I spent Last Night in Ravenswood, West Virginia, at the home of my Mom's Long-time Best Friend, June. Her new house is in a development right on the bank of the Ohio River. This morning after an unusually large Breakfast for me (biscuits, gravy, sausage, bacon, eggs, OJ, -they like to see you eat in WVa- I saw some cantaloupe in June's fridge, I would have been happy just to have a slice of that for breakfast), I strolled over to the riverbank just in time to watch two barge-trains go floating past. One was headed upriver, toward the steel mills, 15 barges piled high with coal. The Other was coming back downriver empty. Looking at how much deeper the loaded barges rode, the full train must have had a million tons of coal on it.
When you see reports of a barge colliding with a bridge support, and you think of how slow moving a typical tug is when you've only seen them in harbors, you wonder how they could take out a bridge support. But all that tonnage of coal, even on a slow-moving barge, carries a helluva lot of momentum. And this thing was moving at a good clip. Even from the riverbank, I could see third-level harmonics in its wake. I wouldn't want to be in its way.
And all that coal is driving the economy of the State. Down in the southern portions of the State, Like Boone County, where most of my Family there are living, If you aren't working directly in the Mines, you're working at a company that depends on the mine and its workers for its business. As much as it's hard work, with hot, heavy, dirty, and dangerous working conditions, and as much as I hear my more liberal colleagues complain about raping the Earth's resources, and pollution, I'd hate to see what would happen to the area if the coal industry suffered.
Oh, and as far as pollution goes? Those hillsides in the West Virginia Coal Country are some of the Greenest areas I've ever seen, rich in wildlife and vegetation. And Rich in the character of the people, too.