Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

September 29, 2012

2012 election still favors incumbent but six crucial weeks remain to decide outcome

By LARRY HYPES
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— Obama wins — if the election were held today. At least, that is what political analyst Mark Halperin writes. According to Halperin, the August political conventions boosted both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama but the pollsters say Obama’s stock rose more sharply and that a larger bloc of Democrats than Republicans are now behind their respective major candidate. Halperin also says his sources indicate that Michelle Obama is a much more effective campaigner than Ann Romney while former president Bill Clinton is apparently proving to be a more valuable ally than anyone the GOP has yet brought forth.

Halperin says that the October debates will be crucial while swing states like Ohio and Indiana could decide the election.

Locally, it appears that West Virginia will once again choose the Republican candidate with an overwhelming support of the coal industry, which is not the fuel of choice of the Obama administration. Coal officials, miners, and those dependent on the jobs coal provides insist one of the major concerns about opposing coal is that no substantial alternative is being offered and will not be available in the foreseeable future. More inexpensive natural gas, ethanol, and solar energy are making inroads into the national power grid but coal remains a fundamental fuel to keep the lights burning. Whether King Coal can determine the people’s choice in a democracy remains to be seen.

Journalist Michael Sherer, in another political commentary entitled “Coal, Hard Truths” focuses on the industry, its supporters, and workers who are intent on defeating Obama — whether they are sold on Romney or not. The article begins with comments from an Ohio coal operator who is very concerned that for the last half century the candidate who has won the Buckeye state has moved into the White House. This gentleman, one Robert Murray, is convinced that if Romney does not win, his own Ohio coal company will be forced out of business. At the end of September, Romney trails in Ohio by roughly four percentage points.

Across the country in 2012, Murray and many others including the West Virginia Coal Association are at war with the Obama administration. Not only the coal operations but the oil industry is in the battle for a fight to the finish. It has often been pointed out that in the most recent State of the Union message, the president referred to the oil companies as “purveyors of yesterday’s energy” and they have since been relentless in their opposition to him and their support of the Republican ticket.

That shows most markedly in the dollars being poured into the campaign coffers. Nearby Alpha Natural Resources has reportedly given at least $100,000 to anti-Obama efforts. Nationally, the trend is very similar. The Center for Responsive Politics notes that fossil fuel companies are putting their pocketbooks where their mouths are. So far, an estimated $9 million has been raised by the coal groups with only about $1 million of that total being headed toward the Democrats. Oil contributions are even more pronounced, as of the $36 million earmarked for the November ballot funding, some $33 million has been donated to the Republican ticket.

Rules and regulations, the Environmental Protection Agency, and a slew of statistics on both sides have combined to further heat up the battle over energy. Although Obama has said he is not trying to kill off coal but instead is open to using all forms of energy with an emphasis on cleaner fuels, he has definitely sought more regulation on oil and gas, along with coal, than Romney has. Opponents of Romney insist that many coal-fired energy plants now slated for closure are operated by companies whose executives knew years ago that stricter rules were coming but chose instead to hope those guidelines would not come down.

They have, and now the battle lines are drawn and the accusations are flying thicker than ever. Citizens are fearful of what will happen to energy costs whether they be at the gasoline pump or in the electric bill, or both.

Men like Murray, also oppose the United Mine Workers of America and do not believe global warming is a scientifically proven fact, are convinced Obama will kill the coal industry. They are willing to devote time and money, hoping that their own energy will save coal powered energy.

Right now, both sides are burning the midnight oil in an effort to strike political gold, and whether it will be of the bituminous variety is yet to be determined.

 Larry Hypes is a teacher at Tazewell High School and a columnist for the Daily Telegraph.