Transitioning from coal

Good post yesterday from Ken Ward Jr. at his Coal Tattoo blog about Mountain Party candidate Bob Henry Baber’s call for West Virginia to begin planning for a post-coal future.

Ken compares what Baber is saying to Acting Senate President Jeff Kessler’s admission that coal hasn’t necessarily been an unvarnished blessing for West Virginia.

?It?s been an excellent job creator for the people of this state, but it?s not been a wealth creator for the people of this state, and it?s a distinction,? Kessler said.

Other Democratic candidates for governor, including Treasurer John Purdue, have recently made similar points and recommend diversifying the state’s economy. But Ken makes a key point about this discussion:

Kessler is?a four-term state senator and Perdue?was a key staffer when Gaston Caperton was governor from 1989 to 1996.? Exactly what policies have either of them proposed or worked to implement during their public lives so far that would reverse this trend of the coal industry?s mostly out-of-state owners getting rich ? and the rest of the nation getting deceptively cheap electricity and steel ? while West Virginia?s coalfields remain among the poorest communities in the nation?

Finally, Ken suggests that Baber seems far better versed in the conclusions of the important?report by Downstream Strategies,?The Decline of Central Appalachian Coal and the Need for Economic Diversification, which noted the declining production of Appalachian coal, even as national production grew. That decline is predicted to worsen.

In a recent Gazette profile of Baber, the candidate said:

?Coal?s era in West Virginia is already waning,? he said. ?It?s not going to be the EPA that ends mountaintop removal. ? What?s going to end it is capitalism.?

This is not a new call, but it’s one that has yet to be heeded by West Virginia’s leaders, even as evidence of coal’s economic decline grows.

Update: Ken has a great follow-up to this post today, which discusses a truly ludicrous Daily Mail editorial entitled?Of course coal mining creates wealth in W.Va. If coal mining creates so much wealth in West Virginia, why is it consistently one of the poorest states in the nation?


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