Home Energy and Environment Video: Webb and Warner Speak at Pro-Coal Industry Rally

Video: Webb and Warner Speak at Pro-Coal Industry Rally


Needless to say, I’m not happy with this.  First off, I’m not happy that Senators Webb and Warner — both of whom I’ve spent a lot of time and effort the past few years defending, fighting for, trying to get elected, etc. — were even speaking at this rally in the first place. Ostensibly, of course, it was defensible as being “pro-coal miner.” If that were true, I’d be all for it. But the reality is that this rally was organized by the coal industry groups (astroturf and otherwise), including the West Virginia Coal Association, Citizens for Coal, the Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security (FACES of Coal). These are the same companies, by the way, that have systematically been destroying coal mine jobs by replacing them with capital-intensive (e.g., not labor-intensive) mining and processing techniques like “mountaintop removal.” Well, it’s also “coal miner removal,” but let’s not pay any attention to that, I guess.

As an example of how heinous these groups are, we have the West Virginia Coal Association claiming that mountaintop removal mining has “actually helped improve habitat for wildlife in Appalachia.”  Uh, no.

We also have them saying things like, “Our professional coal miners face daily attacks on the issues of mountaintop mining, on cap-and-trade legislation and the non-consensus ‘science’ of global warming.” The “non-consensus ‘science’ of global warming?” Try, reams of evidence and “overwhelming consensus of climate scientists.” Of course, the coal industry groups have a strong economic interest in denying global warming, but still…ugh.

Then we have the head of Citizens for Coal, Roger Horton, on the Diane Rehm Show, appearing to dismiss charges that people have been threatened for opposing mountaintop removal mining. Wow.

As for “FACES of Coal,” that’s a fake grassroots (“astroturf”) campaign that spreads pro-coal-industry propaganda and bashes the EPA (see here, for instance). Also, see Rachel Maddow for more on “FACES of Coal.”  

Given all this, the bottom line question is, why on earth would Jim Webb — who wrote in Born Fighting about the coal companies’ “rape” of Appalachia, and their leaving that region an “economic basketcase” — possibly appear at an event like this? And why would Mark Warner, who I know from private conversations “gets it” on energy and environmental issues, attend and say the ridiculous things he said this morning? I know that Webb and Warner are politicians, and I know that Virginia has coal mining interests (although a miniscule percentage of the state’s population, work force, or economy), but it’s still extremely disappointing to hear stuff like the following.

First, Jim Webb, who talks about America as the “Saudi Arabia of coal,” who declares that “we are not going to let EPA regulate coal out of business,” who says that “we need to get our support behind the Rockefeller amendment” (to gut EPA enforcement powers), etc.? What ever happened to the man who wrote in “Born Fighting”: “The Man got his coal, and the profits it brought when he shipped it out. They got their wages, black lung, and the desecration of their land.” I thought Webb said that he wouldn’t change when he got to Washington, DC? Hmmmm.

Meanwhile, we had Mark Warner this morning implying that increased coal production will get us off of foreign oil. That, of course, is completely wrong. The fact is that oil and coal are not “substitutables” and won’t be for many, may years to come (until the transportation sector converts to electric power).  Right now, almost no oil is used to generate electricity in America, so how would increased coal production help us break our addiction to foreign oil? That’s utter nonsense, and I can’t believe Mark Warner is saying it. As for “coal being a big piece” of our future, how does Mark Warner reconcile this with mountaintop removal and global warming?  And no, it’s not “carbon capture and sequestration,” because we know that’s decades away at best.  

Most egregious, perhaps, was when Warner declared, “Nobody should be making the rules that hasn’t been underground.”  Is that supposed to be a really bad joke? Is Mark Warner seriously suggesting that our national policy towards coal should be set exclusively by the coal industry, not by scientists and others who can see the big picture and don’t have a vested financial interest in the outcome? If that’s what Warner believes, it’s deeply disturbing, not just on this issue per se, but also on the corporate sellout/takeover of our government more broadly.

Last but not least,. what’s with this “we outta have this driven by the market not by government policy” pabulum?  The “MARKET?”  Hahahahahahaha. As if there weren’t massive market distortions and subsidies by the billions to fossil fuels, ignoring clean water act rules, allowing the demolition of Appalachia (in Born Fighting, Webb called it a “rape,” and he was absolutely right).  

Look, I know you’ve gotta do stuff in politics, and I know that the country’s gone teabagger crazy and all, but Warner’s (and Webb’s) appearance and speech at this rally today were extremely difficult to swallow. I mean, just because a portion of the country’s going stark raving mad, does that mean we can’t have Democrats who stand up for what’s right, who speak the truth, who don’t use right-wingnut framing and talking points, who don’t sell out to corporate polluters, and who fight back against the insanity? Ugh, so frustrating. And they wonder why there’s an “enthusiasm gap?!?”

  • From the National Journal:

    One Democrat who qualifies as a fence-sitter is Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, who also spoke at the rally this morning. Even while cheering the importance of coal in the U.S. energy mix to the pro-coal crowd, he said after that he would not vote for Rockefeller’s amendment [to block enforcement of provisions of Clean Air Act], at least not right now.

    “I’m not fully prepared to go to the delay, because I think you need to keep the pressure on to get a [congressional] solution set,” Warner told CongressDaily when walking away from the rally.

    Firmly-held convictions like that should turn out all those radical moderates in November!

  • NOAA announced today the first 8 months of 2010 were tied for the hottest on record.

  • tolbejr

    Over the last two years, more than 100 people have made trips to DC to discuss clean energy with Webb and Warner.  Most recently, 17 Virginians representing all 11 congressional districts made a trip in July.  The response from Webb and Warner has been to ignore these people.

    These folks have been clean energy businesses, sportsmen, faith leaders, veterans, local elected officials, etc.  People from all walks of life that want more clean energy and action from the US Senate.

    Not once have Warner or Webb felt it necessary to take 5 minutes out of their day for these people.

    Now, the coal industry has a rally in DC and they’re both out there talking about the wonders of coal.  These guys are not concerned about the environment – just the quickest way to make a buck and pad their campaign bank account.

    It’s pathetic and disgusting.

  • Notice the shirts these guys are wearing?  Did Warner and Webb see these things? WTF?

  • I’ve argued for years that Dems needed to do something to counter the brilliant PR of “Faces of Coal.”  After all, someone like me is for the miner, but that doesn’t mean I think the industry can go for ten seconds without telling a lie.  Webb SERIOUSLY knows the difference between the two.

    And if only people who have been underground get to make the rules, then does that mean we can finally get rid of mountaintop removal mining??  After all, most of the people making THAT decision never need go underground at all.  (I would argue that most people making the actual decisions wouldn’t dare go underground!)

    Really, this is just stupid on the part of Webb and Warner on so many levels.

  • totallynext

    but they get out for DIRTY INDUSTRY.

    This is why Dems are done and don’t want to work anymore – SHIT LIKE THIS!

  • richmonder

    Thanks, Lowell. This is one of your best posts. As a former journalist I’d say that a big reason Warner and Webb get by with this sort of thing is a lax news media across the state. Can we imagine an editorial in any of the traditional state media taking them to task on clean energy issues? Maybe the Virginian-Pilot, but otherwise, it’s a wasteland out there. Like those municipal officials in California who for years were paid CEO salaries in suburban communities that were going broke, the things that the public doesn’t know about or chooses to ignore because no one is forcing us to focus on it is a big reason our democracy doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. So hats off to you. Thanks!