So I’m reading a story about what effect the recent West Virginia coal mine disaster will have on national energy policy, and I run across this jaw-dropping quote:

“This is a mining accident,” says Bill Wicker, communications director for the Senate Energy Committee. “This issue involves the health and safety of our miners, not our energy future.”

You could not ask for a more craven illustration of the bankruptcy of national energy politics and the obeisance national legislators still must pay the coal industry, no matter what havoc it wreaks.

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This particular energy choice — coal — involves destroying land, polluting air and water, impoverishing communities, sickening tens of thousands of people a year, and yes, killing the people who dig it up. The industry has a long history of safety violations, environmental violations, lying to regulators, bribing public officials, busting unions, and violently suppressing local protests.

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Are we just supposed to consider each of those discretely, as marginal side issues? Is coal’s purported “cheapness” really the only consideration that bears on national energy policy?

Right now the energy we use kills people. If we keep using the same kinds of energy, we’re going to kill even more people. Seems to me that’s germane to our energy future.