?  The about page also states tha: "In 2002, Appalachian Voices was a leader in the coalition that passed the North Carolina Clean Smokestacks Act, a state law that will clean up emissions from the state’s coal-fired power plants."  That's good, and I applaud that, but even clean coal means we need coal.  It just cannot be dug out of the ground fast enough or economically enough to do it all underground.  And underground mining is probably exponentially more dangerous.  Sago is an underground mine.

              As I already pointed out, the current 4% unemployment rate (while awesome) is a far-off-cry from the reality of the situation in coal-counties (see the graph in the previous post.)

              Your graph was from 2002, IIRC.  Again, 2006 numbers trump 2002 numbers.  Sorry, but it's what it is.

              No, please don’t put words in my mouth. Me calling WV the “poorest state” wasn’t a moral judgement, just a census fact you can see for yourself.

              I conceded that, but again ask, what's inherently evil about that?  Yes we're poorer monetarily than other states, but again, we cannot live in Lake Woebegone where everyone is above average.  Yes, we rank near the bottom economically.  And you are correct that that is a fact, but what conclusion are you trying to draw from that?

              The fact it, WV is a poor state because your labor and resources are exploited by people living in Malibu who don’t give two shits about the land or people of WV.

              That's the "tired" part of the argument.  Coal pumps an incredible amount of money into the economy.  Yes, people like owners of the companies and land can get incredibly rich.  But tens of thousands of people already make good livings from coal.  This argument of foreign ownership is a red herring IMHO.  Yes, profits are going to leave the state, as they are in any out of state based business.  But people still make good livings in the industry.  Do you rail against Toyota and Hyaundai and any of a myriad of other truly foreign owned companies over this?

              That we can change. Not everyone will be rich. And that’s fine. But we can improve the lives and well-being of a hell of a lot of people!

              Which coal already does.  What proposal of yours would increase the numbers of people benefitting from coal?  All underground?  Yup.  More workers, but the entore country pays up to 2X or more for electricity.

              Umm...Northern Virginia?

              Are you seriously telling me that EVERYONE in Northern VA is rich?  That there's no poverty there?  Maybe money has coalesced there and simply driven out the middle and lower classes by ridiculously driving up real property values and making it unaffordable for regular folk to live there.

              •  This is getting long... (0+ / 0-)

                Would you rather we dig coal by hand to artificially pump up the employee count?  Are you willing to pay for that in terms of doubled or more electric bills?  YES, automation has decimated the numbers of people actually digging coal.  But it has in auto manufacturing, airplane manufacturing, etc, etc.  The argument is not specific to coal in any way shape or form.  It is simply an economic reality in a capitalistic market-based economy and society.

                I don’t think that using more traditional mining methods is “artificially” pumping up the employee count. I think it puts people to work. You accused me of wanting to “artificially” pump up the number of workers. But when people have jobs, that’s quite real. Again, automating labor is not a coal-specific phenomenon. Never said it was. Just the opposite actually.
                We’ve also try to cover it when nuclear comes in won’t give honest answers to the communities they are hoping to come into.  We’ve also covered this BS national forest sale, loss of jobs in the textile industry, natural gas drilling in the outer banks...etc.
                So, firstly, I don’t see why you are trying to make coal look like the victim. Of bad press or whatever it may be. They are just one of the many things we cover. You are arguing against a point I was never trying to make. You do that quite a few times.

                I know quite a few employees at surface mines and they earn a decent to nice living.

                Of course. I know quite a few people whose groundwater is poisoned by coal slurry. It’s a mixed bag, as you said.

                I know it sounds crass, but your friend Mary is an anecdotal piece of evidence.  Was she offered a buyout of the land by the mining company?  That kind of loss is terrible, but it happens.  She might have lost her house to eminent domain for a new mall just as well.  Again, not trying to be crass, but this is a reality.

                One story is anecdotal. But there are many stories like her. And when the coal company DID offer her a buyout, it was for market value AFTER they had put up an MTR site above her house. Larry Gibson lives on property that’s been in his family for over 220 years. Hes a 7th generation coal miner. He has had boulders the size of minivans blasted onto his property on Kayford Mountain snf headstones have been shot at his family’s cemetery. And I named many more people than Mary Miller and Larry Gibson. Its happening at TOO many places. Yes, coal is a reality, as I’ve said many times. But we can improve the way that the coal industry treats the land and resources of our mountains.

                We need to be replacing coal long-term.

                That's a nice sentiment, but what do you propose.  It's easy to say "No Coal!",

                In the northern and central Appalachian Basin coal regions... Sufficient high-quality, thick, bituminous resources remain in these beds and coal zones to last for the next one or two decades at current production.”
                Source: US Geologic Survey
                Let me emphasize that I said long term.
                Of course its easy to say “no coal.” There, I just said it...for the first time in this conversation. Coal needs to be replaced long term. That’s what I said. From a realistic standpoint of that coal is a fossil fuel, non-renewable, limited resource, it needs to be replaced. For the fact that it pollutes the air, destroys the environment, and is terrible for human health it needs to be replaced. As it produces over half our electricity, we need to be moving towards more renewable, less environmentally harmful means of energy production. Coal is a part of that energy equation. Please stop ignoring that I am with you on that.

                1. Stopping MTR is good on its own merits. It really puts more people to work, and it saves the most amazing and beautiful mountains on the planet. Would I pay more for renewable, human, non-MTR electricity? I already do.
                1. You (as is often the case with non-environmentalists) fail to mention solar. A friend of mine has a house that is putting energy BACK on the grid using passive solar and solar power. He gets a paycheck from the power company every month. My house has base-board heating, and we pay out the ass. Solar and passive solar are two amazing ways to lower your electricity costs, though it does take some capital to invest.
                1. My school also was just given a $75,000 grant for building a small-scale, easily replicable bio-diesel processor. I think that, especially in NC where we have enormous pig-farms, bio-fuels, and ...
                1. ...methane conversion are EXCELLENT alternatives to coal. (...and no matter what anybody else says, thank god coal doesn’t smell like pig shit!   )
                1. I also fully support my county’s attempt to make an exemption in the ridge law for windmills. I grew up 4 miles down-river from two enormous nuclear towers. YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT AN EYESORE?! The mordor-ish glow blocked out the stars at night. Nuclear is an eyesore. And transporting the waste is dangerous. And Yucca Mountain sits on faultlines within eyeshot of volcanoes. Proceeding with nuclear is unnecessary. And the facilities still aren’t foolproof. They MUST be 100% foolproof. You’re dealing with some big toys talking about nuclear.

                Here's a sample conversation I've had many times with self-named "environmentalists:"

                (we both know what you said, so Ill just use this for the sake of space)
                Here’s a sample conversation I’ve had with many coal industry advocates: “We can’t stop coal” Me: “didn’t say we had to” Them: “well you environmentalists like nuclear right” Me: No, we don’t. I grew up 4 miles from a nuclear plant. They’re an eyesore. Yucca Mountain is next to two volcanoes. I don’t think we should transport nuclear waste down federal or state highways.” Them: “But windmills kill birds and are eyesores.” Me: No they’re not. Them: Well, this global warming stuff is a farce.
                So...no alternatives supplied there either. But now you know how I feel, cause I’ve mentioned five alternatives to nuclear and coal, and it is by no means a comprehensive list. Micro-hydro, tidal-power, bio-mass, it all depends on where you lived. A safe, stable energy system needs to be localized and diverse. WV can keep on using coal if it likes (even though parts of it are already decorated with windmills.)

                Coming up with alternatives is leadership in action.

                Thank you.

                Even your own website on the "about page" talks about your organization simply wanting to end MTR.

                Firstly, ending MTR stands on its own merits, and needs no “alternatives,” as just as much coal will be produced. But, to be fair, we do not have an “alternative” long-term solution. Our resources, with this Republican/industry dominated scene, are better spent playing defense at this point.  No alternative suggestions would ever see the light of day. As you mentioned though, when it is a possibility, as with the 2002 clean smokestacks act, we will make a grassroots effort to go for it.

                That's good, and I applaud that, but even clean coal means we need coal.

                Yep. But when I think of clean coal, I think of this...

                It just cannot be dug out of the ground fast enough or economically enough to do it all underground.

                That’s why we need to be working to diversify our energy supply.

                And underground mining is probably exponentially more dangerous.  Sago is an underground mine.

                MTR/strip mining transfers the danger from miners to civilians. And don’t you also hate the fact that the Sago operation had such lax regulations/safety precautions for their miners? There is a safe, humane way to mine coal. I don’t know that we’ll agree on what that is, but I think that we can both agree that Sago had SEVERAL areas where it could have strengthened secutiry measures.
                As I already pointed out, the current 4% unemployment rate (while awesome) is a far-off-cry from the reality of the situation in coal-counties (see the graph in the previous post.)

                Your graph was from 2002, IIRC.  Again, 2006 numbers trump 2002 numbers.  Sorry, but it's what it is.

                Your numbers were for the whole state. Not for coal counties. Im glad that job numbers are increasing again for coal. But I think that the strength of the unemployment numbers, as you said, is coming from the growing strength of a lot of other sectors.

                This argument of foreign ownership is a red herring IMHO.  Yes, profits are going to leave the state, as they are in any out of state based business.

                Fair enough. I personally have a different attitude about it, but I respect your opinion.

                But people still make good livings in the industry.  Do you rail against Toyota and Hyaundai and any of a myriad of other truly foreign owned companies over this?

                Personally, yes. But its not my main area of interest. But those companies are just as guilty of outsourcing the benefits of our labor to other places.

                Which coal already does.  What proposal of yours would increase the numbers of people benefitting from coal?  All underground?  Yup.  More workers, but the entore country pays up to 2X or more for electricity.

                My proposal to diversify and localize energy supplies would be a start. Its not perfect, but it’s a dialogue we need to be having.
                Umm...Northern Virginia?

                Are you seriously telling me that EVERYONE in Northern VA is rich?

                Ha. Have you ever been there? I don’t think everybody is rich. But it’s all these nasty DC suburbs. I meant it as a joke, and Im sure there are poor people there.

                 That there's no poverty there?  Maybe money has coalesced there and simply driven out the middle and lower classes by ridiculously driving up real property values and making it unaffordable for regular folk to live there.

                Yes. I think that’s it. Its all (a.k.a. “mostly”) super rich suburbanites.

                "If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide." Abe Lincoln

                by faithfull on Thu Jun 29, 2006 at 07:35:41 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Long is good (0+ / 0-)

                  in that it means we're exploring the issues.  that's a good thing.  Bad thing: me posting when I cannot sleep.

                  Let me try to crystallize the arguments somewhet.

                  Job Loss/Automation
                  I used a emotionally loaded word when I spoke of "artificially" pumping up employment numbers.  What we're discussing here is the reduction in workforce in coal due to automation.  I mean production is up and employees are down.  That's bad from a human perspective, especially if you're one of those laid off.  You talk about wanting to go back to more traditional means of mining in an effort to "put[s] people to work."  I don't agree with that line of reasoning because (1) it really is artificially pumping up employment numbers.  We do need the coal, no one's disputing that; so we have to have it.  Capitalism dictates that we do it in the most efficient way possible.  Unchecked capitalism is not good, so we have gov't regs to rein things in.  That's a good thing.  But it sounds to me like you're suggesting "make work" just to get people on the payrolls.  (2) You've never really addressed my contention that doing things in a more traditional way will likley increase the cost of the coal by up to 2X or more.  Are you willing to pay 2X for your electricity?  Are you willing to push that onto the entire country?  (3)  Job loss to automation is not endemic to coal.  As I've pointed out, which you've not addressed yet, the same scenario is playing out in all heavy industry.  Are you suggesting that we assemble cars by hand so more former auto workers can be employed?  Do you want to pay that much more for your car?  Should we de-automate government and return to paper-based systems just so we can employ more people in government. Do you want your taxes to go up to cover the additional costs? Automation is like most things--a mixed bag.  But it seems to me that you're unfairly picking on coal in this regard.  Do you also suggest de-automating auto manufacturing and government and all heavy industry?  Are you willing to take that stand?  Because if not, then you are unfairly picking on coal.  If so, then... wow... not sure where to go if you take that position...

                  How do we mine it (your USGS survey link)
                  I looked briefly at the survey you linked to and found this quote:

                  "Upper Freeport, Fire Clay, Pond Creek, and Pocahontas No. 3 -- and are estimated at about 93 billion short tons, of which about 66 billion short tons remain. Much of the remaining coal in all five coal beds and zones is thinner (<3.5 ft), deeper (>1,000 ft), and higher in ash and sulfur than the coal that has been mined; however, economic resources are still available and mining in each coal bed and coal zone will continue throughout this decade and into the next, given current market onditions. "

                  If that is the quote you're referring to, it does not specifically address mining methodology, just that mining would continue.  If this is not the section you were using, please point me to the quote.

                  Alternatives-Solar
                  I knoew I had left one or more energy sources (including tidal) from my "sample" conversation.  Mass solar scares some people because of these huge solar farms.
                  I'm just not sure that solar can shoulder the load.  Can it help out? Sure. Should we explore it? Yes, but let's go in with out eyes wide open.  Initial cost can be staggering: "A PV system connected to your electricity utility’s distribution grid costs about $10,000 per kilowatt (kW) of capacity."  The same article continues on: "Over a 40-year life, PV power costs roughly 18 cents per kWh, compared with conventional electricity that costs approximately 7 cents per kWh. This PV energy costs much more than you are currently paying for electricity—but perhaps less than what you will pay 20 years from now."  What that says to me is that this would be a hard sell on the macro level.  Certainly some people will go this route out of an (internal) ethical or moral imperative, but to suggest doing so on a national level would be a hard sell.  I understand your ethics and ethical position even if I do not completely share it.  I, too, think we should be doing stuff to reduce fossil dependence long term and to significantly clean up fossil short-term.  However, not everyone has the $10K to put in up front.  And of those that do and might be inclined to, might be put off by the fact that the PV cost is so high per KW.  To sell this on a large enough level to make a dent in the problems you're addressing would require a "sale" to the public based on economics.  Again, you'll get a lot of "buyers" on the ethical level, but to get the critical mass, you'll need a good and sound economic case.

                  Alternatives-General

                  No alternative suggestions would ever see the light of day.

                  In DC?  Probably so in the current political climate.  But why not work on them now and get them out there to build the grassroots base for them?

                  Miscellany
                  You thank me for

                  Coming up with alternatives is leadership in action.

                  But then three or four lines later you add in

                  But, to be fair, we do not have an “alternative” long-term solution.

                  Do you not see the contradiction there?

                  Underground versus Surface
                  Because surface or MTr mining is prevalent we can assume that is it more efficient per ton of coal recovered (that is, it's less expensive).  This is supported by the Environmental Literacy Council where they simply state that: "Underground mining is more expensive and dangerous than surface mining. "  I wish there were hard numbers, but I cannot find them yet.  Show me that underground is more economically viable and won't bankrupt people when their power bill goes up 2X or more, then I'll be inclined to listen more.  There's a huge gap between the moral/ethical impetus and making it economically viable.  And the majority of people will think in terms of (personal) economy first.  I honestly do not want my electric bill to double.  Nor do I want my parents' or grandparents' bills to double either.

                  Offshore Profits
                  Is still a red herring.  Payroll and taxes stay in state.  The money multiplier effect makes the impact of the payroll dollars up to 7X more.  Should we mandate that all busineses keep their profits within our boundaries?  How about the states?  That would all but rule out foreign investment in this country.  It sounds kind of xenophobic to me.  So, all coal profits are to stay in WV, KY, Va, WY, etc.  And further all profits derived from WV coal are to stay in WV and not go anywhere else.  All auto profits should stay in MI?  I mean, it's kind of a ridiculous argument when you look at it that way.  And, again, if you only want to apply the theory to coal, then you are simply unfairly picking on one industry.

                  Economy-Impact
                  How do you address the contradiciton in your position regarding coal versus tourism dollars to the WV economy.  The Mother jones article was quite clear in the importance of coal to the economy.  Have you found any tourism dollar numbers?

                  Economy-Employment/Unemployment
                  Do you have numbers newer than 2002 to show coal county employment levels?  I still think that the overall trend shown in the 2006 numbers trumps your 2002 numbers.  There simply are not enough other jobs in construction etc to override allegedly dismal numbers in coal countries.  Re-read the quote I provided from June 2006:

                  Now, in this poorest corner of the poorest state in the nation, something remarkable is happening: Jobs are coming back. It's not only here. It's a microcosm of the state. West Virginia is benefiting from a recharged coal industry at the same time that construction and tourism also are going strong. Its unemployment rate has dipped below 4 percent in recent months, better than the nation -- better than the state has ever seen."

                  the quote specifically addresses the coal industry and the coal regions of the state.  (emphasis mine)

                  •  Robert... (0+ / 0-)

                    a quick reply, and I will try and finish tonight or in the morning...

                    No alternative suggestions would ever see the light of day.

                    In DC?  Probably so in the current political climate.  But why not work on them now and get them out there to build the grassroots base for them?

                    That is the main point of what I as an individual AND App Voices as an organization is trying to do.

                    I also tried to make the distinction in my reply about the differences in my personal opinions and the official opinion of an organization. Thanks for your lengthly reply, and I have it saved on my desktop as the next thing to adress when I have a chance...
                    Thanks.

                    "If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide." Abe Lincoln

                    by faithfull on Thu Jun 29, 2006 at 03:06:38 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Awww shucks (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      faithfull

                      It's looking to be a pretty evening (hopefully where you are as well).

                      Take the evening off and relax.  I've got church tonight and then some housecleaning.  Not sure when I'll be back online.  (I just stepped in from work and saw your reply, so I thought I'd say "hi.")

                      Hope your day went well.

                      Take care.

      •  More... (0+ / 0-)

        The Bureau of Economic Analysis, part of the Dept of Commerce, estimates that service jobs are more than 31,000, while mining jobs hover aroud 16,000 each year. The report is here. Page 30 of 36, table 6.

        Its also got more info. Such as how coal has been declining as a % of the GSP, and how tourism/service jobs have been growing. Its chock-full of hard data Im sure you'll appreciate.

        "If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide." Abe Lincoln

        by faithfull on Wed Jun 28, 2006 at 12:44:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The BEA link is broken (0+ / 0-)

          But their site is not.

          The report I linked to above uses the BEA as a source. I probably just copied the link wrong.

          "If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide." Abe Lincoln

          by faithfull on Wed Jun 28, 2006 at 01:21:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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