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?!?”