There are some certainties in life. You can be certain that tax day will be in mid-April. And you can be certain the Herald-Leader's editorial pages will remain left of center and decidedly anti-coal.
For more than two years now, I have followed the newspaper's coverage of coal and its related issues closely. For the most part, I would say that the news coverage has been relatively balanced, except for some specific concerns over news selection and placement.
However, the editorial pages remain out of step with the vast majority of Kentuckians who believe in the importance of our coal industry, especially within our two coalfields.
This one-sidedness reached a new pinnacle with the editorial responding to comments made by Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo at a news conference announcing the sale of more than 50,000 Friends of Coal license plates.
Interestingly, the news conference, which included Gov. Steve Beshear and more than a dozen members of the House and Senate, did not make the Herald-Leader's print edition.
This editorial uses the "carrot and the stick" approach to both praise Stumbo and attack him. It praises Stumbo for his efforts to increase access to higher education for the people of Eastern Kentucky, especially in regard to his college aid plan that would provide scholarship dollars. Yet it attacks him for his outspoken support of mountaintop mining and his suggestion that the opponents of mining should buy mountains if they do not want them mined.
So, if I am to interpret the editorial board's position correctly, it wants Eastern Kentuckians to have coal severance tax dollars for education, but the board is not in favor of the mining of coal to generate those severance tax dollars.
While it may be the position of the editorial board to be against only surface mining, I would remind it that half of the coal production of Eastern Kentucky comes from surface mining. And many of the additional regulations and reinterpretations of existing rules that the Environmental Protection Agency is suggesting will also affect underground mining in its movement of rock and dirt.
If the editorial board wants to effect positive change in Appalachia, how will destroying its single economic driver create that positive change?
Like many members of the anti-coal community, the editorial board wants all the benefit of our coal-fired electricity without acknowledging coal mining, which gives Kentucky one of the lowest kilowatt-per-hour rates in the nation. Ninety-two out of every 100 newspapers the Herald-Leader prints are made with coal-fired electricity. The newspaper's Web site and our computers and smartphones are more affordable to use because we mine coal in Kentucky.
Much like the recent fear over rising gas prices, if President Barack Obama and his political appointees continue their considerable efforts to move this country away from coal by any means necessary, will the Herald-Leader be able to employ as many reporters as it does now? Will a crippled manufacturing base that is dependent on affordable electricity sustain service industries that share financial connections with all of the Herald-Leader's advertisers?
I am a strong proponent that we need a marketplace of ideas for what's best for this country. While print journalism faces a possibly more bleak outlook in the near term than even Appalachia's coal industry, both our industries need to grow and adapt to a changing world to be more productive.
From a growing demand for energy to an ever-changing world market, energy production will continue to be a major issue for all of us. There would be a great benefit in applying some diversity of thought to the Herald-Leader's editorial section. If asked, I would be honored to serve as a citizen member of the editorial board.