Or is this the face of Clean Coal?
Of course, these are all the faces of clean coal. Coal leads to environmental and human disasters. It leads to the death of 29 miners in West Virginia. It destroys mountains. It tears families apart.
All energy sources have negative consequences. But none so much as coal. The coal companies, especially Massey Energy, which owns the collapsed West Virginia mine, do everything in their power to avoid taking the slightest responsibility for their workers lives or for the Appalachian Mountains. They constantly lobby to weaken safety laws and then continue lobbying to weaken enforcement. They avoid basic safety measures in the mines.
The coal industry still operates in the Gilded Age. They still see their workers as expendable labor in impoverished states with high unemployment rates. They still would like to shoot union organizers and other agitators. In fact, all of Massey's mines remain non-union and Massey president Don Blankenship has threatened to shoot reporters. United Mine Workers president Cecil Roberts has compared Blankenship to the operators of the violent days of the 1910s and 20s.
The coal industry wants the nation to forget about their industry and their mines and the dead workers and the destroyed mountains. Instead, just turn on your lights and bask in coal-fired power. And they have largely succeeded. With the exceptions of mine explosions and dead workers, we have collectively forgotten about coal miners. We make fun of West Virginia rather than sympathize with the people who live there. We forget about the dangerous working conditions. We pay no attention to the fact that the coal industry basically owns the West Virginia state legislature and, to a lesser extent, Kentucky as well.
The coal industry and our relationship to it personifies many unfortunate characteristics of the United States: environmental waste, forgetting about the people who make the products that allow us to live comfortably, allowing corporations to control politics and set regulations. And the recent deaths of 29 workers won't change a bit of it. It'll be in the news for another few days, in the progressive blogosphere for another week or two, and then forgotten about by everyone except for those few of us who follow the coal industry's malevolent dealings.