By Chris Hamilton
November 16, 2021 - As our nation moves forward to implement the trillion dollar bipartisan infrastructure legislation to update and modernize America’s roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure, West Virginia coal will once again be called upon to provide the energy that will create the steel and provide the power to propel this massive, nationwide undertaking.
This is tremendous news that holds great promise for all American citizens and the future of our country. We applaud Senators Manchin and Capito and Congressman McKinley for supporting this transformational legislation.
For West Virginia, this investment is exponentially beneficial. Not only will we see a significant buildout and repair of our infrastructure and transportation systems, but our miners and coal industry stand to be recognized and, hopefully, appreciated for stepping up to meet the task at hand.
Our mining operations and miners are up to the task and will attack it head on with great pride and sophistication as they repeatedly have done for generations.
No other base fuel checks all of these boxes and provides the resiliency of steady, uninterrupted power. Additionally, you cannot make steel from solar or wind energy or from other subsets of intermittent power sources.
This initiative will take a lot of muscle, grit and hard industrialized work with dozers and earth moving equipment running around the clock, advanced mining machinery extracting minerals, cement being poured, and the oiled gears of America doing what they do best.
This ‘nose to the grindstone’ dedication is what built our great nation and transformed it into the world power it remains today. Our industrial base represents the backbone of America and provides the economic foundation for our service industries to market their goods.
And while heavy equipment and industrial facilities will be relied upon to rebuild our infrastructure by miners, steel makers, journeymen, craftsmen, and equipment operators, the manufacturing and machinery used will be more advanced and most likely controlled by onboard computers and new technologies.
This is the evolution of science and technological change which occurs all around us all the time. The older you are, the more change you have witnessed during your lifetime.
The younger you are, the more change you will see in the years to come. It is hard to fathom cell phones and computers have only been household items for a few short decades.
The coal industry has been transformed by these same technological forces and innovation has converted it into a 21st century high tech enterprise with full automation and computerized operations.
The coal industry is challenged today to reduce its carbon footprint so it can remain a part of our energy future. After all, it represents hundreds of thousands of West Virginia jobs (directly and indirectly) throughout our economy.
This industry provides uninterrupted, low-cost electricity for industrial and household consumption and our state’s unmatched quality of metallurgical coal is relied upon throughout the world for basic infrastructure needs.
The industry, and West Virginia collectively, have the brightest technical minds and competencies you will find anywhere in the world, and we are working every minute of every day to develop technologically feasible and commercially viable carbon capture and control technologies. We are fully confident we will realize this objective.
As you witness this incredible once-in-a-lifetime restoration and buildout of America’s infrastructure, think of our miners and industrial workers and what they represent to our great state.
Chris Hamilton is president of the West Virginia Coal Association.