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Ken Rechtin's Another Voice: Time for Some Truth from Conway & Bevin on Coal

During my misspent youth, I wasted many hours in front of our black and white television watching The Lone Ranger, sitcoms and game shows. 

One game show I remember from my early childhood was called To Tell the Truth. As I remember it, three people each claimed to be the same person (of course, only one of them was that person). For this example we will call that person “John Henry”. A panel of four celebrities then asked questions to determine which one of the three was the real John Henry. The real John Henry was not allowed to lie, but the two impersonators were encouraged to use whatever lies or fabrication they could muster to convince the panel they were John Henry. 

At the end of the questioning, the panelists would choose the candidate they suspected as being truthful. The moderator would then say: “Would the real John Henry please stand up?”

When thinking about our two candidates for Governor, I couldn’t help but think of this game show. Matt Bevin and Jack Conway are the two impersonators! We viewers encourage them to tell us what they think will make us like them and then they will be Governor.

I would really like it if one of them would be the real John Henry and tell us the truth. 

Regarding one of the three Kentucky “protected” industries: horses, bourbon and coal, I would be very supportive if one of them would say, “Ken, there is no war on coal. There is an economic shift to a less expensive fuel source called natural gas. Yes, EPA regulation does play a part in this shift, but this is not “Obama’s war against Kentucky coal” and not an EPA regulation war. This is a much more complicated issue. Price is a significant part of the change as gas has displaced coal in many areas of power generation. Natural gas fired electric generation is more efficient than a coal fired plant. New natural gas fired plants are cheaper to build than coal fired plants. Gas fired plants are considerably less costly to start up and shut down, allowing for a more flexible output to answer the customers’ demand for power. And yes, regulation of toxic outputs from coal fired plants does increase the cost of coal. Do we value clean air?”

“And, Ken, considering the long term viability of coal as a fuel source is limited, if I am elected as your Governor, my administration will focus our efforts in developing alternative sources of power and jobs for Kentucky. 

“Our efforts in the next four years will be to use our limited financial resources for the betterment of our State. We will concentrate efforts to retool and help those 14,000 coal dependent employees transition to the new economic future of Kentucky.”

Wouldn’t it be nice to hear a candidate tell the whole truth about the “War on Coal”?

Instead, from Matt Bevin’s campaign website, Matt wishes to:


Our administration will aggressively fight against the EPA’s war on the energy sector in Kentucky, particularly the relentless attacks on the coal industry. As Governor, I will exercise, to the fullest extent of the law, our state's constitutional rights and sovereignty. For example, I will refuse to enforce federal regulations that are in opposition to our own state interests.”

And, from Jack Conway’s website, it says that he will be:


Jack will do this by fighting the EPA’s “overly burdensome regulations that cost coal jobs and raise electricity rates for our residents and businesses.”

I really do not see a difference between these two! Matt will preserve coal as Kentucky’s Energy Sector and Jack will stand up for coal and fight the EPA. Neither of these two gentlemen have stated they will fight the natural gas industry, which is the source of the less-expensive and less-polluting power generating fuel. Neither one of these candidates has explained that the war on coal is a war supported by T. Boone Pickens, Texas oil and gas businessman. Pickens has done more than the EPA or Obama ever could to accelerate the demise of coal. 

Neither of our candidates has suggested taking on a war against horizontal drilling and fracking for natural gas and oil. Both of these techniques have led to vast quantities of cleaner-burning natural gas. How about launching a “war against new natural gas mining techniques”?

Over ten years ago, I was a participant in Leadership Kentucky. One of the full day sessions was on Kentucky’s natural resources. The two trips that day were in Eastern Kentucky, to a deep coal mine and to a mountaintop removal mining site. Both of these excursions left lasting impressions on me. Even then, over ten years ago, neither tour gave me positive feelings about the current or the future state of the coal industry in Kentucky.

In the past, the Kentucky coal industry has been through many ups and downs. The current downward trend does not appear to have an upside. 

So let’s ask our governor candidates: “Considering that the coal industry will probably never return to its once prominent place in Kentucky’s economy, what will your administration do to fill that void?” 

And the follow-up question: “What do you consider to be Kentucky’s resources which holds the most promise to replace coal?” 

How about a little truth?

The views and opinions expressed here in “Another Voice” do not reflect the views or opinions of The River City News, its owners, writers, or editors. These are solely the ideas of Ken Rechtin. If you wish to make comment to Another Voice, Ken can be reached via email at [email protected] or you may leave a comment here. All rights to use of Another Voice in any fashion are retained by Ken Rechtin. Please contact him for any use of his columns.