Here in West Virginia and Ohio, we are well aware of the importance to our economies of coal and electricity from coal-fired power plants. And many area residents understand full well that if President Obama's administration is allowed to proceed with its war against coal, our monthly utility bills will skyrocket.

Clearly, that is not the situation everywhere, as Sen. Joe Manchin is coming to understand.

Manchin and a few other coal-state senators have been waging a lonely battle against the White House and its Environmental Protection Agency. This week, Manchin vowed once again to keep up the good fight.

During a speech at the Jon Amos Power Plant, not far from Charleston, Manchin noted the EPA and the coal and electric utility industries do not have to be foes. Between 2006 and 2011, the plant's owner, American Electric Power, spent more than $1 billion to install pollution control equipment to comply with EPA mandates, the senator explained. He cited the plant as "an example that when government works as a partner, not an adversary, we can put thousands of people back to work and find the balance between the economy and the environment."

New EPA mandates announced last month could force some power plants to close, Manchin said. The regulations will make it prohibitively expensive to build new coal-fired generating stations.

Even as the EPA pushes utilities hard to turn away from coal, that fuel will remain a critical part of the nation's energy mix, Manchin noted. Between 42-45 percent of the electricity Americans use is generated at coal-fired plants. The Obama administration itself has estimated at least 39 percent of our power will have to come from coal during the next 25 years.

But many Americans do not seem to realize that - even in states where coal-fired electricity is critical to the health of the economy and to holding down the cost of life for families.

At least 21 states rely on coal for 50 percent or more of their electricity. Some of their residents may not realize that because there is little mining near them. In Kansas, for example, 67 percent of the power comes from coal-fired generators - but there is just one mine in the entire state. Iowa is worse, with 72 percent reliance on electricity from coal and no mines.

Because tens of millions of Americans do not realize how important coal is to them, they do not pressure their senators to stop the EPA.

That makes the task of Manchin and other thoughtful senators clear: They should mount an extensive educational campaign to inform their peers - as well as other senators' constituents. Ignorance about coal may be bliss, but it will be short-lived once jobs start disappearing and electric bills start soaring in states where senators continue to support Obama and his EPA.

West Virginia Coal Association - PO Box 3923 - Charleston, WV 25339 | 304-342-4153 | website developed by brickswithoutstraw