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Obama energy policies blasted

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By JAMES E. CASTO

For The State Journal

HUNTINGTON — With just days remaining before the Nov. 6 election, members of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce on Nov. 1 heard a blistering attack on the Obama administration's energy policies from a vocal opponent of the president.

Without mentioning Republican Mitt Romney by name, conservative commentator Marita Noon said the nation "needs a president who understands the important role that energy plays and that energy made America great." President Obama, she made clear, doesn't fit that description.

Noon is executive director for Energy Makes American Great Inc. and its company organization, Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy.

She was the keynote speaker at the Chamber's eighth annual Energy & Natural Resources Symposium, sponsored by Natural Resource Partners , a company that leases coal properties to mining operators. The company leases properties in a number of states, including West Virginia, and has its operating headquarters in Huntington.

Under Obama, Noon said, ‘we have seen four years of attacks on any kind of energy that works." Instead of promoting coal, which is "affordable and reliable," the administration has favored solar and wind power, which are "unaffordable and unreliable," she said.

Pointing to controversial federal loans that were awarded to support solar power demonstration projects, Noon charged that 90 percent of the contracts went to "friends of the White House." When the projects failed, she said, the taxpayers were left holding the bag.

Noon offered some of her strongest criticism in denouncing global warming, describing it as "part of a vast conspiracy to raise the price of energy."

"I may not know how to drill an oil well, but I can tell you why we should," Noon said. She noted that Obama, in his political commercials, claims the United States is producing more oil than ever. 

"That's true," she said, "but that's not due to Obama's policies but rather in spite of them."

Noon was the author of 19 books and a nationally known Christian speaker, when she changed careers, taking over as executive director of Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy in 2007 and becoming an energy spokesperson. She later organized Energy Makes America Great to tackle what she calls the "negative legislation pouring out of Congress" and urge the public to vote for "abundant, affordable access to American energy."

Also speaking at the symposium at the Pullman Plaza Hotel were Charles Patton, president and chief operating officer of Appalachian Power Co.; Marshall University President Stephen Kopp, and Nick Carter, NRP's president and chief operating officer.

Appalachian Power plans to retire some older coal-fired plants and switch some units to cheaper natural gas. Nonetheless, Patton said Appalachian remains committed to coal. 

"We have been called the Saudi Arabia of coal, and it is foolish of us not to fully exploit that resource."

Energy should not be a partisan issue, Patton said, arguing that both Democratic and Republican administrations have failed to put forth an effective energy policy. 

"As a nation we need a serious dialogue about advancing all forms of energy," he said.

Kopp agreed, saying the lack of a national energy policy "spans several administrations." But he was sharply critical of the current regulatory climate in Washington, as it regards not just energy but a long list of issues, calling it "the most restrictive climate I've ever seen."

The recession hit the coal industry hard, Carter said, resulting in huge stockpiles of coal now stored on the ground.

Carter said he had traveled U.S. 23 south from Catlettsburg, Ky., for years and never seen coal stockpiles along the road as high as they are now. In the early morning and late afternoon hours, they all but block out the sun, he said. "The sun doesn't come up until 10 in the morning and it goes down at 3 in the afternoon."

The coming year, he predicated, will be another difficult one for the industry.

"If Romney is elected," Carter said, "the economy will improve and the demand for electricity – and coal – will increase."

The symposium was picketed by two dozen people who stood outside the Pullman Plaza, chanting and waving signs opposing mining at Blair Mountain and calling for its preservation as a historic site.

NRP owns extensive tracts of land on Blair Mountain, scene of a 1921 clash between thousands of armed coal miners and coal company deputies. Mining permits on the Logan County mountain are held by Arch Coal Inc. and Alpha Natural Resources on land owned by NRP.

Carter and NRP have opposed any historic designation for the mountain.