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Campaigning For Coal

In
a nationally broadcast radio ad, Kentuckian Mary Jane Warner says,
"Many folks just don’t realize that we’re using coal cleaner
and more efficiently than we ever have before."

Warner knows about using coal
to make electricity-she manages the construction of power lines
and substations for East Kentucky Power, the Winchester-based
cooperative that generates electricity for 16 electric
distribution co-ops in the eastern part of the state.

But for those of us who don’t
know as much about electricity, there’s a group, named Americans
for Balanced Energy Choices, working hard to let people know that
coal provides a good source of energy for this country.

Here’s a little quiz to test
your coal knowledge:

* Coal generates almost all
the electricity distributed by Kentucky’s electric cooperatives.
True or False?

* In almost all regions of the
United States, coal is the cheapest way to generate electricity.
True or False?

* While American power plants
now burn three times as much coal to meet the increased use of
electricity since the 1970 Clean Air Act, certain air-pollution
emissions have decreased by one-third. True or False?

It’s all true.

And it’s important that
Americans know those truths, says Stephen L. Miller, a native of
Versailles, Kentucky, and president of Americans for Balanced
Energy Choices (ABEC). Miller says, "The mission of the ABEC
campaign is to tell the story that America needs a comprehensive
national energy strategy that includes a major role for
coal."

To make that point, ABEC,
based in Alexandria, Virginia, promotes the message that using
coal is "essential, affordable, and increasingly clean."

With other groups touting the
benefits of energy from a variety of sources (everything from wind
to garbage), getting the word out about coal’s unique qualities
requires a big effort. Radio spots such as the one featuring
Warner, television advertising, special advertising inserts in
such national publications as Time magazine, and an Internet Web
site all offer facts and figures about coal’s role in producing
electricity today. This collection of information helps tell
Americans about an often-overlooked part of the national energy
picture.

But Miller notes it takes more
than facts and figures.

"About once a generation
Americans get a ‘wake-up call’ that we can’t take affordable,
reliable energy for granted. It happened in the late ’70s with the
‘energy crunch’ and we’ve gotten the reminder again through the
California energy situation about a year ago, along with recent
spikes in natural gas and home heating oil prices."

Instead of waiting for the
next unwelcome surprise to come along, ABEC’s founders (which
include members of the coal mining and railroad industries, as
well as electrical cooperatives and investor-owned utilities)
believe the future of electricity depends on developing sensible
public policies and making wise investments now.

Miller continues, "That’s
why our other mission is to engage opinion leaders and community
leaders across the country in a dialogue about what our energy
policy ought to be. We hope to attract a cadre of community
leaders into the discussion and to persuade them to contact their
elected officials and to make their opinions known." Already,
more than 12,000 people have joined ABEC, taking an active role in
the discussion about America’s energy policies.

"Public opinion shapes
public policy," Miller says, "and I urge people to
understand where their electricity comes from and how it plays a
role in building our economy." Miller places particular
emphasis on the role that investing in technology today will play
in ensuring that coal-generated electricity continues to become
cleaner and even more environmentally responsible in the future.

To find out more about the role coal plays in providing
reliable, increasingly clean, affordable electricity for so many customers, visit
ABEC’s Web site at www.balancedenergy.org.-Nancy
S. Grant

Next month: More about the essential and affordable
nature of coal.

-Paul Wesslund

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