King Coal is a Poor Liar

Coal industry interests pillage and plunder boldly. And they justify their actions with arguments that are blatantly absurd.

Take, for example, the massive billboards Cat Walker has erected along Interstate Highways in West Virginia. Cat Walker is a major supplier of the mammoth machines operated on mountain top removal sites. On their billboards, in huge bold letters are the words: “Coal, clean carbon neutral.”

Really? Coal without carbon? Carbón (the spanish word for coal and carbon) sin carbón?

Since the bituminous coal mined in West Virginia is on average 80% carbon, and even the sub-bituminous coal is 40-50% carbon, I presume that Cat Walker does not believe the industry can remove the carbon before burning. And even though I have heard President Steve Walker orate and can attest to his dim-wittedness, I don’t believe Cat Walker is suggesting that carbon disappears upon burning: that it is no longer carbon when it becomes CO2.

Clearly, then, the billboards are meant to imply that CO2 can be prevented from bellowing out of smokestacks and sequestered out of sight and out of mind forever.

Granted, the coal industry is proficient when it comes to making things disappear: mountains, communities, unions, streams, ecosystems, honest politicians, culture. Yet not even the coal industry can make carbon vanish. The fact is, carbon sequestration is a red herring that does not work. It is the coal industry’s way to divert funding away from renewable energies.

And despite Cat Walker’s assurances, no power plant in the United States is sequestering carbon dioxide. So then, it seems that Cat Walker’s billboards are designed to mislead the public. And fortunately, citizens are fighting back.

From Vernon Haltom, a resident from Raleigh County

Hi All,
Mel Tyree lodged a false advertising complaint with the Federal Trade Commission about Walker Machinery’s false advertising (Yes, Coal.  Clean, Carbon Neutral Coal) TV spots and billboards.  He said it only takes about 10 minutes or so and FTC will ask your name, address, phone, etc.  He tried first with the WV Attorney General but was referred to the FCC (which didn’t have anything to do with it, so he contacted the FTC).
If a lot of people lodge the same complaint there’s greater likelihood something will happen.  WV Attorney General seems to not take this seriously in spite of Bo’s petition re. WV prosecuting Walker for false advertising.
Federal Trade Commission Ph 1-877-382-4357.
Re. false advertising complaint on Walker Machinery, will ask for their address.  Mel used this address:
Walker Company
Rt 60 East
Belle, WV 25015
304-949-6400

Sadly, this isn’t the first time Cat Walker has blatantly lied. Last Spring, I wrote the following Letter to the Editor to the Charleston Daily Mail.

The latest Cat Walker commercial shows video of a deer, dragonfly, and blackbird and claims “Life is thriving on mountaintop mines.”  Who do they think they are kidding? Their last commercial with the animated bugs was more believable… Only a few species are able to adapt to the wastelands left after “reclamation.” Meanwhile, strip-mining buries the moist hollows which provide habitat for an astounding variety of wildflowers, herbs, ferns, neo-tropical songbirds, etc. Whereas most forests in Appalachian are dominated by a few species of canopy trees, our mixed mesophytic forests boast over two dozen varieties of hardwood. Contrast this to the wastelands created by mountain top removal, which only support scrub brush and an invasive grass species called lespedeza. Sometimes, coal companies will spend millions to fix up a few acres so that chestnut trees can be planted (chestnut trees can grow almost anywhere and are only special because they were wiped out by a blight—they should not imply the potential for reforestation on a strip-site).   Mountain top removal only exists because the coal industry created an impoverished populace that thinks they depend on it.  Thankfully, folks are finally waking up and saying: Enough is Enough!

Here are some other jaw-dropping lies (and i say lies because they are easily rebuked by facts) the coal industry has used to justify strip-mining.

  • “Mountain top removal creates jobs.”   Not really. In fact, the opposite is true.

 

  • “There isn’t enough flat land in Appalachia.” First of all, if you want flat land, move to Kansas. Secondly, 97% of the flat land created by mountain top removal is unused! Only 3% has been developed.

 

  • “There is no other way to get the coal.” It is true that some seams of coal are so thin and close to the surface that it is not feasible to extract it with deep mining. However, this is only a very small fraction of recoverable coal seams. Unfortunately, “surface mining” is never limited to the surface. Often times, over 1000 feet of mountain is destroyed to suck out all of its coal.

 

  • “The geography of Appalachia makes coal mining the only viable industry.” Oh yeah?   If strip-mining is not stopped, this may in fact become true. Mountain top removal is eliminating natural infrastructure. It is precluding any chance to use the area for wind production, water bottling, herb collecting, tourism, or subsistence farming.

 

  • “Mountain top removal allows us to build roads.”  I don’t have a problem with an occasional blast of dynamite to build a road, but not in an area where over a million acres have already been blown to bits. The Coal Industry particularly loves this argument because it receives subsidies from the government to mine if the location could possibily be used to build a highway.  Yes, there are curvy roads in Appalachia, but they wouldn’t be so bad without dangerous coal trucks. Nor would they need so much maintanence. The truth is, the highways are meant for the coal industry anyway. They offer a more efficient way to export the coal (and the wealth) out of state.

 

How does the coal industry get away with such blatant lies? Maybe because in Appalachia they own the local “newspapers,” puppetteer the politicians, hob-nob with environmental agencies, and hold large segments of the population hostage with the ultimatum: look the other way or find another job, an ultimatum made possible because the industry has monopolized resources and left few other employment possibilities.

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