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Thu Mar 13, 2014, 10:11 AM

Climate change & Appalachian politics: the clash of party and principles

Why is it, come election day, so many of us who identify as Democrats and progressives feel as if we have to hold our noses while voting? Even when the Republican candidates on the ballot would make a Strom Thurmond look like Dennis Kucinich, too many times I feel as if I'm casting a ballot for any alternative, which of course is the person who simply has a (D) beside their name. Unfortunately, in Appalachia too many of the most liberal Democratic candidates could barely impersonate a moderate Republican elsewhere. Nowhere is this more evident, perhaps, than in West Virginia, a state run top to bottom by Democrats. Or so they say.

Look, we all know the money behind the politics here is Big Coal. There's simply no way to explain to anyone looking towards Appalachia from the outside just how completely their political clout has devoured us. So much of the economy of the region is dependent on coal that even nipping at the margins -- a rational discourse on climate change, for instance -- can cost an election. I was reminded of this once again when Alison Lunderson Grimes, who has a real shot at Mitch McConnell's Senate seat, declined to say whether she would participate or even support her fellow Democrats in their recent "Talk-A-Thon" on climate change and how human activity is the cause of changing weather patterns. Rather than proposals about how to wean the Appalachian economy from its dependency on coal she offered more rhetoric about "clean coal technologies" in response.

Long-range plans and proposals hold little sway over unemployed miners and all the businesses that depend on their income in what has been a co-dependent coal economy. It matters not that sooner or later, the Appalachian economy must diversify or die. The expected Indian and Chinese markets for coal have not met expectations due to global economic instability and the most sought-after low-sulfur coal from the Appalachians is also the most expensive, even as market prices have steadily dropped for years now. Developing countries with an insatiable appetite for coal don't really care if their own mines provide a high-sulfur product or that their workers are paid a dollar a day under abysmal conditions. We simply can't compete with that mindset, not unless we're willing to live in a cloud of perpetual, lung-burning smog as many Chinese do, or so poison our environment that we have nary a drop of clean water to drink.

The solution is not to become even more desperate for the cheap way out -- mountaintop removal, lifting of EPA regulations, or undercutting the UMW. The time has come to face facts and challenge the future. Long term investments in education, green technologies and manufacturing, et al could pull Appalachia from its addiction to coal but plans and goals don't put money in the pockets of the very people who could help us to realize those goals. All the best intentions in the world can't foot the bill for political campaigns. Further, since there is absolutely no incentive for Big Coal to encourage a more educated workforce and a technology or manufacturing-based economy, those long-term goals are not going to be promoted even by the standard bearers of our own party. It is a fact that if you keep people poor and dependent, if you deprive their kids of a decent education or even the possibility of a way out, if you keep men and women in constant fear of the next layoff or the next mine that closes, you control them all the way to the statehouses.

What's a progressive Democrat to do in the face of what appears to be such an entrenched force, one that doesn't even recognize it's on the road to extinction? I really don't know. Come November I'll once again cast a ballot for the Democratic candidates not because I'm excited about voting for them but because the alternative is even worse. In the end, I feel ashamed to vote for Democrats who can't even bring themselves to talk about climate change but concern themselves with passing even more restrictive laws against reproductive choice, who can't muster even a meek challenge to those who poison their own citizens en masse but can lead the same masses in revolt against sane gun laws.

And yes, I will wish Alison Lunderson Grimes well in her bid to unseat Mitch McConnell. Pray, who wouldn't? Still, there's a part of me that acknowledges, sadly, that she simply can't do it by throwing down the gauntlet at Big Coal. Not in Appalachia.

For more on this subject, see this recent article:
Alison Lundergan Grimes Unclear on Supporting Senate Democrats Climate Change 'Talk-a-Thon'

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Reply Climate change & Appalachian politics: the clash of party and principles (Original post)
theHandpuppet Mar 2014 OP
theHandpuppet Mar 2014 #1
carolinayellowdog Mar 2014 #2

Response to theHandpuppet (Original post)

Thu Mar 13, 2014, 11:22 AM

1. These are the kinds of leaders we need!

Brown Bill Encourages Investment
By Frank Lewis
19 hours ago
By Frank Lewis
[email protected]

According to figures from the office of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Scioto County projects have benefited from the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) to the tune of $16,392,885.

Brown held a news conference call to announce his first of its kind legislation that would incentive manufacturing investment in local communities hit hard by major manufacturing job loss. Brown outlined details of the Manufacturing Communities Investment Act, new legislation which would build on the proven success of the NMTC. Brown told reporters NMTC incentivizes community developers to invest in low income areas. Brown said his bill would spur local job creation by extending and enhancing the NMTC to allocate additional dollars for investment in struggling manufacturing communities.

“In Ohio, we know that manufacturing has been a ticket to the middle class,” Brown said. “And one of the reasons why our manufacturing sector is growing is the success of the New Markets Tax Credit. But despite this progress, there are still too many manufacturing communities struggling since the Great Recession. We should apply the proven principles of the New Markets Tax Credit to help these communities. The Manufacturing Communities Investment Act would spur manufacturing investment to help create jobs and replace those that communities lost.”

In Scioto County, 18 projects in the city of Portsmouth totaled $12,018,780 in NMTC funding for a total cost of $15,404,476; two projects in McDermott totaled $2,202,000 in NMTC funding, the total cost of the project; In New Boston, $1 million in NMTC funding was involved in a project there, which was the total cost of the project; A project in Franklin Furnace showed $529,105 in NMTC funding with a total cost of $594,500; A project in Wheelersburg reflected $476,000 in NMTC funding, the total price of the project and in Lucasville, NMTC funding of $167,000 contributed to a project totalling $477,000.... MORE

Kentucky govt. diverts economic development funds from Appalachian counties for basketball arena

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Response to theHandpuppet (Reply #1)

Thu Mar 13, 2014, 07:07 PM

2. Fortunately, Tim Kaine is another such voice

"Virginians want to be leaders in this stuff." A Senator who speaks for me!

Democrats are adding to their Obamacare efforts with an economic message. They have made no secret of their intention to pursue economic issues that motivate their voter base, including a minimum-wage increase, equal-pay-for-equal-work legislation, and an extension of long-term unemployment-insurance benefits.

This week, they added climate change to the list of issues. Led by Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Democrats talked overnight on the Senate floor about the perils of man-made climate change. Unlike with the other economic efforts, though, there’s no accompanying legislation, and Republicans roundly criticized the event as a public-relations ploy.

Whether the talkathon produces any meaningful debate or legislation seems dubious. But the issue is popular with Democratic voters in some states. In Virginia, where Democratic Sen. Mark Warner faces Republican challenger and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, Kaine says he has taken voters’ temperature on the issue and found it to be a winner.

“Virginians want to be leaders in this stuff,” Kaine said. “When I was running in 2012 I asked people—because I’m such a strong believer [that] we’ve got to do something about climate—I asked people what they thought, and Virginians agree, not surprisingly.”

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