Archive for October, 2010


October 31, 2010

Whenever I turn on the light switch, power comes on as if by magic. Electricity is such an important part of our lives; I daresay that we could not function very well but for electricity. Following the supply chain for the electricity in my wall takes me first to my local utility, PECO. From there, I go to PJM Interconnection, the wholesale market operator for electricity, From there, I see that they in turn get about half of their electricity supply from coal—and the overwhelming majority of that comes from the coal fields of Appalachia (West Virginia, Kentucky, Western Pennsylvania). This coal in turn comes from the efforts of the miners who actually go into the mines hoping to earn a decent wage AND come out from the mine alive (and healthy) after their shift.

I recently saw a presentation from a Grammy award winning singer, Kathy Mattea, that made this connection very clear. She also happens to be from the coal country in Southern West Virginia, and her parents and grandparents were from there also. Her grandfathers were in fact miners. Her presentation talks a lot about the environmental and human costs of coal mining. I near Philadelphia can’t do a whole lot about these costs (aside from buying green power sources, conserving electricity when I can, and supporting environmentally-friendly policies).

But very little of this will immediately help the miners who are actually in the mines every day. So what can I do? Maybe a simple thank you note will help.

What if a random miner in West Virginia got a random communication from a random customer saying how much he appreciates the work they do? I can easily see how anything that smacks of lowering our demand for coal (now and in the future) can be interpreted as taking someone’s job away. I am not trying to destroy their livelihood (the main livelihood available in that part of the world); I am trying to value what they do, and hope they can live their lives not surrounded by devastation.

So here goes:

Dear Miner—

You do not know me, but I live in the Philadelphia area. Every day, I turn on my power switch, appliance, or other electrical gizmo, and they work. These work in large part because you have gone into the mines everyday, literally risking your life and health to get the coal that goes to the power plant that produces about half the electricity that I use.

I do not know much about coal mining, (aside from what I see on TV and my one trip into the Lackawanna (Anthracite) Coal Mine Tour near Scranton PA. But I do know that is very dangerous. Every day I see the success in what you do, because every day my lights come on (your work is a huge part of that)..

What you do means a whole to a whole lot of people like me. So I just wanted to thank you and let you how appreciated you are—at least to me.

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