This year’s electioneering and campaign advertising make it seem that West Virginia politicians care about only one topic: coal, coal, coal. Opposition to federal limits on coal pollution dominates ads and debates, as if candidates don’t know any other topic.
Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, Rep. Shelley Capito, Rep. Nick Rahall, state Sen. Evan Jenkins, et al — come on, give us a break.
Do the campaigners care about this state’s ballooning Marcellus gas future? Do they hope that chemical plants will bloom from Marcellus derivatives, creating thousands of jobs? Do they want to boost tourism in the lovely Appalachians as the state’s best future? Do they ever think about education as the doorway to good careers in the Information Age? What about health and highways and all the rest? Why don’t they mention these and other subjects, instead of harping incessantly about coal?
West Virginia once had 125,000 miners, but the total is slipping below 20,000 — mostly because coal owners installed giant machines to eliminate workers, and also because central Appalachian seams are nearly exhausted.
West Virginia has 1,854,000 people, according to the Census Bureau. Subtract 20,000 miners and that leaves 1,834,000. You’d think that politicians would pay some attention to the other 1,834,000, instead of acting as if only 20,000 mattered.
Our newspaper regrets the relentless slump that is bleeding the coal industry and erasing mine jobs. Nobody wants to see coal communities suffer. But common sense makes it clear that this decline is caused by ruthless economic factors, not just by national pollution controls.
Can candidates for office please see West Virginia as a larger culture, with hundreds of other issues and many other opportunities for future potential? Vacationing in the green hills and enjoying mountain sports looms constantly brighter in the state’s economy.
Less than three months remains until the general election. Then, thank heaven, West Virginians will be spared all the political carping about coal.