Generating a Renewed Energy Future

By Rory McIlmoil
Rory McIlMoil is the Coal River Wind Campaign Coordinator for the Coal River Mountain Watch

Through the employment of Mountaintop Removal (MTR) mining methods, the Appalachian coal industry has evolved. Now it is not merely suppressing economic diversification and prosperity in Appalachia as it has traditionally done. Now it is completely destroying any potential for diversifying and stabilizing rural Appalachian economies in the future. It is time for a new energy and economic development plan that is underwritten by principles of sustainability, justice, localization, and community ownership.

Such a model of development may not be achievable in the short-term, but it is indeed one that can be achieved in the future. To reach that point, there must be a smooth transition directed by thoughtful consideration of the challenges posed by the current situation.

Our current decision-making is exclusive of any ethical standard or democratic process, and excludes the true costs of extraction and energy production from the price of electricity – costs which are instead borne by the workers and the local communities.

Only by reversing these trends will the opportunity for change and renewal in Appalachia naturally present itself, but that opportunity must be cultivated by bringing an immediate end to Mountaintop Removal coal mining, by transferring ownership of the land over to those who live and depend on it, and by pursuing alternative uses of the beautiful Appalachian mountain ridges.

One option that is beginning to present itself is the development of wind power. Grassroots groups such as Coal River Mountain Watch, Appalachian Voices, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, and others, are showing that wind power generates greater social, economic and environmental benefits for Appalachian states and communities than mountaintop removal coal mining does, and they are calling for a transition in order to preserve and re-define their Appalachian culture.

A successful shift towards wind power in Appalachia requires—in sharp contrast to what has occurred over the last 150 years­—the preservation of the mountains, the support of elected representatives, the encouragement of creativity, diversification, and education, and the renewal of community. Wind is a resource that can be developed now. There are thousands of Megawatts of clean wind energy ready to be developed, and in its growth we may begin to see the generation of a new and renewable Appalachia.


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