THEIR VIEW: Now, more than ever, we need coal

By The West Virginia Record | Jul 12, 2010

CHARLESTON -- On Tuesday, July 6, electricity demand in the East surged to levels near those in the summer of 2006.


CHARLESTON -- On Tuesday, July 6, electricity demand in the East surged to levels near those in the summer of 2006.

With temperatures soaring above 100 degrees in cities from New York to Washington, utilities and grid operators witnessed power output close to the 2006 records. Fortunately, the power grid has been up to the task, thus far.

An engineer at John Amos elaborated that the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland Interconnection "PJM", is stressed to near breaking. PJM is near max capacity, and it has been said that the grid may hiccup in the following days due to the extreme heat. One result of this misfortune, would be to shed load and cut off big users, which would essentially cause layoffs to keep the grid from crashing.

The increased demand is straining the system as it is; yet, there is another component that is frequently scrutinized but essential for the grid survival, which is coal.

Coal alone is supporting the PJM base load demand. According to the West Virginia Division of Energy, our state ranks second in coal production, at 148 million tons per year. Additionally, the coal from West Virginia is a major source of energy for 32 states.

It is not only the means of our livelihoods in the West Virginia coal fields, but it is a means of survival for many others across the nation.

Coal has been under siege, and it has to stop. So, now is the time to question why a bureaucratic agency (EPA) is withholding mining permits that would help ease the obvious strain on the grid and prevent a possible blackout.

Yes, there are other energy sources, but there are also consequences to those energy routes in addition to the obscure facts.

For example, wind energy would not be able to provide near the amount of electricity that is currently being demanded. Wind varies. These variations do not match the electricity demand.

Because there is not currently an economically viable method to store electricity, the variations in wind generated electricity levels that do not match demand levels have to be met by adjusting the output of conventional power stations.

Wind turbines also require hardware costs and energy to build, which is typically derived from fossil sources. More importantly, one needs to maintain a conventional back up power generator that has the capacity close to that of the installed wind power turbine.

Researchers have also disputed what impact these turbines will have on the ecology system. In layman's terms, other energy sources do have their associated costs, there is a significant chance that the sources of energy may fail, and each also carries associated risks.

There is no concrete solution to the war on coal, but the facts remain the same. Coal is the fuel for our nation. We need it.

I am again contacting officials throughout the state and nation and asking for their assistance in this fight. The Obama administration and the EPA need to remember coal every time they flip a switch, turn up the air conditioner or use the telephone.

We're not far from the White House. It's West Virginia Mr. President. It's West Virginia, the little state that lights up our country!

Join me. Pray for West Virginia, support West Virginia and support our coal mining industry. We need it now, more than ever!

Chafin, D-Mingo, is the Majority Leader in the West Virginia Senate.

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