Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the event, but the rally also included live performances by Blackwater Outlaws, Taylor Made and Halfway to Hazard. International Coal Group President, Ben Hatfield; climate change expert, Lord Monckton; and Massey CEO Don Blankenship addressed the crowd. “We don’t want a government that is run by people who believe they can change the earth’s temperature when they can’t balance a budget,” Blankenship said.

Blankenship organized the event and reportedly spent $1 million of his own money on the rally. Love him or hate him, he is one coal executive that puts his money where his mouth is and he’s not afraid to voice an opinion. Blankenship reportedly criticized multinational corporations, politicians, and “environmental nuts.” He called out the CSX political action committee for donating to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s campaign fund and Caterpillar for supporting caps on carbon emissions. Richmond, Va.-based Massey Energy is the largest Central Appalachian coal producer. The company’s operations, located in West Virginia, must mine coal without the use of Cat equipment and transport it on the Norfolk Southern railway.

Ironically, all of the West Virginia politicians were attending a much smaller United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) rally 50 miles away in Racine, W.Va. Attendance at that event was estimated at less than 2,000. West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin was there to introduce recently re-elected UMWA President Cecil Roberts. West Virginia Democrat Congressman Nick Rahall also attended the UMWA event. Towing the party line, the UMWA supported President Obama, and union jobs in West Virginia now could become a victim of several political decisions that are unfavorable to coal, such as the EPA’s approach to mountaintop mining permits and the Waxman-Markey legislation making its way through Congress.

Given a choice, a country music festival filled with political activism or a union picnic, which would you choose? While Blankenship was criticizing those that support carbon caps, Roberts was taking a dig at Blankenship as a union free mine operator. One has to wonder: Was anyone outside of West Virginia paying any attention? Will Fox News portray Blankenship as a hero for American workers? Will MSNBC vilify him as a “coal nut” after organizing such a large rally?

This was huge exposure for our business, and the coal industry needs to sustain the momentum with a targeted approach to reach policymakers; one that respects the fire in West Virginia’s belly, but also realizes that the groups opposing coal can be equally sophisticated. It’s important to show strength and more important not give the opposition the ammunition they need. More than 25,000 people at the Friends of America rally signed a petition opposing cap and trade legislation. A similar petition will be circulating at the Bluefield Coal Show (See page 44). Make sure your voice is heard long after the coalfield rallies fade away.

Steve Fiscor, Coal Age Editor-In-Chief