Kentucky Governor Beshear gets it WAY wrong on coal

Governor Steve Beshear is a fine man.  He’s been a supporter and mentor to me over the years.  But his State of the Commonwealth address Tuesday night has really put me off.  In one speech he has managed to bring Kentucky to new lows, both by his disrespect of the help the State received from the Federal Government – pandering to the right wing tea partiers – as well as his absolute shameless and dishonest pandering to the Coal Corporations.

In his speech he said the following:

“Coal provides 90 percent of our electricity and – because our rates are low – has helped us build a robust manufacturing industry.  Our coal industry is in jeopardy because Washington bureaucrats continue to try to impose arbitrary and unreasonable regulations on the mining of coal.  To them I say ‘Get off our backs!’  I will fight you for the right to cleanly and safely mine coal.  I will fight you on behalf of 18,000 Kentucky coal miners who are working to feed their families.  And I will fight you to keep this nation strong by supplying it with the energy it needs to remain the beacon of democracy in a troubled world.”

To quote Sarah Palin:  “WTF?”  These statements are not even true as I’ll show in a moment.  But more than that, what the Governor really said was “we don’t want educated people to either come or even stay here.  Our minds are closed, and we’re ready to fight!”

What bright young person who was concerned with the future of our planet, and the people who live on it, would ever be excited about living in Kentucky? It sounds dangerous here.  Dangerous and dangerously backward.

So, our Governor has sent a message to the future that Kentucky just didn’t get it at the exact moment when we could have put ourselves into a beneficial position for the rest of the century.  Instead, we’ll continue living in the 19th century.

Now, about the Governor’s claims.  “A robust manufacturing industry”?  Bullshit. That’s just not true. Look at this chart showing manufacturing employment in Kentucky.

Do you see ANYTHING “robust” about it?  Yeah, our great coal based electric rates are so cheap that Kentucky has managed to LOSE over 100,000 manufacturing jobs in the last 10 years.

What about those “18,000 Kentucky coal miners who are working to feed their families”?  We’ll there used to be a hell of a lot more.  But the wonderful coal corporations have found ways to mine the stuff without needing so many people.  It takes a lot less people to mine coal when you simply bulldoze the top of a mountain to get to it.

Look at this chart:

We are “ready to fight” over an industry that is dying.  From this chart it would appear that Kentucky has passed peak coal, and it has certainly passed peak employment in the coal industry.  Why on earth would we put so much effort into trying to prop it up?  Oh, so we can be a “beacon of democracy in a troubled world.”  Excuse me while I puke.  See, this translates to “so we can keep the profits flowing to a few angry white men.”

And while we’re pointing out the blatant falsehoods that the Governor forced on our state, let’s tackle the whole “electricity is really cheap here because of coal.”  We’ve been led to believe that somehow Kentucky has magically low electricity rates because of our coal industry.  Yet, look at the map.

Why there are LOTS of states with very similar electric rates.  And better educated workforces, and cleaner environments, and less backward mentalities….is it any wonder that our magical cheap electricity hasn’t made any difference in the overall conditions of this state?

This is so disappointing.  Kentucky isn’t moving forward.  Maybe I was naive to think we had a chance.

The HL does a great job of exposing the Governor’s blatant – and cynical – hypocrisy regarding help from DC.

Read the whole speech here.


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