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Humpty Dumpty Says: When I Say Alternative Energy, I Mean Coal!
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by Jim Sconyers, Chapter Chair | 2009

A comparison of our dear Governor with a famous childrens' riddle makes one wonder who or what is minding the store in Charleston.

Who is that man in the governor’s mansion? Other than West Virginia’s preeminent Friend of Coal, that is.

Listening to Joe Manchin describe his “alternative energy” (no, I’m not kidding, this is what he really calls it) bill, I thought I had nailed him down.

It’s Governor Humpty Dumpty occupying that nice mansion beside the Kanawha River (where he can admire the endless coal barges). After all, it was Humpty Dumpty who said, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.” Following in the footsteps, when Joe uses the term “alternative energy” it means exactly what he chooses it to mean.

OK, maybe Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty lacks dignity, and you think there is a more admirable literary model for the words from Our Joe’s mouth. Let me peruse my reference materials now (I’m old school and it takes me a minute to think of Google).

Ah ha - here’s a much more salubrious voice, so admired for centuries: it’s William Shakespeare! What he said: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” I had no idea Joe was so closely aligned in thought and purpose to the Bard himself. He obviously took this sentiment to heart and knows how to apply it.

Now to get down to cases. Let me ask, do you have a pretty clear idea of what people mean when they talk about “alternative energy?” I think you do. It probably includes wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, and other kinds of energy. They are “alternatives” to our heavily used traditional fossil fuels - primarily coal and oil.

Governor Dumpty shoved a bill through the legislature this session that at first glance sounded great. West Virginia would require its electric utilities to include 20% “alternative energy” in the fuel used to produce the electric power they sell to customers. Great! Many states already have similar requirements.

But read the bill, and you experience surprise, shock, and disgust (generally in that order). “Alternative energy” means what Joe chooses it to mean, and the coal rose would actually smell a lot sweeter if we call it by a new name (sorry Will). When Joe says alternative energy, he means: coal (advanced coal technology), coal (waste coal), and coal (coal gasification). Oh, and how’s this for an alternative fuel: “tirederived fuel”? Burning tires - probably not what you’d have answered if asked to name some alternative energy fuels!

To cap the bill off, and to follow more directly in Humpty Dumpty’s footsteps, the bill includes “any other method certified as an alternative energy resource by the Public Service Commission.” You can see where we’re headed with this: If Joe and his PSC say it’s alternative, then it’s alternative - no matter how mainstream, dirty, etc. the so-called “alternative” is.

Of course, our Joe was not able to pass this bill single-handedly. He needed your elected representatives in the Capitol to give him the votes, which they were happy to do.

You don’t need to go to the Oxford English Dictionary or Wikipedia to know a “mockery” when you see one. Sorry to say, a mockery is exactly what the governor and legislature have given us in this alternative energy bill. No bill at all would have been better.

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