June 26, 2006

Coal Sucks

I realize no one outside of West Virginia will care about this, but WVU and Marshall (the two major universities in WV) have recently agreed to play football once a year against each other. This hasn't happened in a very long time (ever? I'm not a sports guy). Why do we care? The new game will be called the "Friends of Coal Bowl".

Fuck coal.

West Virginia produces lots of coal. They do so through various processes that tend to wreck the environment. This produces lots of money (some of which is paid to the coal miners, some of which is paid in taxes to West Virginia, most of which leaves this state and goes to energy corporations). However, coal isn't renewable (you can only burn a ton of coal once). West Virginia also produces tourism. We're only a little over three hours from DC, and only six or so from everything from New York City to Philly. Tourism is a renewable resource (many people can pay to look at the same mountain over and over again). Tourism and coal don't mix (no one will pay to look at the hole where the mountain used to be). While granting that coal does produce money and jobs in WV, many people feel that coal is not the future of WV, but that tourism is. The more we promote coal today (and let it continue to flatten mountains to dig up the coal), the more we hurt our future revenues in tourism (fewer mountains to look at means fewer tourists in the future).

The coal industry, of course, disagrees. Thus, they advertise (heavily) to promote how wonderful their industry is, and how it benefits everybody (taxes, jobs, flat places to put outlet malls, etc.). One result of the coal industry's advertising is this new "Friends of Coal Bowl."

I'm annoyed that my employer seems to be promoting coal by appearing in this game (which isn't a bowl game, since the same two teams will always be in it).

Fuck the "Friends of Coal".

Posted by baltar at June 26, 2006 03:23 PM | TrackBack | Posted to Ecology | Sports | West Virginia




Tourism is a sucky industry on which to base a local economy. Just ask the Hawaiians.

Posted by: jacflash at June 26, 2006 03:49 PM | PERMALINK

Not disagreeing, just noting that once the coal runs out (or gets banned: WV's coal is "high sulphur", which is more problematic for environmental reasons than coal out west), we've got nothing else left. And moving towards tourism now will be much easier than trying to revive tourism later.

Posted by: baltar at June 26, 2006 03:54 PM | PERMALINK

I'm less annoyed with the name (I mean I used to live in the home of the Weedeater Bowl) than I am with the existence of this game in the first place. Putting this on the schedule does NOTHING for WVU except force us to play an overly energized 2nd (or 3rd) rate opponent who actually care about a game that gives us nothing if we win it (for the problems that this might cause, just look at the recent history of the basketball games between these two teams). It's a travesty and anti-WVU that it was created in the first place. Yet another reason to loathe Joe Manchin (who campaigned for governor calling for it, and who is sadly very popular here in WV).

Posted by: Armand at June 26, 2006 09:57 PM | PERMALINK

Armand: Your gubernatorial candidates campaign on platforms that include calls for college fooball games? Wow. (Not disbelieving you, just being stunned. I've lived in New England for most of my non-collegiate life, and things are, uh, different here.)

Baltar: I wholeheartedly agree with every point you made about coal. And if tourism is what WV has, then it's what WV has. That said, have you ever made it to Hawaii? It's a stark example of the limits of a tourism-based economy.

Posted by: jacflash at June 27, 2006 07:56 AM | PERMALINK

Well, I for one LOVE Hawaii - but then I don't live there.

And calling it a "campaign" is more than a bit of a stretch. Gov. Manchin basically breezed into the governor's mansion on a strong wind with no real opposition. I mean he comes from a long-standing Democratic family in the North Central part of the state (so check off the yellow dog, tradition-minded, conservative Democrats), business loves him (so check off the business elites in both parties and most Republicans), he's ardently pro-life (so no worries about having a librul Dem as governor, and check off the rest of the Republicans), he refused to debate (even acknowledge really) his Democratic primary opponents who didn't have his name recognition, his most qualified Republican opponent (Capehart) lacked funds, and the eventual nominee came from a very rich well-connected family, but other than money and ties to the Republican Party establishment in the state had very little going for him.

Basically Manchin clearly avoided discussing anything on which there might be the slightest bit of disagreement (and there's not enough of a press here to demand that he actually do that) and with the strengths he had and the weaknesses of his opponents - he won in a landslide without really even having to run. And he remains one of the nation's most popular governors.

Now if only Sen. Byrd would stop calling him the handsomest governor - that's creepy enough to start with - but coming from that anti-gay dinosaur it's even more creepy.

Posted by: Armand at June 27, 2006 09:18 AM | PERMALINK

Again, I'm not disagreeing with the limits of a tourism-based economy, just noting that tourism seems to be our strength. What else have we got? Byrd has managed to divert a mess of US Government institutions here, but even given that we're not a booming business/tech/manufacturing economy. Nor are we likely to be, since we can't compete with the places more central (location) or better positioned (in terms of education, resources, money, etc.). Thus, tourism.

The thing is, as I noted, that tourism and coal mining don't mix: the more of one we have, the less of the other we can. Thus, the low-level ongoing fight in the state.

Posted by: baltar at June 27, 2006 09:49 AM | PERMALINK

Even if a tourism economy isn't the ideal, if you think about relative advantage, what really does WV have a relative advantage in? Our human capital is not much different from surrounding areas, even if we fiddle with corporate tax incentives can we really compete with Alabama and Mississippi and SC? Finally, even though they've done corridor H and we have I68 going to DC, WV doesn't have the easily accessible transport (or ports) that other southern states do (plus, we're not flat, no matter how fast Blankenship and his peers are removing mountaintops). The advantage we have is that our underdevelopment has left us with more green. Everyone else has Wal-Mart, and they don't have to travel to get it. And they are sure as hell not coming here to go to the Hot Spot.

Posted by: binky at June 27, 2006 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Armand, I love Hawaii too. My spouse and I spent two weeks there a few years back -- a week on Maui, diving, and a week on the big island, wandering around the "real Hawaii". Turns out that the real Hawaii is mostly broke, with high unemployment, few jobs that aren't low-level service work, and lousy public education. The coffee was fabulous, though.

Again, I have no better idea, and a tourism-based economy certainly sounds better than blowing up mountains in pursuit of high-sulphur coal. One just needs to be sober-minded about the limitations.

Posted by: jacflash at June 27, 2006 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

True. And you're right that tourism isn't a panacea. However given that WV is never going to be Manhattan (barring encroaching climate change beaches to our eastern shores), if I have a choice of some kind of wage slavery for my state, I'll pick tourism over coal. The externalities are much less awful. Plus, I'm selfish. I like to see green stuff, and go out in the woods. And as a good capitalist, I put my money in the economy to maximize my expected utility. Hence the bags of ropes, harnesses, climbing shoes, sleeping bags, etc that I have purchased from locally owned businesses.

Posted by: binky at June 27, 2006 11:27 AM | PERMALINK
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