Alternative energy in Ky. realistic, mandatory

This letter is a response to an April 9 column titled “Coal industry vital to UK, commonwealth.”

As Mr. Phipp’s correctly acknowledged, Kentucky is currently dependent on coal. This relationship has been quite destructive to the local and global environment, as one simply needs to see the iconic images of a mountaintop removal “restoration” site to understand.

However, Mr. Phipp is not correct in his assessment of job figures related to coal in Kentucky. According to a 2006 report by the Mountain Association of Community and Economic Development, in 2004 only 13,000 jobs were direct coal mining jobs in Eastern Kentucky.

This number has continued to dramatically decrease as coal companies continue to choose profits over people with their increased mechanization of the industry.

It goes without question that at one time the economy of Kentucky was dependent on the industry, but according to the same report, less than 1 percent of the jobs in Kentucky were directly a result of the coal industry.

These figures are quite remarkable to those who are accustomed to the coal industry rhetoric describing the importance of mining in our great state.

In a report published in 2011 by Harvard professor Paul Epstein, the coal industry actually cost the U.S. $500 billion.

Beyond health problems, add the cost of coal’s effect on land use, energy consumption and food prices, plus the cost of toxic waste spills and cleanup. This figure shows how detrimental this industry truly is.

Coal is a finite resource and we need to start moving to alternative sources to help future generations make an easier, quicker transition.

Many studies have proven that geothermal is viable in Kentucky, and the university administration is pursuing this option in their new dormitories.

Kentucky actually has a higher solar potential than Germany and it is the highest solar producing country in the world. There are regions of Eastern Kentucky where wind is a viable resource.

Some might like to call our incessant pleas idealistic, but the overwhelming scientific research would not only call it realistic, but mandatory if we want our children to lead happy, healthy lives.

Please be creative in your critical thought about this issue and understand that industry and corporate rhetoric is meant to do one thing: blind the public from the truth to increase profits.

Elaine Alvey is a political science senior. Email

Cost of coal. External costs must be considered in the true cost of coal. When that is done the cost of alternatives is favorable. Solar will be the energy of the future. Wind is most favored at higher elevations, but when you blast off hundreds of feet of elevation that benefit is negated. I don’t particularly like wind turbines but their impact is reversible. Not so with MTR which is irreversible. Mountains cannot be rebuilt (read Dr. Palmer’s article in Science). Under the best of conditions it would take at least hundreds of years for forests to be recovered to their once beautiful state. Fact… flooding is much worse now than the past. Spills of sludge in Martin Co. and other places have been likened to multiples of Exxon-Valdez in impact. Coal ash continues to build cause problems. And finally, none of the comments address the human and environmental health impacts (Hendryx et. al.) of MTR which have been documented and which our wise politicians ignore and coal companies don’t care about. I haven’t even touched on climate change caused by combustion of coal.

Yes, we’ll have to continue use of coal until alternatives are put in place, but we must start the end of coal by ending its most horrible form of extraction… mountaintop removal and other forms of surface mining.

Yes, Kentucky does have better solar potential then Germany. No, Germany is not the biggest producer of solar power, Spain is and it has bankrupted them. Listen to the news and you will see Germany is turning back to coal. Yes, there is some decent wind in eastern Kentucky, but if you think you’re going to put wind turbines up on places like Black Mountain you will be going to war as it’s environmentally protected.

Epsteins “500 Billion” dollars cost of coal has been shot full of holes time and again by the scientific community. The fact that you use that reference in your article tells me that you have done little research yourself and are only interested in advancing your agenda with little concern for reality.

The low costs of electricity that coal provides this state is one of the major reasons for the manufacturing we still maintain in Kentucky. If we push energy prices up as we try to develop the pipe dream of “alternative” energies you’ll see even more jobs leaving the commonwealth.

Coal IS a finite resource, but as we have a few decades of it we can still reasonably mine, perhaps we should use that until there actually IS some sort of alternative energy developed.

You talk of wind and solar, yet the cost of those energies per kilowatt is not even close to competing with the price of oil, coal or natural gas. If it was, someone would have built them by now and been making millions off of them.

Instead you have the billions being wasted on projects like Solyndra, Lightsquared, etc. Look at the disaster that Ethanol is. Everyone knows that ethanol costs more and produces more pollution than regular gasoline, but due to the corruption, politics and amount of taxpayer money involved, it took ten years to reduce/end ethanol subsidies…yet we STILL have the ethanol mandate (that is increasing) on our fuel. It’s ridiculous.

With gas prices hovering near $4.00 a gallon and our electrical rates already ticking up due to the EPA’s attempts to save us all from the b/s of global warming by shutting down coal fired power plants-perhaps you can explain to me exactly what sort of future it is you want for the coming generations?