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Seeking realistic reductions in carbon emissions is a noteworthy cause and is shared by many state students, residents and businesses.

To the surprise of some, the coal industry is part of this movement and, together with our in-state electric utilities, have made substantial gains over time and reductions that have placed our energy assets among the best in the world.

During recent times, much of airborne contaminants have been eliminated, while the amount of coal used to manufacture electricity for a household has tripled. This is a phenomenal and noteworthy achievement.

We at the West Virginia Coal Association are convinced that, with a little ingenuity and by working together, we will not only solve the carbon issue and consequently, the climate issue, but we believe it can be done in such a way that we should be able to continue using all of our natural resources to make steel, develop innovative carbon-based products and stabilize our dependence on household electricity.

This approach is at the core of Sen. Joe Manchin’s call to “innovate, not eliminate,” which we embrace.

See, we have people working together around the clock at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratories, West Virginia University Energy Institute and other federal and academic entities, in partnership with the mining industry, to solve the carbon issue.

As an industry, we seek reasonable and realistic carbon reduction targets and timelines that will allow carbon control research to be implemented to give this initiative the best chance of success. Should this not be attainable, “innovation” would become “elimination” by default and, under that scenario, we all clearly fail.

Some detractors call for the immediate elimination of coal mining and coal usage. They deny any value or benefit to the approximately $13.9 billion in economic impact the coal mining and coal-fired electric power generation industries provide to West Virginia, or the workers the industry employs. They also deny the critical importance of fossil energy to assuring uninterrupted power supplies, grid stability and resiliency, and overall energy security. They, in essence, want to eliminate, not innovate.

It is worth pointing out that, as industry detractors hold up California and New York as shining examples of the clean energy movement, West Virginia, with all its fossil energy commerce and tens of thousands of energy workers, ranks nearly four times better than California and two times better than New York in overall carbon output. Maybe those two states should stop what they are doing or shut down?

We believe carbon capture and related technologies can be employed in a meaningful way. There is a path forward where we collectively embrace charted movement toward a truly carbon free economy. And all the while, we can continue to support a robust energy industry that includes coal mining and an advanced carbon products portfolio.

We anticipate that West Virginia will demonstrate to the world that it is possible to have a world-class energy sector that provides jobs, low-cost energy and is a model for employing carbon reduction technologies.

Chris Hamilton is president of the West Virginia Coal Association, a trade organization that lobbies for the coal industry.

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