One of the many major stories going unreported by Kentucky’s conventional media is the accelerating demise of coal– and what it means for the future of the state.
Thank goodness the New York Times and Wall Street Journal still have the resources and editorial commitment to do important national and global reporting, an example of which is the Times’ story today on Kentucky’s No. 1 natural resource.
In “Even in Coal Country, the Fight for an Industry,” Times reporter Eric Lipton documents recent cracks forming between coal companies and utilities, allies for a century.
And if you don’t have time to read the story, take away these stunning facts: Utility executives plan to shut down more than 100 of the 500 coal-burning power plants in the United States during the next few years. Coal-fired plants generate about one-third of the nation’s power, down from half only four years ago!
From the story:
But now, coal is in a corner. Across the United States, the industry is under siege, threatened by new regulations from Washington, environmentalists fortified by money from Michael R. Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of New York City, and natural gas companies intent on capturing much of the nation’s energy market.
So when the operator of the Big Sandy plant announced last year that it would be switching from coal to cleaner, cheaper natural gas, people here took it as the worst betrayal imaginable.
“Have you lost your mind?” State Representative Rocky Adkins, a Democrat and one of Kentucky’s most powerful politicians, thundered at Michael G. Morris, the chairman of the plant’s operator, American Electric Power, during an encounter last summer. “You cannot wave the white flag and let the environmentalists and regulators declare victory here in the heart of coal country.”
The story focuses on the fact that forces pro-coal and con – from environmentalists to the miners’ unions – smell blood in the water.
The consequences for Kentucky are immense, from increasing anti-Obama sentiment among Democrats to increased unemployment in Appalachia to declining tax revenue and budget cutting in an already cashed strapped state.