WV can’t rely on just gas, coal

An editorial from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — Though the proverbial bloom is off the natural-gas-industry rose by now in West Virginia, a survey conducted by Energize WV and Mark Blankenship Enterprises indicates most voters in the Mountain State still believe firmly it is the future for our state’s economy.

Oddly, nearly 70 percent of voters said they believed the state is “on the wrong track,” in general. Nearly all respondents said jobs and the economy are important issues in West Virginia. The same batch of respondents went on to imply our future economy will continue to be dependent on extraction industries. More than 90 percent said the natural gas industry will be important; and four out of five said the coal industry will continue to be important.

Even after seeing the degree to which federal meddling has hamstrung extraction industries, a plurality of respondents said they believed the natural gas industry has the best potential to create good jobs in West Virginia. Mountain State voters understand “natural gas drilling better protects the environment than some other energy development methods,” “natural gas is an affordable energy source,” and that “natural gas development will help the country become less dependent on foreign sources of energy.”

To those ends, 76 percent of respondents support the construction of underground pipelines in the state.

Lawmakers in both Charleston and Washington, D.C., should pay close attention to the level of support for natural gas and its infrastructure in our state. Development of the industry will be a vital part of West Virginia’s evolving economy – if the federal government does not do to it what it already has begun doing to the coal industry.

But it is a mistake to forget how important it is for the Mountain State to diversify its economy. Area residents know as well as anyone how quickly the promises of natural gas boom times can fade. Even those who did not answer that the state is on the wrong track would likely agree it is on a very narrow track.

Yes, develop the natural gas industry in West Virginia. Build the pipelines and other infrastructure we need. Fight federal efforts to knock our economy to its knees. But while we do so, lawmakers must continue to search for not the next big thing, but the many new, perhaps smaller things that will keep West Virginia on the right track.

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