Last month, I had the great pleasure of being in West Virginia again. The purpose of the trip was to cover the opening of Alpha Natural Resources’ Running Right Leadership Academy, which is the cover story this month (See Alpha Academy, p. 24). On several occasions, we have approached Kevin Crutchfield, CEO and chairman for Alpha, to discuss the integration of the Massey Energy operations. Each time, he politely declined. He and his 11,700-member team have been busy as one could only image.
A crowd of 300 gathered to witness the dedication of the academy in one of the larger classrooms there. Several dignitaries were on hand, such as MSHA Director Joe Main, Hal Quinn, president and CEO, National Mining Association, and Joanne Jaeger Tomblin, West Virginia’s first lady. There was also a large press contingent on hand. In addition to regional coal publications, there were reporters from The Charleston Gazette, other regional newspapers and local television crews. While cameras were flashing during the ceremony, Dave Green, an Alpha coal miner gave a riveting speech (See I am a Coal Miner, p. 26). You can also watch it on YouTube (http://youtu.be/S6UEa4Z8YJw). Saying that many of these mainstream media outlets have been critical of the coal mining business and somewhat skeptical of Alpha Natural Resources’ ability to merge the Massey Energy properties, would be an understatement. Green, a former Massey miner, set the record straight.
West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin could not make the event. That same week West Virginia was celebrating its 150th birthday. Charleston was preparing a gigantic birthday cake complete with fireworks around the state capitol building. Even President Obama could not resist. He presented West Virginia (and the rest of the coal mining business) with a big gift, the Obama Climate Action Plan (See p.10). All of the coal state politicians, including Gov. Tomblin and Sen. Joe Manchin, were scrambling to prevent President Obama from dismantling more of the American economy by closing out coal-fired power and inexpensive electricity. Ironically a week later, President Obama was spreading the wealth in Africa discussing how the U.S. could help them improve their power distribution system.
The Obama Climate Action Plan is an enormous gift to the natural gas business. During the last few months, Coal Age has received a number of letters and phone calls from readers wanting to know when someone was going to explain the truth about natural gas. Those truths being that natural gas is a carbon-based fuel and the leakage during the production process releases substantial amounts of greenhouse gases. And then it happened on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart of all places. The show’s current host John Oliver interviewed Josh Fox who recently directed Gasland (Part II). During the discussion, which is available on the show’s website, Fox offers the coal industry a back-handed compliment by saying the public has been told gas is better than coal, but it really isn’t true. He also touches on how the Obama administration has unfortunately bought into it as a bridge fuel until we can find a cleaner alternative. It’s time for the coal business to ditch the all of the above strategy, take the gloves off, and compete for its slice of the pie.