Blowing Wind Turbines vs. Blowing Up Mountains

In the battle to save the Appalachian Mountains from being "removed" by rapacious coal companies, many are advocating a clean energy alternative: wind power.

Some good news on that front: The wind industry now employs more people than coal mining in the United States.

According to a new report by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), wind industry employment increased by 70% in 2008 -- to 85,000 jobs. (Many of these are manufacturing jobs in "Rust Belt" region of the country, states whose industrial economomies have been lagging for a long time.)  Now compare the emerging wind energy sector to the coal industry, which currently employs about 81,000 workers.

Even before the Obama administration's stimulus bill, which provides tax credits to spur wind energy development, this renewable power source began picking up steam.  According to AWEA, installed wind capacity increased 50% last year alone and now powers millions of homes (including mine!).  In fact, wind accounted for 42% of all new electricity generation installed last year in the U.S. 

Most of the new and growing wind farms are popping up in the Midwest, Texas and the West Coast.  But what about the Appalachian region, ground zero for mountaintop removal coal mining?

Now comes the bad news: In places like West Virginia, the power remains with King Coal

Consider the fight over Coal River Mountain.  Our grassroots allies there have been trying to save their mountain from being blasted to bits by the Massey coal company.  They even proposed an alternative project that would generate more power and more jobs from placing wind turbines along the ridge without necessitating the total loss of this majestic mountain.  Alas, state authorities have turned a deaf ear to their pleas and instead have paved the way for mountaintop mining to proceed.

Salon poignantly profiles the local people who are leading the community effort to keep Coal River Mountain intact. 

This issue illulstrates that as President Obama has embraced clean energy and is championing a new, renewable energy path for our country, his administration must also act fast to prevent the senseless destruction of our nation's natural heritage by the very energy industries that put our planet in peril.