June 25, 2009

Reassure 'em while they're young

How should children be educated about the truth of coal?

Perhaps provide the opinions of advocates and critics, not just one side.

What occurred at St. Francis Elementary in Beckley, West Virginia once a week for five weeks, however, was not a two sided presentation. Third graders received presentations from the organization, the Friends of Coal Ladies Auxiliary. The presentations simply promote coal's "benefits." As mentioned in the prior blog post, lessons on coal could be considered history lessons, right? Coal is old and environmentally regressive, costing West Virginia, not benefiting it. Even Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, which sponsors the Friends of Coal Ladies Auxiliary, said that the third graders needed to know more about their environment. What environment was Mr. Raney referring to? The Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia? Because as the blog posted yesterday plainly states, coal has severely damaged West Virginia and will further hurt its environment, not be "friends" with it. So the presentations were based off of misleading information? The West Virginia Coal Association's presentations were instances of the "Reassuring Lie" not the "Inconvenient Truth," not education based on alternatives and sustainable technology, and certainly not education on energy-efficiency.

Furthermore, Mr. Raney states, “I don’t understand why any human being wants to try to take the job of another human being particularly in today’s economy." He does not understand why any human being would want to take the job of another human being... The recession, yes, has made the job market particularly difficult. However, our economy consists of market competition. If a dirty commodity, like coal, is unhealthy and its customers deny its market, consumption will naturally decrease. The utility or firm must either exit, shutdown, or cooperate with the changes within the market. The coal industry as a whole, should heed these environmental complaints and wake up from any "misunderstanding" in order to cushion the blow of the energy efficiency market. Like other fallout markets in our capitalist history, and coal advocates claim to know history, new and innovative markets consisting of lower costs will succeed. Coal is extremely costly and will fall.

As for South Carolina, I ask you to ask yourself, "What are South Carolina's 'Inconvenient Truths,' and what are South Carolina's 'Reassuring Lies?'" We know who is trying to reassure... We know Santee Cooper is trying to reassure over and over again -- jobs, prosperous communities, and more energy. Claiming the new coal plant will generate employment and fix the economy in South Carolina's low country is a reassuring lie. We need Santee Cooper to show the truth -- help bring us out of history and, rather, into the present by eliminating the reassuring lies like those taught to the third graders at St. Francis Elementary.

West Virginia Coal Association
Coal in classroom wrapping up for now
June 14, 2009

The president of the West Virginia Coal Association visited St. Francis Elementary school in Beckley.

Raney spoke with third graders as part of a Friends of Coal Ladies Auxiliary project called Coal in the Classroom. St. Francis was the first school to adopt the curriculum but it’s expected to expand to the public school system this fall.

The fifth and final Coal in the Classroom session wrapped up on Wednesday.

Now, Morgan Hylton says she has a better understanding of what her dad does for a living. "My dad is an above ground miner," Hylton said. "Learn they burn coal to make electricity if we didn’t have it we wouldn’t be able to have a lot of stuff."

Gage Blankenship says he also learned something about his family. He says his dad, uncle and grandfather work for the coal industry. "It’s fun to learn about what they do," Blankenship said.

For the past five weeks, the children have heard 1-hour presentations on the geographical location of coal in the US, surface mining, underground mining, and electricity. Yesterday, West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney talked about the jobs coal provides to state residents.

"They had an intense interest in everything that was going on," Raney said. "They were remarkably knowledgable about all aspects of the coal industry and how really important it is to their everyday life and how important electricity is."

In the hallway after he finished speaking with the kids, Raney criticized the environmental activists and their efforts to stop mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia. Last weekend 17 protesters were arrested at three mining stes across Southern West Virginia.

"I don’t understand why any human being wants to try to take the job of another human being particularly in today’s economy," he said. In light of the protests, he says the classroom program is vital.

"It’s critical they learn about the environment, it’s critical they learn about the industry they learn about the professionalism that the industry operates under," he said.

The program is scheduled to start at Stratton Elementary in Beckley this fall, but Regina Fairchild, chairwoman of Friends of Coal Ladies Auxiliary, says several schools in the region have requested the program.

"We want to let the community and the area know that the people of coal care."

Also, the ladies will help to wrap up the Coal in the Classroom program with a field trip to the exhibition coal mine in Beckley. They also plan to visit Terex, a company in Beckley that manufactures high-wall miners.

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