Columnist Don Surber didn't like a recent event on the future of the state's economy I helped organize. Fair enough, but he expressed his displeasure before the event even started.
I come from a third generation coal mining family in West Virginia, and I study energy for a living. I'm tired of politicians having the same old debates about coal and energy policy. We need a bigger discussion about the future of our state.
If Mr. Surber had taken the time to attend our event here's what he would have heard:
Coal will remain an important part of the state's economy for the next several decades, though we can expect southern production to decline. Natural gas could take off in a big way, but it can't revitalize the state's economy on its own.
Other industries like recreation and tourism have huge potential for growth.
We heard from men and women who are taking care of their own communities through food banks, faith-based programs and community gardens.
Finally, we heard about a proposal, used successfully in other states, to take revenue from fees the fossil fuel industry already pays and invest in a "Future Fund." Recent polling found that more than two-thirds of West Virginia voters favor the proposal.
This is the sort of forward-looking discussion our state needs to have. I'm so proud of what West Virginia does to power the nation and I'm convinced that we also need to empower ourselves to succeed in a changing economy.
L. Jeremy Richardson
Richardson, a West Virginia native, is with the Union of Concerned