Don Blankenship, the A.T. Massey coal baron rebuked by the U.S. Supreme Court for buying West Virginia judges, believes that coal breeds freedom. On his personal Twitter account, Blankenship wrote today, “If you support democracy in developing countries, you must support coal“:
Blankenship has called opponents of his coalocratic worldview “communists,” “atheists,” and “greeniacs.” In reality, dependence on coal breeds the same kind of economic instability and injustice seen in petrodictatorships. Fossil fuels, requiring capital-intensive extraction and rewarding centralized control of distribution, reward oligarchic power structures that are profoundly anti-democratic. Furthermore, when the costs of pollution are borne by society instead of the coal and oil corporations, the divide between the economic costs and benefits grows wider.
The coal-dominated economy of West Virginia is a troubling example of the cruelty of coalocracy. Despite $118 million in coal-mining annual income, West Virginia has the nation’s lowest median household income, worst educational services, worst social assistance, the highest population with disabilities, and nearly a quarter of West Virginia children in poverty. A recent study by West Virginia University found that the “human cost of the Appalachian coal mining economy outweighs its economic benefits”:
The coal industry generates a little more than $8 billion a year in economic benefits for the Appalachian region. But, they put the value of premature deaths attributable to the mining industry across the Appalachian coalfields at — by a most conservative estimate — $42 billion.
If Blankenship, who sits on the board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also tweeted that a cap and trade system is a “Ponzi scheme.” If Blankenship truly believed in the power of the free market and cheap energy to lift up democracies, he would support closing coal pollution loopholes — putting a true value on the majesty and diversity of Appalachia’s mountains instead of blowing them up, and putting a price on the carbon pollution that is destabilizing our climate. Instead, he and his fellow right-wing coalocrats are the Charles Ponzis of the entire planet.