Comments on PATH Article

(03/17/2009)

Dear Editor,

I am not a proponent or opponent of the PATH project. In fact I must admit that I know very little about the entire debate.

I do, however, take exception to the arguments presented in Mr. Howley's latest article published by you March 16th.

First let me state, that I am West Virginia born and bred, and if the Lord's willing, I will die here. I do not relish the thought of our beautiful landscape being usurped by high tension lines any more than Ted Kennedy not wanting windmills on his precious coastline.

The fact remains, that our national infrastructure (grid) for electricity is in serious trouble. Every summer, we face wide-spread electrical outages due to a system that is nearly over capacity. Someone will eventually have to "pay the piper", if this national infrastructure is not updated and modernized. I really do not know if this project is an integral part of this system upgrade, but if it is, I say West Virginia should be a part of the solution and not part of the problem.

As I previously stated, I am not an expert on this subject, but my background in the Industrial Gas Industry gives me a unique perspective on this subject. I have worked for three different industrial gas manufacturers over the past 25 years. Electricity is the primary cost in the manufacture of the three primary air gases, which are nitrogen, oxygen and argon. Electric costs represent 80% of the produced cost of these products.

We have a natural gas generating plant in Pleasants Co. It is designed to operate during periods of peak demand, when the system can't supply the total demand. The electricity generated from this plant cost ten times the amount of our normal power. I will dare to be specific, lest anyone believe that this may be corporate propaganda. I don't know what the specific numbers are today, but three or four years ago, my company purchased power on an interruptible power contract for about 4 cents per kwh. When our power was interrupted by high demand, we either had to shut-down the plant, or buy power produced by the natural gas generator at about 42 cents per kwh!

Without inexpensive coal generated electricity, our West Virginia companies will be hard pressed to compete in an increasingly competitive world market.

We will have more closings like that of Century Aluminum.

We are blessed in West Virginia to have an economy based on energy that is produced by natural gas and coal. West Virginia has suffered less in this latest economic down-turn as a result of our energy based economy. Natural gas will continue to be a driver in our local economy, but it's not the answer to our electrical power problems.

If the current administration gets its' way with new "Cap and Trade" legislation, the result will be devastating to West Virginians. This policy will result in tremendous cost increases for our local power companies, as they have to purchase CO2 offsets in order to operate. These increases will hit West Virginians where it hurts the most, right in our pocketbooks.

Don't be fooled when the Obama Administration says they are only raising the tax on the top 5%. Every West Virginian will pay much higher electric bills as a result of the new Cap and Trade Tax. More West Virginia companies will struggle to survive, and more West Virginians will be looking for work.

Rick Moellendick, Vienna, WV