I always enjoy blog-based discussions with my friend, Ken Ward, over at his great blog, Coal Tattoo. Like all good discussions with people who are better at things than I am, Ken’s always push me to be able to clarify and articulate my own thinking on a wide range of subjects.
Regular readers of The Power Line know that I don’t just “cover” the PATH power line, although others often describe this blog that way. Note that “PATH” does not appear anywhere in the title of The Power Line, whose full name is The Power Line, the View from Calhoun County. I chose the words for my title carefully.
I also wrote this page very early in the life of The Power Line, titled “Knowledge Is Power.” The first two sentences of that essay are:
The Power Line is about knowledge. The Power Line is about power.
That is why many of my posts have been critical of the relationships among AEP, Allegheny Energy, state and federal regulators, and media outlets, both in WV and around the US and the world.
So PATH is not at the center of The Power Line. That center is the relationship between knowledge and power, in all of their meanings.
The other important part of this blog’s title is often lost on readers in the DC suburbs or even Charleston or the Eastern Panhandle. My view is very much the View from Calhoun County. If you don’t know much about Calhoun County, WV, look it up. Become a regular reader of one of the best journalistic ventures in the US — The Hur Herald. And if you don’t know much about Hur, WV, look it up.
The PATH project has laid bare how power works in WV and the US. Here is a list of a few things I have learned in my work here over the last few years, and these are only examples:
- Power companies that spend millions on lobbyists to “put laws in place” (as AEP’s Mike Morris described it) so that they have complete control over state PSC processes and federal regulators when they propose projects or need the power of eminent domain to inflate their profit margins. Last year, we saw AEP lobbyists use a WV Senate leader, in secret, to gut legislation designed to protect WV property owners and electrical consumers. Fortunately, because of strong public outrage and leadership from other legislators, SB 614 was salvaged.
- Power companies control the public understanding of their projects because they can spend millions of dollars on advertising, fake front groups and press release manufacturers. The other part of that equation is that real reporters, such as Mr. Ward, who have experience with industries and issues that they cover, are few and far between. Power companies are in a perfect position to exploit the decline of journalism by using their money to monopolize the airwaves and hoodwink overworked reporters.
- Even with the small openings for democratic discussion left open in the regulatory and political and media spheres, dedicated and informed citizens can still have dramatic impacts on outrageous and “ludicrous” (thank you John Auville, I love your word) projects like PATH. This is the “power” that lies at the heart of The Power Line. This is the power that you won’t see talked about much in the media or power company press releases, so that is why you read about it here.
- Finally, there is the power of knowledge about science, economics, industry and government which apparently you can’t get in a general public school education any more, and you certainly can’t get from TV. You have to work for it if you have a thirst for knowledge. It’s here, on The Power Line, if you want that kind of power for yourself.
I hope this explanation helps my readers understand a little better what is going on here on The Power Line.
And thank you, Ken Ward, for helping me put this in words, along with everyone else who converses with me daily about all of the subjects. You know who you are.
Here is the final paragraph from my Knowledge Is Power page:
There are lots of reasons why the PATH project is wrong. The Power Line will provide you with information and Internet links that will let you see for yourself why this project will not do what the power companies claim and what the alternatives look like. More important, The Power Line is designed to give you the facts that you can use to convince your friends and neighbors that PATH should not be built.
The Power Line is about your friends and neighbors and about the lines of power they hold in their own hands. It is my friends and neighbors who keep The Power Line going.