Democrats are right on coal

Democrats are right on coal, but here in the Ninth District Virginia, the GOP is more successful in pulling people’s strings. Many people are buying the story that the Democrats support the EPA, which is killing coal, and Republicans will preserve coal jobs. If the Ninth District goes for Republicans, coal will be a major reason for that choice. For Virginia and for coal, Republicans are the wrong choice.

Quite a few coal jobs in Virginia relate to research on clean coal. Finding a way to burn coal without carbon pollution is the best hope for sustainable jobs in coal, and Virginia Democrats support clean coal research. Republicans are not being truthful about problems in the coal industry. Coal in Virginia is suffering not from the EPA, but from several problems:

  • Gas is cheaper, and many coal plants have converted to natural gas, reducing the demand for coal.
  • Virginia coal production is difficult, since the coal is in mountains. Extraction costs less for coal producers in Wyoming, and they can sell for less, driving down the price of coal and Virginia coal’s profit margin.
  • Developing technology is against coal in the market, as wind and solar come into use, and cost of electricity produced by these methods is reduced by innovation and volume.
  • Coal is not a renewable resource. Predictions range from about 10 to about 30 years of coal production left in Virginia.

Burning coal does spill carbon into the atmosphere, and environmentalists will continue to work against it. Washing of coal also produces sludge that is harmful to the environment. Gas is cleaner, solar and wind are clean, and the environment is where we live and breathe. So the environmental point is well taken.

As clean coal technology progresses, we no longer have to trade our environment for electricity. The Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center (Dominion) in St. Paul (Wise County), is our largest and most modern coal-burning power plant, using coal, coal waste, and up to 20% biomass, and meeting EPA standards for carbon emission.

All of that said, politics is politics, and our Democrats may still lose the Ninth District because the clean coal message doesn’t fit in a soundbite and isn’t easy to share with people who won’t listen to you or talk to you.

I am three generations away from any actual coal miner, yet I know the words to a dozen songs that recount the heroism and endurance of coal miners. Here in the Ninth there are people who have no direct involvement, but who base their vote primarily on the coal issue. Many such voters do not know the market or the business of coal, but they identify with the culture, legend, and legacy – the song and story of coal. Perhaps this attachment explains in part why the UMWA and the mine owners supported Congressman Rick Boucher, a Democrat with a long friendship to coal, yet his Republican opponent won on the strength of the coal issue by proclaiming that President Obama had a war on coal. Boucher’s friendship was the true story, and still people believed the false GOP claim that Democrats had a war on coal.

Boucher hosted a recent fundraiser in Abingdon for Democrat Ralph Northam, who well deserves every Virginian’s vote for Lt. Governor on Election Day. Boucher continues to work for the Ninth in support of clean coal, and is among leading Democrats involved in The CoalBlue Project, a significant project for both sustainable coal usage and the environment.

If sustainable coal production and jobs is the goal, we owe our votes to Democrats in this election, because Democrats are the ones working on the real issues. A war is exciting, but in coal there is no war. There are resources and results that need to be managed. Democrats have the better plan for coal and energy, just as Democrats have the better plan for transportation, education, business, health care and keeping Virginia a good place for people to live.

Just what about coal are you for?

We desperately need Anthony Flaccavento in the Ninth CD Virginia – he is actually for the coal miners who live and work here, and not just for the Wall Street face of coal. He is campaigning with around a third of the money his opponent has, and his opponent is trying — by means of lots of green — to paint himself as the friend of coal. I was personally in the “packed house in Abingdon” where Anthony clearly owned the issue of coal in southwest Virginia. If you were there, or if you are keeping up, you are probably wondering what part of coal Anthony’s opponent Morgan Griffith is “for.”

These two letters about Anthony Flaccavento, Rick Boucher, Morgan Griffith, and Coal will clarify the issue:

Dear Southwest Virginia Voters,

In 1989, against all odds, Douglas Wilder became the first Black Southern Governor since Reconstruction by campaigning on Southwestern Virginia’s back roads, visiting coal mines, shaking miners’ hands and listening to miners who later voted for a Black man from Richmond.

In 2010, a Salem man living outside the Fightin’ Ninth District ran for the Ninth. Armed with Big Coal’s Big financial fuel and a Big Lie that 28-year Congressman Boucher would shut down the coal mines forever, he won, and immediately began campaigning for reelection, perpetually claiming that Democrats will regulate coal out of business.

Voting thirty-three times against black lung and widow’s benefits assured in the Affordable Healthcare Act, this so-called “friend of coal” is no friend of coalminers. Does he mean coal—corporate profits? Or coal– the livelihood of miners and their families and the well-being of towns, streams and hillsides where miners live? Has this “friend of coal” descended into mines and grasped the sacrifices of those who mine the coal?

In a packed Abingdon auditorium of 600 onlookers of the first 9th District debate were scores of UMW jacket-clad men—some with children on their laps, who want a straighter answer. Congressman Griffith’s opponent, Anthony Flaccavento, certainly has it–a working plan detailing each step of preparing for developing a better future in Southwest Virginia with good new jobs for coalminers and their families as coal winds down. Flaccavento is NOT anti-coal. He is profoundly PRO-coalminer!

We’re from Salem, hometown of Morgan Griffith, but we know that Griffith pushes coal to the exclusion of preparing for the future, which is now. Griffith’s strategy has bought him a lot of big signs and filled his coffers with easy money for his one-note message, but it will leave the coalminers behind while plants are now already switching to cheaper natural gas.

Anthony Flaccavento, traveling tirelessly through the “Fightin’ 9th, knows and explains how his model of transitioning tobacco farmers can work on a broader basis to prepare without delay alternative jobs for a thriving future in the coal-extracted landscapes. Voting for Flaccavento is buying ourselves insurance.

Anthony Flaccavento will represent us and the people of the Fightin’ Ninth in a way that will demonstrate to our gridlocked 11%-approved Congress how to return our Democracy to the people. Be wise for American voters have a critical job to due on election day: Clean out the do-nothing House in Congress on election day: Hire Anthony Flaccavento to work for the PEOPLE of the 9th. -Cynthia Munley & Spike Harrison, Salem

Economic sustainability in the coalfields is right approach

I grew up in the Anthracite coal region of Northeastern Pennsylvania 70 years ago. Anthracite is pretty much a dead industry now, and the decline of the industry was no picnic. In there mad scramble to extract coal, companies “robbed the pillars” of mine shafts, mined right under homes, deposited mountains of culm which then caught on fire and burned for decades, and endangered residents throughout the area. Within a 2-block area from my home, there were 5 major mine cave-ins, including the first floor of the home next door. My memory is seared by the lack of effective regulation of coal companies, a lack which Morgan Griffith, incumbent 9th District congressman, is trying to repeat for Southwest Virginia.

Griffith’s opponent is quite a contrast. Abingdon’s Anthony Flaccavento–citizen-farmer, small businessman, economic development consultant, the spark plug for farmers markets throughout the area, to mention only a few of his accomplishments–promises a better approach to economic sustainability, built on the realization that coal is not forever and must be transitioned from, that black lung disease incurred by miners who helped energize the country deserves public help, and that bottom-up economic development via small business will invigorate regions of Southwest Virginia.

Mr. Griffith knows one approach to the region’s problems: “Deregulation” ad nauseum, to the point of endangering drinking water and undermining the future of coal miners by not helping them transition to economic activity of the future. Anthony Flaccavento, on the other hand, helped tobacco farmers transition to the growing niche market of organic produce.

Vote for you interests, vote for Flaccavento. -Frank Munley, Salem

Obama and the new Volt

by Bernard Via III

Last weekend we passed a new marker with our new electric car, the Volt. We used our first gallon of gas. With 300 miles on the speedometer since we purchased it a week ago Thursday, we used one gallon of gas. What does this have to do with President Obama and this election? Nothing – but yet everything.

Like most of us I’m sick of the Texas Two-step of gas prices going up, up, up! People are still buying big fat SUVs and Trucks and bragging about the 25 miles per gallon performance. The Volt is a RE-Volt against gas dependence. Had it not been for the energy stimulus package passed by Obama, I would never have bought one. Here’s why: with a $47,000 sticker price, I would not buy this car. The economics are not there. The dealer with slow sales at the end of the year discounted the price to $42,300-still too high.

But then there is the $7,500 tax credit passed before Republicans took over the House, which brings the price down for me to $34,800 – still high for a car, except this is not just a ordinary little gas car. We calculate a $2,000 per year gas savings over electric usage. Over ten years, gas prices – if prices stay the same, which they won’t – that is $20,000 savings. So the Volt we purchased loaded to the hilt with computer stuff, loadstar, navigation, so much stuff my wife was finally happy, we get it for $14,800!

We get it because Obama did it with us. A new book by Michael Grunwald titled The New New Deal explains that the Obama administration has fundamentally in the long term changed the underlying structure of our economy through the stimulus plan funds.

We are on the road to energy innovation and independence. GM workers are making a car in America that is the toast of the fleet. It is powered through coal, using a 110 plug, from coal mined in southwest Virginia and delivered by BVU – our utility authority – to a our car battery. That keeps the energy cost here and not in Saudi Arabia. The money circulates around our economy and into treasury coffers around the country, helping relieve the budget crises. I am not trying to sell Volts, but I am showing an example of what Obama and the Democrats have been doing under the radar with the stimulus program. Republican want to gut the stimulus programs because that will lead to oil competing with coal and natural gas. Lower prices come from a balanced economic base. Our economy will not grow based on the American military protecting the supply lines from Iraq to Louisiana. It will blossom with cheap energy derived from many available sources.

New education emphasis on this new technology in colleges and high schools will provide people with expertise to fill the new jobs created by the technology. Though everyone thought the stimulus focused on shovel ready projects, the money has been directed to long-range seed money that will modernize our infrastructure. Republicans do not want this to get off the ground, calling it socialism. Just like highways, public education, internet structure, dams and utility lines, telephone and cell phone systems, and television airwaves – all of it is tagged socialism. Any time a tax dollar is spent encouraging an industry forward it is socialism. Just like nuclear energy, airplane systems, and satellite launches, government has a hand in developing all of it. In the last century, the government was into shipping, agriculture, and railroads. Then in the 20th century came electricity and telephone systems, followed by radio and television. Higher Education for the masses and highways in last 70 years have all had major government investment. Would there be a car system without highways? Would there be a modern hospital system without the Hill Burton Act? Would there be airports without the FAA? The electric car – once a dream – is an economic reality now that the government is behind its evolution.

Lots of people say it is the private sector that creates jobs, but it is the government with the private sector that creates entire industries, as Obama has done with the passive low-emission energy sector.

The Republicans don’t like it, and when it proves successful, they really don’t like it. When was the last time the Republicans liked anything other than spending on military contracts? We just need to see the broad picture. It is not so much socialism as it is Americanism: if it works, do it. Do not let name calling get in the way of common sense progress. Dedicated to the RE-Volt-ers among us.