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Bees, Trees, Wind and Dynamite

Kevin Grandia

There's a showdown in West Virginia today pitting old dirty energy against renewables -- and one side is armed with explosives.

Coal giant Massey Energy is planning as early as today to begin blowing up the mountains in the Bee Tree Branch area of Coal River Mountain, West Virginia. More specifically, Massey is planning to blow off the top of a local mountain, push all the debris into the surrounding valleys and repeat until they hit a big fat coal seam.

It's like some kind of sick David Copperfield act, but unfortunately there's no illusion, and the mountain that once stood before you is gone forever.

Here's what's left after such an operation:


This used to be rolling green mountains.

Massey owns the license to do this to 6,000 acres (10 square miles) in the Coal River area.

Mountaintop removal is nothing new, it's been going on ever since the coal companies figured out that it was a heck of a lot cheaper to pay a few people with big machines and some dynamite to blow from the top down, instead an entire team of coal miners to burrow from the bottom. What has changed though is the context Massey and other coal companies are working in.

As renewable energy technology, like wind and solar, becomes cheaper and more efficient, coal companies are finding it a lot more difficult to justify such crude and environmentally disastrous techniques for powering America. Case in point is the glitzy $40 million coal industry PR campaign that is trying to brainwash us all into thinking that somehow coal is clean and green. But even the best spin doctor in the country is going to have difficulty explaining why Massey Energy is going to blow the top off mountains in Bee Tree for the short-term gain of a little more coal, when the area has been identified as a great location for a wind energy farm.

According to the local citizen's group, Coal River Mountain Watch, a wind farm could be built on the mountains that Massey plans to blown up and level. Windpower instead of mountaintop removal would:

Create Jobs: 200 local employment opportunities during construction, and 50 permanent jobs during the life of the wind farm.

Create Energy: Provide 440MW of electricity - or enough energy for 150,000 homes - indefinitely, as well as a sustained tax income that could be used for the construction of new schools for the county.

And, of course, save the moutains in the area from being reduced to nothing more than road gravel.

Sounds like a plan to me, but since when do I, or the people living in the Coal River Valley, know more than a coal company or the government? Afterall, they have the power to literally move mountains.

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Kevin Grandia is Managing Editor of the award-winning site, DeSmogBlog.

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