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Justin Rowlatt is traveling the U.S. for the BBC network at the Ethical Man. He’s been trying to cut his carbon emissions. Now he’s back to “save the world” — his words, not ours. He asks recently, “Can rural American hold the world to ransom?” 

Rowlatt is in West Virginia where he finds there is much coal mining. It’s a place of poor people, but rich in the minerals that established America as an industrial power. Coal is king here and coal rules the state’s politics. As a result, Rowlatt reports, the state’s two Democratic senators will not vote for the climate change bill now pending in the Senate. The Democrats need those two votes to pass the bill and, as a result, Rowlatt writes, they will have to either cater to West Virginia or water down the bill in some other way that will attract a Republican or two.

“That, in turn, will dilute any deal done at Copenhagen,” at the world climate change summit next month, Rowlatt writes. “It may seem extraordinary that a sparsely populated, rural state like West Virginia could hold such sway in international politics, but the logic here on the ground is compelling. ‘What would you do if the mines closed?’ I asked the miners. They shook their heads: There aren’t any good jobs outside of coal here”, they told me, ‘West Virginia is coal.’”

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