7/18/20 – A Case for the Judge in West Virginia
The day began in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. I biked around town on a Greenway Trail that looped the city, then weighed other biking options with a helpful young woman named Neddie at the Big Stone Gap Visitors Center.
I spent more than an hour visiting with Freddie Elkins at the Coal Museum in town. The retired coal mining foreman was sharp as a tack, clear minded and healthy as a horse, and knew everything there was to know about coal. He dispelled the myth that coal companies exploited their workers, put them in hillside shanties, and forced them to buy groceries in the company-owned store. “That was the old days, before the Miner’s Union came in.” Since the reforms of the 1930s miners have been paid well. “Coal’s been good to me,” Freddie claims. He reported that just a few years ago in a given week seventy or more 120-car coal trains, each carrying 100 tons of the best coal in all the land, ran from these mountains. Today there’s only one or two. That’s a 98% drop.
Yet, life goes on. I spoke with friendly business owners in town who confirmed coal was good money; but this is a land of can-do people. They’ll find a way. They lived in these hills 100 years before coal was discovered and they’ll be here 100 years from now.
The day ended in Bluefield, West Virginia, a few miles up the road, still in the heart of coal country. I took a vigorous 20-mile ride late in the day from the RV park to Brush Creek Falls State Park. The well-treed road provided nice shading on another 90-degree day.
I drew a small crowd of Sunride inquirers at the camp site. One was Judge Omar Aboulhosn, who told me he was about to install a solar photovoltaic system that would pretty much power his whole house. He mentioned he was surprised that there was no down side to owning solar. I guess for a judge, whose job is to consider all sides, this would be the case.
I couldn’t resist telling him about solar-powered electric vehicles. Said I, if you’re driving a car that gets 20 mpg and a gallon of gas costs $2 per gallon, then the fuel cost is 10 cents per mile. However, if you drive an electric vehicle that gets 4 miles per kilowatt-hour and the price of kWh in these parts is a dime, it only costs 2.5 cents per mile. That’s 1/4th the cost! The average American drives 12,000 miles per year. That’s $900 a year in savings with the EV. Adding the cost of oil changes and routine maintenance the savings is well over $1,000 per year. Here’s the icing on the cake: If the power for the EV comes from your rooftop solar panels, the “fuel” for the EV is forever free!
Just a few more solar panels, Judge Aboulhosn, and you’ll be set for life!