Centrist Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, not unlike former President Donald Trump, has been unwavering in his support of fossil fuels — which he obviously believes plays well with West Virginia voters. But the coal industry isn't as profitable in that Appalachian state as it once was. And journalist Ella Nilsen, in an article published by CNN's website on October 21, emphasizes that coal is becoming increasingly expensive in West Virginia.
Some liberals, including economist/New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, have been arguing that green energy would be great for West Virginia residents if Manchin and other politicians in the deep red state would give it a chance. Nilsen, similarly, points out that West Virginia's reliance on coal is becoming more and more of a hardship for residents like Charleston, West Virginia homeowner Felisha Chase — who pays more for electricity during the winter months than she spends on her mortgage.
"Coal has become more expensive than renewables or natural gas, the prices of which have fallen rapidly — and in West Virginia, the ratepayers are footing the bill," Nilsen reports. "With three of the state's major coal-fired power plants in need of hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of mandatory upgrades, costs for ratepayers like Chase will continue to go up. Coal may be a dying industry in the U.S., but Joe Manchin, a key Democratic swing vote in the Senate, isn't interested in hastening its demise."
Chase, a registered Democrat, believes that she is by no means the only West Virginia resident who finds her utility bills to be a struggle during the winter months.
Chase told CNN, "It does feel wrong when your electric bill is more than your mortgage. Around here, the old adage is 'coal keeps the lights on.' Anyone struggling to keep their electric on knows it's more than the lights…. If I'm struggling over here, I must be representative of hundreds, if not thousands, of West Virginians."
Nilsen notes that neighboring states "that were once heavily reliant on coal are moving away from it," citing Pennsylvania and Ohio as two examples of states that have — according to the New York Times — greatly reduced their reliance on coal and become more reliant on natural gas and nuclear power.
Sean O'Leary, a senior researcher at the Ohio River Valley Institute (a green energy think tank) told CNN that coal will never be as profitable as it once was.
"These plants, even if they're kept open, are going to be operating at such a low level there will be far fewer jobs and far less coal consumed than it is now," O'Leary explained. "It's as if everyone walks around utterly oblivious to that fact, and it has huge economic implications. If anything, there's a concerted effort to prevent that kind of reimagination of West Virginia as a different kind of energy state."
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