Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Waiting for Coal’s Next Act

Williams_I090831211140 Even if one allows that the coal industry solves outstanding issues with carbon capture and sequestration – and it might - the rising tide of nuclear and renewable energy sources can make the coal industry look, fairly or unfairly, retrograde and outmoded. Although coal has made out pretty well in energy legislation so far, the industry clearly feels vulnerable, which leads to things like this:

The chief executive of coal mining giant Massey Energy blasted supporters of climate-change legislation and other environmental issues affecting the coal industry at a free Labor Day concert and rally in southern West Virginia.

CEO Don Blankenship said he wanted to show people at the event how government regulation is hurting the coal industry, driving up energy prices and making the country less competitive.

Well, Blankenship has to say something, and these are arguable points.

But then:

Headlining the event were Fox News personality Sean Hannity and [Hank] Williams [Jr.], while rocker Ted Nugent served as master of ceremonies and played briefly.

Sean Hannity? Ted Nugent? Uh-oh.

"Barack Obama hates the coal industry. Barack Obama hates the oil industry," Hannity said. "If they shut down the coal industry, we lose America as we know it."

You can see the whole speech on YouTube.

Massey seems have taken politically neutral situations – concern about jobs, the long tradition of coal in West Virginia – and melded them with a highly politicized message.

Massey’s employees and other concert attendees likely range from across the political spectrum (McCain took West Virginia last year 56-43, but that’s still a lot of Obama voters). Coal doesn’t care who mines it, so a 10-minute screed against the Obama administration seems off-point.

Massey should be for something, encouraging people to militate for coal on its virtues – as a lot of Congressional figures and others have done - not solely against those who are for something else. Massey’s tactic seems to start with the premise that coal is indefensible unless all alternatives are obliterated, likely not the message it wants to project. When Blankenship says:

"In Washington, they sometimes say that those of us in Appalachia need help because we're not very smart. Well, we're smart enough to know that only God can change the earth's temperature - not Al Gore."

Massey may as well say it has lost the argument on points and must now depend on Sean Hannity’s brand of demagoguery to hold together the tattered remnants. It just isn’t so – or necessary.

Now, we’re all in favor of people getting just as political as they want in order to make a point – we thought USEC got this about right a few weeks ago – but Massey could have used its rally to focus on jobs and the value of coal. We can imagine a lot of concert goers tuning out while waiting for the next act to come on.

Hank Williams Jr.

2 comments:

DocForesight said...

If I may provide a defense of Sean Hannity (don't know why you had the response you had - care to elaborate?), it was candidate Obama who stated that his cap-and-trade scheme would cause coal-burning power plants to close due to the increased cost from CO2 emission taxes; and it was VP designate Biden who stated there would be no new coal-fired power plants with their administration.

I suspect that is the context in which Hannity made his comments.

If Mr. Blankenship is concerned about the long-term relevance of coal and mining, why isn't he forging alliances with the Coal-to-Liquid technology people? That would seem to provide jobs, energy security and maintain their "rice bowl" of profits, simultaneously.

D Kosloff said...

Your comment about Sean Hannity is childish and unsupported. If you think that there is some benefit realized from posting childish outbursts, I suggest that you hire some 10-year olds. They work cheap.