Louisville Magazine

OCT 2014

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

Issue link: https://loumag.epubxp.com/i/388156

Contents of this Issue


Page 47 of 172

LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 10.14 45 Continued on page 150 warning me of a blasting zone ahead, or the big scary red-on-white signs saying I'm already in a blast area. A sign notes that refective cones mark explosive charges. I scan the roadside feverishly, but instead of refective cones, I see felds of swaying Joe-Pye weed and goats looking for an escape route from their pen and, once, a real log cabin. A scrawny black dog, not much more than a puppy, dashes out of nowhere and runs ahead of my car before disappearing into the underbrush. I'm sad to pass Oven Fork Mercantile in tiny Oven Fork, Kentucky, without a visit, but these winding roads, and my tendency toward excess caution, are doubt- lessly making me late already. Trucks and cars line up behind me. I lead a parade all the way to Kingdom Come. And suddenly I realize I'm on top of a mountain. Tere's a scenic turnout. Te pavement looks new. Tere are extra lanes. All this should make the steep grade and sharp turns seem manageable. But not to me. I'm now following a truck with a fammable-gas logo on his tail and can scarcely work up the nerve to look away to note the jutting layers of rock rising from the earth around me. Several times I note the shadow of a bird fying overhead, but I never see the bird. Do buzzards follow soon- to-be-corpses driving cars? I almost laugh with relief when I reach the base of the mountain. My destination is right in front of me, the Pine Mountain Grill, the nicest venue so far on the Mitch March. Or it would be the nicest venue if it weren't so crowded and hot. I stand wedged between a table and the wall, and listen. As the senator wraps up his speech, a campaign worker reach- es past me and knocks over an ice tea on the table in front of me, cooling my feet in preparation for the home stretch of the senator's speech. It always starts with a quote by Winston Churchill that goes something like this: "Churchill was probably the most-quoted person who ever lived," McConnell tells the crowd. "Everybody has their favorite Winston Chur- chill saying and mine is, he said, 'You know, Americans always do the right thing. (Pause.) After they've tried everything else frst.' (Big laugh.) I view the last six years as trying to do everything else frst." Just out of curiosity, while my feet are drying, I look up what prompted Churchill to make the remark and fnd out Churchill never said it. Te last stop of the day is at 6 p.m. at Rental Pro in Hazard. I try to work up a bit of enthusiasm for this and fail. Te 72-year-old senator is going strong, or appears to be, but I'm shot. He could have declared war on West Virginia and I wouldn't have noticed. Let's try this again tomorrow. In the morning, I decide to skip the hotel breakfast and fnd a diner in Hazard. My crack navigational system sends me to the top of a hill in a residential neighborhood where a Rottweiler looks down from his front porch as I struggle with my clutch and brake. Te stop sign is of course at a steep grade, and I need to get into frst gear and make a hairpin left turn. Te oncoming car is a giant SUV that takes up most of the skinny road. I think the driver laughs as I wave him past. I can hardly blame him. I eventually nose my way to downtown Hazard and drive past attractively restored old buildings and hope for some place that serves cofee. All I can fnd is fast-food joint. Surely Hindman will have something if Hazard doesn't. Hindman is an even smaller town, but after I circle it twice I fnd the Creekside Diner. A bunch of good ol' boys sit on the front porch, a few smoking and all talking, and they all greet me politely when I walk up. Breakfast is good and cheap, and when I walk outside again, one of the men insists I take a fresh tomato from his garden. I won't bore you with all the wrong turns Google Maps then leads me through before I fnd the rally, in plain view of anyone with eyes in her head. Tere is a tiny tent in a gas station parking lot. It's starting to rain. Everyone is a little of their game this morning. One of the yellers stum- bles through her cheerleading: "When I say coal, you say McConnell ! McConnell! Err, coal!" She fnally gets the small group shouting "Mitch! Mitch! Mitch! Mitch!" as the Mitchmobile pulls into the lot, but it takes so long for the senator to descend that the chant fades away and must be quickly rebooted when he fnally appears. Mike Duncan, a national committeeman for the Republican Party, gets things started: "Welcome to the biggest Republican rally we've ever had in this county!" Tere may be 30 people here. Knott County has always skewed Democratic, Duncan tells me later, all the way back to the Civil War. Tere are about 700 registered Republicans, compared to almost 11,000 Democrats. In fact, eight of 14 of the top coal-producing counties are majority Democrat. But in the last election, McConnell carried nine of the coal counties, although not this one. McConnell hits all the themes now long familiar to anyone who has been following along, and of course, coal remains at center stage. "Now the liberals will tell you, oh, this is just about competition with other fuel. Not so. Other countries are building coal plants. Other countries are exporting coal. Te Chinese are building coal plants. Te Europeans are importing coal," McConnell says. So I guess being Europe isn't so bad after all. And McConnell is right. Te Europeans are importing coal like crazy. Te Economist reported last year that the amount of electricity generated from coal rose by as much as 50 percent a year in some European nations. But unlike McConnell, the Economist blames the increasing production of cheap natural gas in the United States for the rise in European coal consumption. As the United States has shifted to natural gas, coal producers looked for new markets, and coal prices fell internationally. Te BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2014 showed that, worldwide, coal remained the fast- est-growing fossil fuel last year, its share of energy production around the globe at 30 percent — the highest since 1970. Still, U.S. coal production fell about 3 percent last year, the BP review reported, and has been falling since 2011. It doesn't seem a big jump in logic to see how the falling price of natural gas played at least some role, as several market analysts have concluded. In 2011 the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicted that the share of electricity gen- erated by natural gas would rise from 24 percent in 2010 to 27 percent in 2035, renewable energy sources would increase from 10 percent to 16 percent, and coal would fall from 45 percent to 39 percent. But that isn't the whole story. One thing that makes cleaner-burning natural gas attractive is the ever-stricter controls on coal-burning power plants, requiring expensive changes to meet more stringent limits on pollution. Tere is little question: Burning coal in the United States can only grow more expensive as the EPA cracks down on air pollution. One thing that neither McConnell nor Grimes addresses in their war against the War on Coal is its power to pollute. In 2013, coal burning accounted for nearly a third of carbon dioxide emissions, 60 percent of arsenic emissions, and 45 percent of mercury emissions — just to name a trio of its several byproducts. "Harry Reid says coal makes you sick," McConnell says at each cam- paign stop. He makes no reference to studies that blame coal combustion for an additional 13,000 deaths per year, or the role of such pollution in asthma attacks or heart disease. Don't wait for either candidate to quote health statistics out of some nutty sense of solidarity for the families Mike Duncan, a national committeeman for the Republican Party, gets things started: "Welcome to the biggest Republican rally we've ever had in this county!" There may be 30 people here. Knott County has always skewed Democratic, Duncan tells me later, all the way back to the Civil War.

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