To the Editor:
This paper recently published an article on coal production that, at first, really surprised me. It stated that West Virginia coal production has been decreasing since 1979. How could that be? Everything in the news leads one to believe that air emission regulation has been the demise of this industry. Yet it has been on the decline for 40 years and five different presidents both Republican and Democratic. But then I remembered a study that my employer asked me to do — a careful review of the energy industry with an emphasis on electricity. The data was surprising. The production of electricity has been declining for some time. And this makes sense. Let’s take a moment to analyze this.
Anyone who remembers a TV from the 1960s — RCA and Magnavox!!! — recalls how ‘hot’ it got from the vacuum tubes. These TVs were small compared to a modern flat screen but boy, they were energy hogs. Continue with that line of reasoning. Everything is more energy efficient — refrigerators, freezers, computers (yes, there were computers in the ’60s), etc. Homes are built more energy efficient needing less to keep them warm or cool, using more efficient furnaces and air conditioners. What the data indicated was that the power plant industry would undergo consolidation regardless of air emission standards.
Even so, there has been a transition from coal to natural gas and oil to power our electricity. That is a fact. Some of that is clearly due to air standards. But not all of it. Coal production and transportation to a power plant is labor and mechanically intensive. Any manufacturer will not find this attractive. Which do you think is more reliable — moving coal across miles of a conveyor belt in rain and snow, or turning a valve for natural gas to run through a pipeline? If you picked the first one, I want you to stop heating your home with gas, and start shoveling coal back into a furnace the old fashioned way.
What is the point of all of this? My point is that the oil and gas industry is another gift to the state of West Virginia. And it is ours to take advantage of. With that said, I encourage anyone searching for employment to seriously consider becoming a part of it. And consider West Virginia Northern Community College as a tool to get you there. They recently opened a new technology center to educate and train you in pipe fitting and welding. There are programs in the computer systems that run this industry. And there are scholarships available. Because that it were energy is taking us today. Will that change in the future? More than likely. However, the current energy landscape is undeniable.