by Bill Mardis
The president of Kentucky Coal Association (KCA), crediting coal with providing light and warmth in The Center for Rural Development on a frigid day; put a troubled but pretty face on Eastern Kentucky coal; placed KCA’s stamp of approval on U.S. Senator McConnell and counted the days until President Obama leaves office.
Speaking to the January membership meeting of Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce, Bill Bissett declared: “We knew these lights would be on (in this building) ... that it would be warm. That’s what coal provides,” he assured.
Bissett said coal generates more than 90 percent of Kentucky’s electricity and Kentucky benefits from affordable electricity. The average cost of electricity in Kentucky is 7.191 cents per kilowatt hour, one of the lowest rates in the United States, he noted.
“There is one word for coal – that is change,” said Bissett. “Coal is embracing that change but it does create concerns.”
According to Bissett, the coal industry has lost more than 6,000 direct jobs, and 18,000 people indirectly connected to the coal industry are out of work. Coal production in Eastern Kentucky is down 30 percent, Bissett said.
However, the KCA president pointed out that 40 million tons of coal were mined in Eastern Kentucky last year “ ... and that’s a lot of coal ... we need to remember that.”
“Is there a future for Kentucky coal?” Bissett asked. His answer was “yes:”
Bissett flashed photographs of McConnell, a Republican, and the U.S. Senator’s Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes. Bissett said Grimes has made statements appearing supportive of the coal industry “ ... but I believe she lacks ‘specificity’ to be a stronger supporter of coal than McConnell.”
He said McConnell has been a chief opponent of Obama, whom he says is trying to take away the international market for coal.
Coal will continue but it’s going to change,” Bissett concluded.