The head of the West Virginia coal industry says it is encouraging to hear coal discussed in the ongoing presidential race.

Until now, coal was hardly mentioned amid the talk of oil, natural gas, and green energy alternatives. However, during the first presidential debate Republican candidate Mitt Romney touted coal as a reliable and affordable energy resource. During the second debate, both Romney and President Barack Obama discussed the merits of coal at length.

“It is encouraging they talked so much about it and what a big part it plays in the energy mix of this country,” said West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney. “Particularly because we’ve got more coal than anywhere in the world.”

Raney believes the open discussion of coal is important. He says the nation needs to know the potential coal holds for the nation’s energy strategy.

“Everybody needs to understand what a tremendous mountain of energy we’re sitting on in this country with coal and our ability to mine it.” he said.

Raney says it’s vital to West Virginia’s economy when every other barge which leaves the U.S. shores is mined in West Virginia. He also bristles at the notion clean coal technology is a goal to which we should aspire.

“Everybody talks about it in some futuristic sense that it needs to be burned cleanly, we’re doing it now,” Raney said. “The energy department here in the state said north of 80 to 90 percent of the plants here are in compliance with everything the EPA has put out.”

The setting of those standards are the critical area for the coal industry. Raney says too often under the Obama administration’s EPA regulations have been a moving target on what constitutes “clean burning coal.”

“When you change midstream and you put unrealistic thresholds and requirements out there, it’s simply unfair,” said Raney. “It’s all going to come back to the consumers. They’re going to end up paying more for their electricity because of all the regulations coming out of this EPA in Washington.”

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