- Posted April 16, 2010 by
Charleston, West Virginia
This iReport is part of an assignment:
West Virginia mine explosion
And so the coal debate is started again...
With the recent tragedy in a West Virginia coal mine, debates have stirred once again on why we have so many people risking their lives to dig coal when there are so many alternatives. First and foremost, let’s not forget that for many, coal mining is their way of life. It’s how they feed their families, pay their bills and they take pride in the hard work they do—much more pride than it takes to collect a welfare check from the government each month. The respect I have for these workers, some of whom are close friends, goes far beyond words. They literally risk their lives every day to give us many of the things we take for granted, primarily electricity.
Clearly, the best option for alternative electrical power is nuclear. However, environmentalists fight this option to the death and have stymied progress for decades. France currently gets approximately 80% of its electric from nuclear power. Why we would allow countries to make so much progress leaving us in the dust baffles me. Basically, the very people who want to get rid of coal fired electric plants are the very people who have prevented progress with nuclear power, thus they are the reason we are so dependent on coal in the first place.
That leads me to the primary reason we are so dependent on coal—environmentalists. Wind? Can’t do that, the windmills kill bats and birds. Solar? Can’t put those panels up in the desert, it will disturb the bugs in the ground underneath. Geothermal? You’re disturbing natural beauty and we sure aren’t going to put something in Yellowstone. Nuclear? Well, the environmentalists don’t like it because it’s ultimately the safest energy source according to records and it would eliminate the debate over all the other sources and environmentalists wouldn’t have a cause to chase after. There is one big point that’s rarely brought up and that is with the exception of nuclear power, all the other options still require a traditional electrical infrastructure of some type for when the wind isn’t blowing as much and the sun isn’t shining as much. This means we have to employ hundreds of thousands of people for dual energy capabilities. I firmly believe we should always search for alternative, better sources of energy, just as I believe we should work to keep our environment clean. I don’t believe in taking care of the environment for the farce they call Global Warming or Climate change, and I don’t believe in seeking alternatives that require old infrastructure as a backup, thus making the energy even more expensive.
Finally, I want to make a point about who is really at fault for the recent tragedy in the Upper Big Branch coal mine. Of course, everyone blames Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship for putting profits before safety because they are the ones that sign the paychecks. The news channels rarely showed the footage of Mr. Blankenship stating the reason the mine was open and operating was because State and Federal agencies had deemed it safe to be open. If the Mine Safety and Health Administration were a private company, there would have been people fired, congressional hearings and heads would roll. Instead, just like every other government agency, we will learn how the MSHA needs more funding and manpower. No changes in leadership will take place and the agency will grow in size. Sometime in the future, whether it’s next week, month or years from now, there will be another mine tragedy and the same questions will arise—who is at fault? You tell me, is it Massey Energy, the government agency that oversees mine safety, or is it the environmentalists who stymie alternative energy progress? In my opinion, Massey Energy is the least at fault of the three. I’m not saying Massey shouldn’t share in the blame but the fact is the mine was open because it hadn’t been ordered to shut down. On top of that, there hasn’t even been an investigation into the cause yet so we do not even know if any of the violations had anything to do with the tragedy. Just a day or two before the explosion, there was a 2.9 earthquake reported in West Virginia and the recovery attempts were slowed because of seismic activity. How do we know that didn’t cause a release of methane into the mine, resulting in the explosion? Everyone is quick to point fingers and place blame on the person or company that makes more money than they do and claim it is greed. As Milton Friedman once said, “We’re never greedy. It’s only the other fellow that’s greedy.”