Friday, January 22, 2010

Blankenship-Kennedy debate is predictable but brings more national attention to coal issues

Last night's debate between one of the coal industry's most outspoken advocates and one of the country's most famous environmentalists was marked by much of the usual rhetoric. Massey Energy Chief Executive Officer Don Blankenship, right, and Waterkeeper Alliance President Robert F. Kennedy Jr., below, stuck mostly to their respective scripts during the debate, hosted by the University of Charleston, but succeeded in bringing national attention to the issues, Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette reports. (Gazette photos by Chip Ellis)

Little in the way of breaking news was offered during the debate, and the participants found little to agree on. "The mission statement for coal is prosperity for this country," Blankenship told the capacity crowd. "This industry is what made this country great and if we forget that, we're going to have to learn to speak Chinese." Kennedy disagreed, saying of mountaintop-removal coal mining: "This is the worst environmental crime that has ever happened in our history. These companies are liquidating this state for cash with these gigantic machines."

The event was marked by only tepid protesting by supporters of either side. Blankenship and Kennedy did agree on the characterization of carbon-capture and storage as a technology to reduce global warming as "a joke." (Read more)

You can see further examination of the debate on Ward's blog "Coal Tattoo." Erica Peterson of West Virginia Public Broadcasting also has a story about the debate along with full audio of the proceedings.

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