CHARLESTON, W. Va. (WOWK) — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s entrance into the presidential race has thrown new, unwanted attention on coal. His campaign video uses shots of President Trump in West Virginia, supporting the industry. Bloomberg has pledged to spend a half-billion dollars of his own money to end the fossil fuel industry in the U.S. by 2030.
“And he stood up to the coal lobby, and the outright denial of this administration to protect the only home we have, from the growing menace of climate change,” said the Bloomberg for President campaign video.
That drew a sharp reaction from Governor Justice.
“I hope Bloomberg loses (laughs), bad… I’ll always be proud of our natural resources here. But we don’t need to just throw them on the trash can,” said West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R).
But the coal issue is not just environmental, it’s economics. After a huge budget surplus last year, West Virginia is back in a deficit because of sharply declining severance taxes on coal and natural gas. A delegate who supports coal, says the state simply must expand its economic base to other industries.
“People are just trying to feed their families, and if we don’t diversify our economy, coal miners aren’t able to feed their families. So we’ve got to find a different way to bring revenue into our state, so it isn’t so reliant on the coal industry,” said Del. Amanda Estep-Burton (D-Kanawha).
West Virginia now has over 300 alternative-energy wind turbines, mostly in the Eastern Panhandle. But many of the Democratic presidential candidates – including Bloomberg – say it’s not enough.
The issue has appeal beyond the Appalachian Region. Over half the states in this country are fossil fuel producers, so this could big a big election issue in campaign 2020.