Fueling the Fires of Ignorance

June 7, 2012 Pikeville, KY. Coal rally and EPA hearings at the Expo Center – Power Progress Coal

If you take time to frequent a pro-coal Facebook page such as Count on Coal, you may or may not be surprised by the rhetoric you find there, most of which aimed at the EPA. What is most disturbing however, is the amount of blind support they receive from the coal mining workforce.

There is nothing new or strange about the coal industry fighting regulations. One need only recall the industry’s sometimes violent resistance to labor unions. From the industry perspective, unions threatened to increase inexpensive labor costs, taking a large swath out of their profits when higher wages were demanded. What’s more, production would ultimately slow through the implementation of additional safety measures. Cheap expendable labor had made coal operators fantastically rich and no reason, not even the suffering and death of over 100,000 coal miners from 1880 to 1950, would be enough to sway their ravenous greed.

The  present day coal industry, who I identify as being the CEOs, company vice presidents, board members, politicians, and shareholders reaping the biggest benefits from their business, continued this resistance to unions and have succeeded in removing most of them. Today, neither Kentucky nor Virginia has a single union coal mine.

The power of the industry has been influential over the years. Coal companies capable of committing resources to industry associations give them nearly limited resources to convey their message. Along with the well laid economic trap placed before the people of Appalachia, one in which few job opportunities exist outside of coal (thank your local coal funded politicians), the industry has forced a desperation and ignorance upon the people that has them forgetting their past and fighting for coal’s future. One could best describe it as a regional case of Stockholm Syndrome.

The industry began campaigns offering up biased “news” to miners and their families, convincing them that all of their problems are to be blamed on the EPA, the president, and “treehuggers.” There tactics have been overwhelmingly successful, diverting attention away from the true reasons behind economic stagnation, and even going so far as to co-opt the pride and heritage of coal miners, pitting them against “outsiders intent on destroying a long standing history and proud way of life.”

By maintaining the status quo, of “coal is all we’ve got,” it is understandable that people become easily outraged when the “only job in town” is being “threatened”; still there is a point in which we must stop and ask ourselves, can the coal industry be entirely to blame for the many unfounded assumptions?

Throughout history, and even today, there has been case after case of people raised and taught to believe that an abusive system of government or economics is acceptable, only to stop and educate themselves to the truth of their situation and begin to fight back. When gauged against such people, what does this say about the many present day coal miners who protect the coal industry’s agenda?

In other words, should we be blaming the coal industry for the mess that Appalachia is currently in, or should we blame the ignorance of those who fight blindly for the industry?

There is one point I must make before going further. There is a difference between intentional ignorance and unintentional ignorance. For decades the health effects of smoking tobacco were unknown to the masses due to many factors, including a well funded tobacco industry lobby and the lack of communication and statistical analysis within the medical industry at that time. After it was established that smoking was indeed bad for your health, people had a choice to make –continue smoking as idiotic as it may be, or quit. Those who came before the implementation of warning labels were not given the evidence to make such an educated choice (though it was pretty obvious to most that those who smoked often developed health issues). Earlier smokers were therefor unintentionally ignorant of the fact that smoking was seriously detrimental to their health. Smokers today who ignore the facts have no such excuse and would be consider to be intentionally ignorant.

The following comments were posted on the “Count on Coal” Facebook page. I’ll let you be the judge….

“I personally want to send a big shout out to Obumma [sic] and the EPA. As I sit here at work wondering when the layoffs are starting. [sic] And yes we have already been told there will be layoffs due to the selling of several of our mines. [sic] Will I have a job wont [sic] know for a week or two. But I can tell you one thing even if I do there will be so many others that will not. So thank you. [sic] You Muslim loving America hating so called president of ours.” – Debbie Oates Kadar

“Lets do away with the E. P. A. So our country can get back to useing [sic] COAL and Coal fired Power plants. They want to get rid of our jobs so I think we should get rid of Theirs, [sic] and dont [sic] be long at it.” –Wade Mcneely

“Lets all run the EPA out of America!”  –Gail Spooner

 “the goverment dose not stop to think how the stupid regulations affect the people in the united states , loss of jobs and health care together . if , we the people , are not put in a position to take care of our families and our country , who do they (goverment) think will be able to support them in the uptown way they are use to . Coal has keep america going for many years and if they will back off it will keep us strong . lets keep the lights on , coal family [sic]”-Larry Rowe

We get to see the truth of how a coal industry funded public relations campaign works well to fuel the ignorance of the public, creating unfounded animosities towards regulatory agencies and the people who support them. But then, people are taking it to the next level by the individuals, who are calling for the end of regulations of which the rest of the nation depends upon to keep from being poisoned by the greed of all industry…not just coal.

I cannot help but hang my head when I see the stupidity of other people calling for the end of regulation–people who never seem to take a  moment to consider the consequences of what they are proposing.

Few consider what life is like in other countries where industry regulations are nearly non existent. Just this past week I had the opportunity to meet a man whom the term “courageous” does not even come close to describing. His name was Anibal Perez, a Colombian man who has witnessed the destructive forces and violence against his people instigated by the Drummond Coal Company surrounding their operations in Columbia. Drummon Coal is a company based in the USA that is profiting immensely from reduced regulations in a foreign country. They profit due to cheap labor (lack of unions or government oversight) and for lax to non-existent environmental regulations. For speaking out about the human suffering and environmental damage caused by Drummond Coal,  Perez has faced death threats from company supported paramilitary forces.
From mine blasts that would make anything in Appalachia look like a damp firecracker, to pumping millions of gallons of coal slurry straight into the ocean where it comes back onto the beaches, Drummond Coal works without the worry of  safety and environmental regulations. They maintain the status quo by having their company funded paramilitary assassinate people fighting for basic human rights.

For those who keep telling us that we need to get rid of the EPA and other protective federal regulations, they should take a little more time to see what’s going on in the rest of the world–in other countries who do not have regulations.They need to see things such as:

China’s Toxic Smog Problem
India’s Ship Scrapping Yard
and the pollution of the Nigerian Delta


This is what happens when companies, many of them US based, get to do what they want without the problem of “regulations.” I’m surprised anyone with any intelligence would call for the same conditions in their own country.

4 thoughts on “Fueling the Fires of Ignorance

  1. I grew up in Columbus, Ohio to parents both from Pike County, Ky. My father and mother made the decision prior to my birth to relocate before having a family because my father did not want to work in the coal mines after all of the loss and suffering he experienced first hand. I spent every summer of my youth in Pike County and I remember very well driving past several coal burning plants on the way and having to cover my nose until the stench of the sulfur were miles behind me. I grew up loving those mountains and loving the miners that mined them. I had admiration for their hard work. However I have also witnessed the beauty of the mountains eroded and mountain top removal the new standard. I often have disagreements with my family that still lives in Eastern Ky. They either do not understand why we must move beyond coal out of ignorance or out of determination to keep the status quo. Any mention of the suffering of our environment and the people seems to fall on deaf ears. Havoc is ongoing in the mining industry with the regulations we have in place now. Could you imagine how the industry would behave without the regulations? It sadly seems so many worship the almighty dollar over the land and health of the people that live in Appalachia.


  2. Sadly, I could image how the industry would behave without regulations, it's going on in Columbia right now with Drummond Coal.

    There is a great deal of ignorance surrounding the coal issue back home, but if you really think about it, it's not only coal and not only Appalachia. Its happening all across the United States, across the entire world. People have become so dependent upon the economy for their happiness and survival that folks are willing to blindly protect the corporation corrupted political systems to ensure a steady paycheck, even if that means giving up their rights as laborers and the right to clean air and water that future generations will need to survive. Appalachia is just one place, just one struggle, and just once group of people who are not wising up to the fact that we are all made to suffer while the rich get richer.


  3. Coal fuels our valley. It runs our economy and provides hundreds of jobs throughout our valley and the surrounding areas. In the early 1980's our coal mines were shut down because the market dropped. There were no jobs. People left the valley and our economy bottomed. Years later they were started up again and people slowly came back to our community. Our water is still crystal clear and our environment is still healthy. It is wrong to say that coal mines ruin the environment, it is wrong to stero type. Our valley supplies some of the cleanest coal in the U.S. Last year, one of our three coal mines caught on fire and we had to seal off the mine. The eco- system wasn't hurt but our economy was. The mine was shut down. Hundreds of hard working men lost thier jobs. Our mines supply jobs not only in the valley but to other businesses like: our local Co-op for delivering and suppling fuel, Dodge for making the only diesel truck “Cummins” that is certified to run under ground, Machine shops for suppling parts and hundreds of other business's needed to help the mine opperate. If you take coal mining away your not only taking the jobs of the miners themselves away but youre firing the employees of other opperations. Coal is a big deal… Its cheap, efficient, and it supplies our nation with jobs. I support coal. I come from a coal mining family and I am proud to be a coal miners daughter. (EARTH FIRST…. WE WILL MINE THE OTHER PLANETS LATER!!!)


  4. There's is really no need to reply to this. Your argument is purely economical and it is obvious you have shut out any other argument except that coal is clean and good. Like the family's of Hinkley, California, you bought into everything the company says, companies who make a lot of profit off the land and people and exploit them all the way. Your valley may not have been as impacted, but go to Georges Fork near Clintwood, Virginia…do a Google earth search and look at some of the pictures just to the west. Our creek isn't clean, our spring isn't clean.

    Do a Google Image search for acid mine drainage, coal slurry spill, slurry impoundment, slurry injection or just coal water pollution.

    Grab a book called Appalachian Health and Well Being which is a compilation of reports and statistic with analysis by two doctors who have studied the reasons people are in poorer health.


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