By: Chris Hamilton
President & CEO West Virginia Coal Association
In a November 29 column, MetroNews Talkline Host Hoppy Kercheval highlights new research that shows that “the idea that a laid off roof bolter can get a new job making solar panels or installing wind turbines is largely an unfulfilled promise”.
He’s referring to the promises made by the Biden Administration, liberal leaders, and environmental extremists that workers in carbon intensive industries can find work in the Green Energy fields of wind and solar. According to the research, “the transition rate is even lower in our state. The New York Times reported that the study showed that ‘Less than a quarter of a percent of workers who left a fossil fuel job in West Virginia moved on to a job in renewable energy’.”
In other words, the transition isn’t happening in our state, or if it is, it isn’t producing the jobs as promised. Or, quite possibly, former fossil industry workers aren’t interested in these types of positions.
So that begs the question, why would a state like West Virginia blindly follow this national trend of energy transition that potentially leads us to the edge of an economic and energy reliability cliff?
The coal industry and much of our state’s political leadership (led by Governor Justice), which often takes a hit for their support for fossil fuels, has been warning of this likely scenario for some time. The facts show West Virginia is benefiting from other states’ rush towards a deeper shade of green, which is leaving a deficit in baseload electric generation.
Energy experts across the country including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), and PJM, the grid operator covering West Virginia and multiple other states in our region, forecast that the amount of planned electric generation retirements by 2030 exceed the amount of potential new generation able to be brought online. It makes little sense that the U.S. would continue to force the closure of coal-fired power plants when our country needs the baseload, reliable electricity that we produce.
With over $8 billion dollars in new investments in state mining operations, recent upgrades to in-state power plants, and current export and met coal market niches, West Virginia coal is enjoying a renaissance of sorts and is poised to be a significant part of West Virginia’s and the region’s energy future. Global leadership in rare earth element extraction and processing also adds to our already balanced coal portfolio.
West Virginia shouldn’t trade existing energy jobs for “promises”. We need to reinvest in our foundational industries, like coal. We have it all here: modern mining complexes, rich deposits of the highest-grade coals, and best miners anywhere in the world.
We stand ready to embark upon a new journey as a major contributor to West Virginia’s future, our industrial growth, and overall economic health.