Tuesday, April 6, 2010


West Virginia State Police direct traffic at the entrance to Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Coal Mine Monday, April 5, 2010 in Montcoal, W.Va. (AP Photo)

25 Dead in West Virginia Mine Blast, Worst Since 1984

MONTCOAL, W.Va. (AP) - Rescue teams planned to search again for four workers missing in a coal mine where a massive explosion killed 25 in the worst U.S. mining disaster in more than two decades, though officials said Tuesday that the chances were slim that the miners survived.

Life is hard in the coal country of West Virginia, harder than most of us can possibly imagine. A long-time friend of mine is from the coal country, and his stories of life in that land are sobering to say the least. It is difficult to believe that such poverty exists in North America that we have in the Appalachians.

The miners go down in the ground every day, year in year out, suffer black lung and risking their lives to bring us the fuel that provides an estimated 23% of our nation's energy.

Most electricity (52% in 2000) in the country is generated from coal-fired power plants. Another way to look at it is half the power that's running the lights and the computer you're looking at right this very moment is the result of the labors of men like those twenty five souls who perished yesterday in a horrible accident in Montcoal, West Virginia.

Why do we derive so much of our energy from a source that is so problematic? Why aren't we using more clean energy like wind, solar, and hydro? Why is only a mere 7.3% of our energy from renewable sources - mainly from hydroelectric dams?

Let me tell you something - if it worked, we would use it. It costs a lot of money up front - money that comes from investors willing to take the risk - to get a mining operation going. If there was a more sure way of getting a return on those bucks from, say, the wind or the sun - we would have done it a hundred years ago.

We do it, in fact, with hydroelectric - because it works. The problem is there are only so many geographic sites that are suitable for a dam to be placed to produce hydroelectric power.

The Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River is the largest hydroelectric power-producing facility in the United States and the fifth largest producer of hydroelectricity in the world.

"But oh," you say, "the energy companies are robber barons, and they MAKE us use coal because they make money that way!" Sorry, does not compute. If there was a cheap, guaranteed way of getting money from the wind, the country would be festooned with windmills from sea to shining sea. Energy poor countries in the tropic - where there is plenty of sunshine - would have acres and acres of solar panels.

The coal and oil companies were not able to stop the nuclear power industry - it took government and the environmental movement to put a damper on that relatively clean source of energy. 20% of the nation's total electric energy consumption comes from nuclear power plants, and if the government could manage itself properly, the cost of nuclear-generated electric power would almost be free.

Schematic of a pressurized water nuclear power plant.

And so our lingering dependency on fossil fuels, and continuing human tragedy like what is playing out in Montcoal, West Virginia even now as I type . . .

God rest their souls . . . pray for the miners and their families . . . and pray for a miracle that four missing West Virginia coal miners will be found alive . . .

- Sean Linnane



  1. If the gubbmint has to be involved in nuclear power, why not put the US Navy in charge? They have a very good track record regarding nuclear safety, being as they have tens of thuosands of men at sea with nuclear reactors on their ships every day and you don't hear much about carriers and submarines having meltdowns or huge contamination accidents.

    Maybe we just need a larger carrier fleet and they can plug into the local grid when they're in port like they do when they go to disaster areas in third world countries to supply power and comms, as well as clean desalinized water?

  2. Has anyone else visited the huge nuclear power plant at Glen Rose, Texas? It supplies a lot of the power for northeast Texas. Also there is at least a 200 year supply of petroleum and natural gas under the whole of West Texas. You will also see wind turbines all over West Texas. My husband spent 23 years in the army, and was among the first of the nucleur power groups stationed at the City under the Ice in Greenland. We should make a lot more use of nucleur power. Mary in Mission, Texas.

  3. This has been always a life of toil and pain. Reducing the issue to soundbites does it an enormous disservice, and the people who take it in the neck are now, and have been historically, the folks on the front lines.


  4. Yes my wife Mary said I was in the Army for 23 years and 13 of those years were in Nuclear Power plants that belonged to the Army. The Navy had one at the South Pole and The Air Force had one in Sundance , Wyoming. The Army had a plant at Ft. Belvoir , Virginia to train the Army , Air Force And Navy Seabees. The Army had a plant in Ft. Greeley , Alaska , one in Greenland called the city under the ice. They also were working in one in Idaho that had a bad accident and killed 2 men I believe. The accident was caused by the 2 men doing something that they were not allowed to do. I am not too clear on the details as happened before i joined the Nuclear Power group.

  5. Don't tell the hippies, but downhill from my Central highlands in Austin, The University of Texas maintains a research reactor. It's nominally part of UT Advanced Institute for Technology, which is a collaborative UT-US Army program in hypervelocity weapons and electrodynamic research. It's right around the corner from a bunch of hippie think tanks and leftist California import programmer neighborhoods and coffeehouses too.

    Makes me giggle when I think about what they just don't know as they're having their anti-America rallies nearby.

    1. Why you hate the hippies, they just make their way through this chaotic life like you.

  6. We have been finishing all of our natural resources and now time to make some change in our process and try to make electricity from nuclear process.