W.Va. must diversify industries

Posted Oct. 12, 2011, at 7:11 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 12, 2011, at 7:49 p.m.

Politicians and mining groups love to boast that West Virginia has enough coal to power America for another 200 years. But snowballing research tells a totally different story.

The central Appalachian coal field — chiefly southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky — is exhausting its easy-to-mine coal, and production is dropping swiftly, the U.S. Department of energy reports.

The rapid decrease is occurring chiefly because quick-and-easy seams are running out. Mining thin-and-difficult seams costs more, so the region can’t compete with cheap coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana or cheap gas from Marcellus Shale drilling.

Extracting coal from thin-and-difficult seams causes more environmental devastation, running afoul of nature-protecting laws. Various West Virginia leaders accuse federal pollution regulators of damaging the coal industry. They sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and want to gut the EPA in Congress. But actually, nature damage isn’t the main problem. The coal industry simply faces an end to inexpensive options.

For decades, economists have warned that West Virginia must seek a wider variety of industries and businesses, because the days of coal are numbered. These new research findings indicate that state leaders should redouble their effort to diversify — quickly.

Charleston, W.Va., Gazette (Oct. 5)

Pakistan won’t constrain US

America’s top military officer, on the eve of his retirement, has brought into the open a long-festering conflict between Pakistan and the United States that has recently turned very nasty. The question now is what the Obama administration and Congress can do about it, and at what risk to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

Legislation has already been introduced in the House to deny financial aid to Pakistan unless it reforms.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the departing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, openly discussed the conflict in Senate testimony. Describing recent lethal attacks against a hotel in Kabul, a NATO base and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Adm. Mullen said they were carried out by the Pakistan-based Haqqani organization with support from the Pakistan intelligence agency ISI.

White House spokesman Jay Carney called on Pakistan to take “strong and immediate action” against the Haqqani network. Pakistan responded that any military action by the U.S. against the Haqqani network in Pakistan would be a violation of Pakistani sovereignty.

But Mullen’s statement is a signal that the U.S. no longer feels constrained by its need for Pakistani cooperation, as much as our leaders would like to have it.

Mullen’s remarks are a clear signal that the U.S. is ready to counter Pakistani provocations. We also must be ready to take effective unilateral action against terrorists operating from Pakistan.

The Post and Courier of Charleston (Oct. 5)

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