‘The Proof Is In The Pudding:’ Coal Country Responds To Democrats’ Clean Energy Transition  Monday, Aug 24 2020 

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Democrats made their pitch to the American people during a largely virtual Democratic National Convention and addressing climate change emerged as a central tenet of the party’s plan. 

The party platform spells out a major investment in green energy jobs and infrastructure in order for America to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emission no later than by 2050. Environmental justice is a key component of the Democrat’s climate plan and it references ensuring fossil fuel workers and communities receive investment and support during this clean energy transition. 

“As President, Joe Biden will rejoin the international climate agreement, and the United States will once again lead on this critical issue at home,” New Mexico Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said while standing in front of a field of solar panels. “He’ll invest in energy workers and he will deliver for working families across the U.S., helping them build meaningful careers, while accelerating our nation and world into a clean, green 21st century and well beyond.”


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Vote for a better future, not the candidate Saturday, Apr 18 2020 

By Ben Goldberger —

Bernie Sanders brought the 2020 presidential election back to the forefront of Americans’ minds after he announced the termination of his presidential campaign April 8. This paves the way for the democratic nomination for Joe Biden and almost guarantees we will see a Biden versus Trump battle for the presidency.

Sanders spoke to many of the underlying issues in society today that affect a vast amount of people, and built a strong base of young, diverse supporters, especially college-age voters in the process. Many Democrats are devastated by his resignation, seeing their two choices return to the norm for American politics: old, rich, white men.

This disappointment is leading many of Sanders’ supporters to either vote third party in the presidential election or not vote at all. While this frustration with the current political system and democratic party is valid, voting third party or restraining from voting will only further the systematic struggles that Sanders’ fought so hard to combat. 

Let’s be honest, a third-party candidate will not win any election in the current political scene, especially the most important presidential election in recent history. The two-party dominant political system is not the best system by any means, and third parties allow for vaster representation in politics, but this is not the election to protest this system. 

While it is easy to look at the two major-party candidates for this election and find issues with them both, this election is about more than just the candidates. 

For starters, it is likely that at least one or two Supreme Court seats will open up within the next four years. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, a Supreme Court Justice known to lean democratic in her decisions, has faced multiple health complications throughout this year. Along with fellow Justice Stephen Breyer, also over 80 years old, are likely to resign in the next coming years.

This means that whatever party is in charge could change the balance of the Supreme Court for years to come. 

Another issue to consider is the rapidly decreasing health of our planet.

In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report that said if the global temperature does not decrease by 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2040, the Earth will reach past the point of return, leading to a state of inhabitability.

The current administration has not made saving the environment a priority, enacting or removing laws in order to benefit businesses over sustainability.

The next administration to take office will set the tone for how this country acts towards environmental justice and will either start to make progress that will keep this planet livable or worsen the situation and decrease the time until Earth is no longer habitable. 

2040 may seem far away, but it is much closer than it feels. Children who started kindergarten last fall will be seniors in high school in 2032, only eight years until the point of no return.

This is an extremely pressing issue, and this election will decide the fate of the planet, and the fate of future generations.

Despite all of this, many supporters of past democratic candidates cannot bring themselves to vote for Biden, because they see the similarities between him and Trump. While voters should not condone his past behavior by any means, they also should not let the disappointing choices of candidates deter them from what this election is truly about. 

This election is not about one candidate or the other. It is about which party gets control over the Supreme Court for upwards of 25 years to come, altering decisions like reproductive justice, LGBTQIA+ equality, transgender rights and racial justice to name a few.

It is about making a larger effort to save the environment before it is too late. It is about making a greater life for the upcoming generations.

Even if neither of the two dominant candidates represents voters’ beliefs entirely, people should vote for the candidate who will pass the most policies that they agree with.

Biden is definitely a step back into traditional politics, but if Sanders supporters want even a speck of what Bernie stood for to become a reality in the next four years, they should put their personal pride aside and vote for the democratic candidate. 

Baby steps will still move us forward. 

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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Just Transition: Amid Climate Debate And Coal’s Decline, West Virginia Considers Its Future Monday, Feb 17 2020 

On a recent soggy Wednesday evening, dozens of West Virginians packed a conference room inside the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center to discuss the need for a “just transition” for coal-impacted communities.

As the nation grapples with climate change, the need for a fair transition for workers and communities that depend upon coal jobs and revenue has also gained traction. Nearly every 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful has touted some version of the idea, ranging from the expansive “Green New Deal” championed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to former Vice President Joe Biden’s more modest mix of worker training and direct assistance for coal country.

In West Virginia, discussions are starting to get attention in the state’s capital despite strong political support for the coal industry.

“When you’re hearing a call for a just transition for coal-reliant communities, folks are saying ‘look, starting now and into the future, we’re going to decarbonize the economy,’” said Ann Eisenberg, a law professor at the University of South Carolina. “There will be disproportionate losses imposed on coal-reliant communities. And that’s unfair. So we’re going to offset the losses. And that is where I think this is a good thing. And it’s also tricky.”

Eisenberg was one of a handful of experts who spoke at the event hosted by West Virginia University’s Center for Energy and Sustainable Development, the nonprofit West Virginia Center on Climate Change (an offshoot of conservation group Friends of Blackwater), and the left-leaning West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.

Brittany Patterson | Ohio Valley ReSource

Three groups hosted a just transition discussion on Feb. 5, 2020 in Charleston, WV.

The speakers facilitated a conversation about what constitutes a “just transition” as well as how West Virginia and other regions that depend on coal could actually get there.

Adele Morris with the Brookings Institution said the first step is to acknowledge the clear data about coal. Even without a comprehensive climate policy, the fuel is already losing ground in the region and across the country. Low natural gas prices and the falling cost of renewable energy have priced many coal plants out of the market.

hindsight2020-mine-empAlexandra Kanik | Ohio Valley ReSource

Federal data show since 2009, mining employment and coal production has fallen by about 50 percent in the Ohio Valley. The energy shift is already underway, Morris said, but without the part that would help communities make the transition.

hindsight2020-mine-prodAlexandra Kanik | Ohio Valley ReSource

“We’re in it. We’re in the transition,” said Morris, who is a senior fellow and policy director at the nonpartisan think tank. “And it’s going to get worse before it gets better. But it’s not fair. And that’s what I think should be urgently at the top of the agenda of the policymakers from coal country, and they’re not, in my opinion.”

Legislative Attempt

One lawmaker is making a pitch in West Virginia. State Del. Evan Hansen, a Democrat representing the north-central county of Monongalia, has introduced a bipartisan bill that would create a state Just Transition Office, and a community-led advisory committee that would focus on helping West Virginia communities affected by the decline of coal.

“The primary goal here is to write a just transition plan for the state of West Virginia that would look at ways to funnel funding into these communities and other types of resources into these communities in a manner that’s led by what people in those communities think is best,” Hansen said.

The bill is modeled after similar legislation that passed in Colorado. On Wednesday, the West Virginia version passed out of one of the two committees to which it was referred, but Hansen acknowledges it faces a long road to becoming law with the state’s legislative session more than halfway done.

Still, he believes the appetite is growing among the state’s lawmakers to address coal’s decline.

“I would say privately many legislators of both parties acknowledge that there is a transition going on and that this is one of the most important issues that we need to deal with as a Legislature,” Hansen said.

Not everyone is a fan of the bill, including the West Virginia Coal Association.

“Sounds to me like that they think that it would be much better if it were something other than the coal miners,” said the group’s president Bill Raney. “And that bothers me a whole lot because we got the best coal miners in the world.”

Raney’s group is pushing a bill this legislative session that would require West Virginia coal plants to burn the same amount of coal they did in 2019 in the years ahead, regardless of what makes most economic sense.

Of major note during the discussion was how to pay for a “just transition.”

Today most economic transition work in the region comes from federal programs including the Appalachian Regional Commission and Abandoned Mine Land program funding, which offer grants to coal-affected communities in the millions of dollars range.

Morris has estimated the region will require tens of billions of dollars over the next decade and would require some kind of regulatory leadership from Washington, D.C., preferably a carbon tax. Democratic candidates who have supported the idea have differing ways to fund it, although most rely heavily on investing in clean energy and decarbonizing the economy through a “Green New Deal.”

Some in the region have encouraged lawmakers and candidates looking at these climate policies to engage with residents directly.

That includes Cecil Roberts, head of the United Mine Workers of America. In September, he spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. He expressed concern the type of sweeping change Democratic presidential candidates are promising may be too big of a lift for Congress given its past track record in helping coal country.

“We want our health care saved, and if you can’t do that, and it’s been 10 years, how do you think we’re going to believe that you’re going to be able to give us a just transition from the coal industry to some other employment?” he said.

Kentucky Conversations 

Chuck Fluharty, President and CEO of the Rural Policy Research Institute, helped to organize a community-centered, just transition model in eastern Kentucky called Shaping Our Appalachian Region, or SOAR. He said SOAR has shown this type of work is possible, especially if a community-centric approach is embraced. However, it’s not easy.

SOAR’s premise is built upon a collective impact investing model that engaged the public, private and philanthropic sectors.

IMG_4112Sydney Boles | Ohio Valley ReSource

Kentucky entrepreneurs show their products at the 2019 SOAR Summit.

“The real proof of the pudding is in how broad collective commitment is, and is it there for the money or is it there for the future?” he said. “How much it is about investing and not simply dropping dollars on the table.”

Some politicians hope to engage coalfield communities directly about how to balance implementing climate legislation while protecting workers and investing in communities. Kentucky Democratic state senator and U.S. Senate candidate Charles Booker recently launched a series of town meetings on the subject in the heart of eastern Kentucky coal country.

Even among those who support a just transition, questions remain about how best to do it. Morris said there is little data on what has worked in economic transitions in the past. Her team has looked at the impact of military base closures, for example, but said the analogy isn’t perfect. Worker retraining efforts often have mixed results.

“There’s this policy design challenge of how do you get from the wholesale dollars of the federal government into well designed retail level grants and assistance and so on,” she said. “I’m still struggling with exactly how you do that in a way that gets those resources out, but does it in a way that that gives people comfort that it’s responsibly allocated.”

In a report published last July, Morris and colleagues at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University quantified just how much of a coal-producing county’s budget came from coal, and how big a hole their budgets might face without coal revenue.

Then the authors turned to the various policy proposals to limit greenhouse gas emissions, which would set a price on each ton of carbon dioxide released to the atmosphere.

Morris said that the revenue generated by such policies could be steered into the type of investments needed and at a scale that would make a just transition more likely.

For example, a carbon tax of $25 per ton would likely raise a trillion dollars in revenue over 10 years, she said.

“And that kind of revenue allows for a very generous support for coal-reliant areas,” Morris said.

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Donald Trump and Pete Buttigieg in splitscreen

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Author of ‘Obama-Biden Mysteries’ will visit Carmichael’s on Wednesday Tuesday, Jul 23 2019 

Vice President Joe Biden arrives in Chicago to see his buddy President Barack Obama speak at a conference and is caught up in St. Patrick’s Day traffic and a murder mystery. How do high-powered, high-profile people solve a crime without being besieged by the public? You’ll have to read the book to find out. Hint: […]