Educate people about the role of coal

An editorial from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — Some Americans who never met a miner are beginning to wake up to the peril of President Barack Obama’s war on coal. It also is an attempt to send electric bills into the stratosphere for tens of millions of families, they have come to understand.

But much more needs to be done to educate potential victims of the president’s campaign, a public opinion poll made clear last week.

Pollsters asked 401 West Virginians how important they view coal in the context of congressional elections this fall. Only about 16 percent of respondents picked coal as a higher priority than seven other concerns.

Issues such as federal spending, health care and the economy certainly are important. But here in West Virginia, virtually any money-related concern is linked to coal.

That is because about 95 percent of Mountain State residents get their electricity from coal-fired power plants. Some manufacturers in energy-intensive businesses depend on low-priced electricity from such plants.

That means residential customers in our state pay an average of 9.56 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity, according to the federal government.

Meanwhile, Californians – who use virtually no coal in power generation – pay 16.94 cents.

The ramifications of allowing Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency to continue shutting down coal-fired power plants ought to be obvious.

To judge by responses to the poll last week, they are not plain to a substantial number of West Virginians. And if the situation is not clear here, of all places, what about other states?

As we have reported, residents of some other states are becoming aware of the threat. EPA officials at hearings on coal-related regulations earlier this year in Georgia and Colorado heard from people who worry low-income Americans will be hurt badly if low-priced electricity is abandoned.

More needs to be done – and quickly. At some point, utilities will have proceeded far enough down the path of shuttering coal-fired power plants that the process cannot be reversed easily.

Unless enough Americans wise up to the challenge – and demand their elected representatives battle Obama and the EPA – electric bills all over the country will be going up.

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