Wednesday, August 4, 2010

WV: To the Moon and To the End of the World Hopefully Not Gaga Style

As Eisenhower’s two terms as United States President came to an end, a new era began in America under President Kennedy. This was the era of possibility, of the unknown, of the great beyond. Back then, would any of us imagined that, according to R.E.M., “...they put a man on the moon?”

President Kennedy set goals for the new decade of 1960. The moon was one of them, and while I must admit (life-saving capabilities aside) those first space suit designers could have been a little more creative (and those moon boots are one pair of shoes you definitely won’t find in my closet), JFK accomplished that goal.

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade... not because [it was] easy, but because they [it was] hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win...”

2010 is a new decade, for both America, and most importantly to me, for West Virginia. It seems to me that during elections all we do is poll on current issues that affect us right here and now (and well maybe tomorrow), but we don’t tackle the possible problems my children are going to face living in our beloved mountain state. West Virginia is caught between a rock and a hard place, and I feel idealistic saying it will get better in the near future. While part of my job is to craft a message and strategy that appeals to voters based on the messages with the highest ratings in poll results, not many of these messages necessarily discuss what to do now to ensure my children will have a “rock solid” future in these West Virginia hills, (or flatlands, who knows).

Speaking of rocks, what about coal? Well, I love coal. We need coal. It keeps the lights on, we all know that. And while coal isn’t going anywhere any time soon, I find it interesting that several energy companies which are heavily invested in the coal industry, like Consol and Massey, are diversifying their energy portfolio and investing in energy sources from wind mills to natural gas to solar and beyond. I know it’s a touchy subject, but someone has to ask the tough question of what’s next for West Virginia’s energy industry? We need to look down the road and see what trends and possibilities will exist in 10 years, in 20 years, and even beyond that for energy. From these predictions and forecasts, we can start shaping a strategy for wild, wonderful West Virginia that allows us to obtain a competitive advantage relative to other states in terms of our energy future.

Kennedy once said, “Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.”

As an “unlikely voter,” these are the important issues I want those I vote for to address in more precise terms, just like Kennedy said we would go to the moon. Maybe that’s why I’m considered an “unlikely” voter in the first place, because the future looks like one big Lady Gaga outfit with no fashion police on duty. Or maybe, R.E.M. got it right, since the world is predicted to end on December 21, 2012...

“...It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fiiiiiiine...”

(Although I would tend to disagree.)


  1. The market will determine the fuel used (unless the government interferes) and there is no better method. If the supply of coal decreases, or other energy sources find a way to produce an equal amount of energy at a lower cost coal will be under pressure. Until then coal as the best, cheapest, most reliable source is king.

  2. I have to agree with marty. Coal, though it is a finite resource, isn't running out any time soon. This fuel provides great jobs, cheap energy and as long as the status quo is in place, nothing is going to change.

    With respect to JFK and the space program, there was a small catalyst -- the Soviet Union. The space race helped drive us because we wanted to "win." No such motivator exists for us now.

    Ensuring the success of West Virginians in the future means focusing on education for our children and re-educating those who are driven out of the coal/heavy industry fields.

  3. We need to value education and a viable two party political system

  4. It's popular to say "coal isn't running out anytime soon" -- but that is rarely followed with a timeline. My understanding via the Imagine WV coal report is we have about 100 years left. I can't imagine anyone in 2010 can define a mere 10 decades as a lot of time, especially when you consider how incredibly long it takes to develop alternatives and make the necessary changes to successfully transition from a dying industry based on finite, pollution-heavy fossils to a sustainable, clean energy system. The cost question is a huge issue. As it may take the full 100 years to make renewable energy affordable, we need to start NOW.

  5. The time frame of 100 years is not that long in the grand scheme of history, but to CEOs of coal companies and those they employ today, it's an eternity and the promise of a good job for life.

    Work in alternative fuels needs to become more productive, but are we naive enough to think other technologies for fuel aren't potentially already in existence?

    Coal and oil are so intertwined with the global economy that we will have to be weened off of it. The coal and oil industries are important to the economy. Think of the jobs and money that stand to be lost if a viable alternative fuel source were to be thrust onto the scene.

    Genuine, meaningful change takes long periods of time.

  6. Agreed. I'd just add that another way to discuss it is think about the potentially large #s of exciting new jobs that come with innovation. Change can be threatening or it can be opportunity.