Thursday, May 28, 2015

New EPA Regulations Just Icing on the Cake

Many voices, including the editorial voice of our local newspaper and one or two of their guest right-wing scriveners, have uttered howls of protest at new EPA regulations intended to cut back on pollution resulting from the operation of coal-fired power plants.
Such protests are undoubtedly heart-felt by many (and probably just suit the agenda of a few people who could really care less), but it never hurts to do a little research before pointing the finger of blame at a relatively small group of people.

Granted, editorial opinions are like you-know-what and everybody has one, but it's not too much to ask for at least a bit of fact-checking before putting pen to paper or pounding on a keyboard in righteous anger.
The looming EPA regulations regarding emissions from coal-fired plants are just the icing on the cake - power companies have been shuttering these plants for well over a decade now. It's unfortunate for this area that most of the coal fired plants here are among the oldest and most obsolete in the nation, and the power companies are loath to upgrade them as they have been doing for years elsewhere across the United States in newer facilities.
Out of work coal miners can't get the new jobs in natural gas because they require an entirely different skill set. The energy field overall is booming with new jobs, but sad to say, not in the Appalachian region.
Food for thought: The average age of coal fired power plants in the USA is 47 years old and growing older by the day. The typical lifespan is between 50 and 60 years, and there are over 500 coal plants above this age limit currently in operation.
With the combination of natural gas, wind power, and solar all taking increasing shares of power production as well as the total US electricity consumption staying flat for the last 6 years, there is less and less demand for coal. The EPA mandates simply add gasoline to the already burning fire of coal shutdowns that are already inevitable - the mandates just hasten things along a little faster.
So, if a politician campaigns on the promise of bringing Appalachian coal back to its former glory, they're lying or naive. There is no going back.
Natural gas, wind and solar are the future of energy generation. Other than in natural gas, which is taking root here, where is the fostering of other energy technologies in our neck of the woods?
For example, we've got abundant mountaintops that could host thousands of wind turbines, but people (translated: politicians and civic leaders with an agenda) have tried their best to keep them out. Hello, Tazewell County and your slap in the face to Dominion Energy!
If you want to blame anyone for the current economic state of West Virginia and our immediate neighbors, blame our local, regional and state "leaders" who adopted a head in the sand mentality while kowtowing to big coal, and failed to see a few decades down the road when the coal began to dwindle and demand began to drop.
They act like they never knew it was coming, but the writing's been on the wall for a long, long time... it's just that no one wanted to read it - or it benefited them financially and politically to ignore it.

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