Gaining control of our future

The News and Sentinel ran an interesting “Our Opinion” editorial on Aug. 21 about where West Virginia is headed. The writer noted that West Virginia has lost 85 percent of its coal industry jobs in 50 years. We went from 130,000 high paying coal jobs to 20,000. We also learned the biggest employer in the state is now Wal-Mart, which is notorious for paying minimum wage. When you add those changes to the loss in manufacturing jobs since 1980 you have a sad picture of the West Virginia economy.

That editorial highlighted a new action group, “What’s Next West Virginia.” This group was described as a growing coalition trying to change perceptions of West Virginia and get our leaders to take a more realistic look at how our state should function. The description of our leaders with their “head-in-the-sand” mentality was all too accurate. Capito and McKinley are good examples. They have done what political hacks frequently do. Distort and twist the truth of an issue so they can reassign blame.

The coal industry has been in decline for 50 years but Senate candidate Capito and House candidate McKinley have decided it’s all Obama’s fault. They keep repeating the big lie about Obama’s “war on coal.” There is no “war on coal.” That’s a convenient fantasy. The coal industry in West Virginia started downhill when Obama was in elementary school. That downhill trend has accelerated in the past 30 years and the acceleration had nothing to do with Obama and everything to do with cleaner, alternative fuels. The alternatives include wind, solar, a renewed nuclear program and plenty of natural gas with falling gas prices.

Coal is headed south because it’s expensive to dig and environmentally expensive to burn. The good people who work in the coal industry are up against two huge barriers. The first is, they sell a product which comes fully equipped with unsolvable environmental problems. The second is, coal miners are at the mercy of elected officials who use them as pawns in a bogus game titled, “War on Coal.”

Coal is in rapid decline. Politicians should stop using that simple fact as a political football. It’s time for West Virginia to move on. Instead of whining about the coal problem and continuing to fight that losing battle our leaders should put their effort into gaining control of our future. “What’s Next West Virginia” might be a good starting point.

Ralph Chambers

Parkersburg