I concluded yesterday’s Kentucky Tonight conversation on coal and energy policy with a question I borrowed from a column Al Cross wrote for the Courier-Journal entitled “Blowing Smoke on Coal’s Future.” (You’ll have to read the piece to discover who Cross thinks is the smoke-blower.)
In his first paragraph, Cross writes, “Politics keeps complicating efforts to diversify the economy of Appalachian Kentucky, especially the eastern-coalfield counties that have seen nearly half their jobs disappear in the last two years.”
So the question I asked our Kentucky Tonight panel was this: Is coal complicating the U.S. Senate race?
Do we know today or will we know on November 5, the day after the election, just how big the coal issue has been this campaign season? One of our guests, Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett, said it is the number one political issue this year.
Polling indicates that about 10 percent of voters remain undecided in the U.S. Senate contest between incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. But when the Bluegrass Poll asked respondents which candidate they trusted more to strike a good balance between protecting coal industry jobs and preserving the environmental from the effects of burning coal, those who say they’re undecided jumps to 18 percent.
So, how big is the coal question? Here’s is what our panelists had to say Monday night. In addition to Bissett, our guests were Sarah Lynn Cunningham, an environmental engineer, educator, and director of the Louisville Climate Action Network; Tom FitzGerald, director of the Kentucky Resources Council; and Steve Gardner, president and CEO of ECSI and president-elect of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration.