You can count on coal 24/7. You can’t always depend on the sun!

The coming eclipse is a sign of the unreliability of solar power, I guess. Kentuckians are planning to protest.

If you’re planning to visit Hopkinsville, Kentucky, to see the total eclipse of the sun on August 21, 2017, be prepared. Hopkinsville (a.k.a. Eclipseville) is globally recognized to be the epicenter of the eclipse. Hundreds of thousands of spectators will converge on the town to see it. Among them “Kentuckians for Coal” will be in the vanguard protesting the eclipse.

Kentuckians for Coal is an ad-hoc coalition of miners, union officials, family members and coal users created to defend the Kentucky coal industry against encroachment from renewable energy industries and from economic development initiatives aimed at lessening America’s dependence on coal. Kentuckians for Coal stands against the eclipse and those who worship it.

Hopkinsville is actually calling itself “Eclipseville” now, and apparently has a number of reasons to be proud of itself.

Hopkinsville, with a population of 33,000, has two other great claims to fame. One is as the birthplace of the world-renowned psychic Edgar Cayce. He made his home in Hopkinsville, and died there in 1945, after predicting the date of his own death. The other is the notoriously pagan annual celebration of extra-terrestrials, which commemorates a terrifying landing by space aliens in 1955, 62 years ago to the day, known as the Little Green Men Festival.

Awesome. It’s true: a nearby farm was the site of extraterrestrial invasion, or maybe, owls.

The press release takes pains to make Hopkinsville sound hellish for the day of the eclipse.

When more than 250,000 people descend on the town for four days in August, including busloads of Amish from Pennsylvania and rumored Arab royalty, hucksters will peddle overpriced souvenirs as area hotels jack up their room rates by 400%; gas stations run out of gas; and cell phone service crashes due to demand. Traffic jams, a run on available food, an invasion of prostitutes, and rowdy crowds will test the patience of both local residents and the extra law enforcement brought in to maintain order. In addition, there is the serious threat to spectators’ eyesight if they look at the sun without special eclipse-viewing glasses.

It’s going to be full of coal miners, too! Horrible, dirty coal-miners shaking their fists at the sun! I think I’ll pass.


  1. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    That’s why we need coal, cuz we burn energy faster than the sun provides (only during daylight hours, no sun T night dontchano) /S

  2. says

    As the wind howls fretfully around the eaves my 1 acre block’s seasonal solar energy store is slowly being depleted into my slow combustion stove. Bugger coal, it’s too dear to heat with.

  3. Bruce H says

    You’d think those yokels would be cheering on the solar eclipse. After all, solar arrays will be rendered dark and useless everywhere in its path.

  4. themadtapper says

    A town proudly famous for a psychic and an alien incursion is protesting on the grounds that fossil fuels are more reliable than the sun. Is this how the universe ends? Collapsing in on a singularity of stupid?

  5. davidnangle says

    This story is almost perfect. Just needs little-people tumblers, a fire-eater, and a guy on stilts. Perhaps some crazed scientist finalizing his lunar capsule-firing cannon, that a few young, Victorian persons can stumble into at the last moment.

    We could, if we were meanies, start a rumor that the glasses are a gubmint conspiracy to brainwash people to be gay Muslim lefties.

  6. birgerjohansson says

    It would make sense to demonstrate to get federal and state aid to bring new industries to towns that have lost many jobs as the coal industry shrinks.
    It does *not* make much sense to campaign to invest more in a sector that is doomed to shrink further.

  7. Artor says

    How does a small town in Redneckistan make a claim to be the “epicenter” of a phenomenon that makes a 70-mile wide path across the whole continent?

  8. woozy says

    Could very well just be a satire thing

    I rather rather suspect it is. Pro-coal people simply would refuse to use the language of the other side and wouldn’t refer to “renewable energy industries”, “economic development initiatives”, and “America’s dependence on coal”.

  9. says

    A lot of the language seems suspect, but a lot of it seems to be played straight. It’s entirely possible that these people are for real but didn’t consult with any coal industry hacks in order to get their weasel-wording right. And never underestimate the irrationality of the pro-coal, anti-environmental set. It may be bad for their health, bad for the planet, even bad for the economy, but it doesn’t matter, because this is a culture war and they cannot let the hippies win.

    Either way, it’s bad satire or bad beliefs.

  10. anthrosciguy says

    You know, when the coal runs out in one mine we can always find another mine. Good luck finding another sun when this one goes. If we depend on solar power we’re gonna be in a world of hurt in a few billion years.

  11. emergence says

    An eclipse lasts for less than a day, the sun has been shining for a few billion years, and it’s going to shine for a few billion more. Coal mines can shut down in a few decades after the seam’s been stripped bare, and the energy from coal wouldn’t even exist if the plants coal was formed from didn’t absorb the energy from the sun.

    I’d like to believe that this is a Poe, and the phrasing pointed out by other commenters makes me suspect it is. However, this isn’t really much dumber than some things actual conservatives have said about solar power. Remember that guy who tried to invoke thermodynamics to prove that solar power was impossible? Once you get to the point that conservatives are arguing that a technology that’s been in use for decades is physically impossible, you can’t really give them the benefit of the doubt anymore.

  12. Phiknight says

    I was going to say…sounds like a Terry Pratchett plot, but I already see posts about Poe and Satire so I feel late.

  13. springa73 says

    themadtapper #7

    Well, it doesn’t say if most of the protestors are actually going to be from Hopkinsville, so it seems a little unfair to pin all of the stupidity on them. As for the town celebrating being the home of a psychic and and alleged alien landing, when you are a nondescript town you have to take what you can get, I guess!

    Artor #14

    I was thinking the same thing – “epicenter” makes it sound like Hopkinsville, Kentucky is the only spot one will be able to see the eclipse from!

  14. petemoulton says

    Forget the eclipse; I’d pay good money to see a horse-drawn bus loaded with Amish.

  15. weylguy says

    It’s tragic how the traditional image of a cigarette-smoking, filthy, black lung-ridden coal miner from ages past has been resurrected in our day to represent anti-science sentiments. Sieg heil, Donald Trump!

  16. richardemmanuel says

    I once travelled to see a total eclipse, to Romania as it happens – quite an interesting country then – and after being told for the umpteenth time not to look at the Sun with naked eyes, I decided I would, because I was in one of my moods. It went dark, a lot of birds flew out to sea, for some reason, and I stared at the Sun as it reappeared, and absolutely nothing happened. Take that, eye-doom predicters.

  17. rabbitbrush says

    Well, won’t they be chagrined when they find out that it’s the Jews who will be blotting out the sun, to show them who has the real power.

  18. jazzlet says


    After witnessing a lot of seabirds going out to sea, along with smaller woodland birds and some raptor preparing to roost during a partial eclipse my family speculation was that the birds thought it was nightfall and were so going to where they would normally sleep.

  19. bachfiend says

    With a total solar eclipse there’s a central line in the path of the shadow cast by the Moon, and there’s also a single point on the central line at which the length of totality is maximal (at other places, it’s shorter).

    Hopkinsville is close (around 30 km) from that ‘sweet point’. And is perhaps the largest town nearby.

    I’m saving my money for northern Australia on July 22, 2028, which is going to be a long one at over 5 minutes.

  20. richardemmanuel says

    jazzlet – yes but were they wearing special bird eye-protectors given away by newspapers? Why was I supposed to be blinded? The Sun hadn’t previously blinded me. I couldn’t think of a reason, off the top of my head, so I did one of those experiment things. I wouldn’t do the stare at the Sun through a telescope experiment – that would take a true ‘maverick’. But what was meant to be special about eclipse day? The contrast? Was the Sun shinier? Twenty years later my hair fell out. Perhaps that’s it.

  21. richardemmanuel says

    Was I just a lucky idiot? Or were all the other people idiots? I just want to know. You don’t hear of mass animal-blindings every eclipse because they were peeking.

  22. blf says

    This reminds me of am incident in England(?) I read about some yonks ago. A new server farm was being built. One of the issues with server farms is what to do with all the heat they generate. The company building the farm made a proposal to the local council: We’ll build(? refurbish?) an indoor community recreation centre, and provide free heating (from the server farm).

    The council turned the proposal down. The reason? The server farm was anticipating two(?) days of downtime per year, meaning there would be about two days a year when the centre wouldn’t be heated.

  23. says

    richardemmanuel @#31:

    Was I just a lucky idiot? Or were all the other people idiots? I just want to know. You don’t hear of mass animal-blindings every eclipse because they were peeking.

    Neither I’d say.

    Looking into the sun (just try it on a bright day) CAN damage your eyes, but you would instinctively turn them away quickly enough, usually. It hurts. The risk that exists when an eclipse happens is that people would try to force themselves to look into the sun a lot longer than they normally would. Hence the eye protection, for those who don’t want to miss a second of it.

    I saw the eclipse on the beach of Fécamp, France in 1999. It was a great experience, and I can see how in earlier times it would have been the cause of a lot of superstitions. The changing colour of the light on the landscape was almost magical.

  24. says

    Artor ‘…claim to be the “epicenter”… ‘

    Obviously because it’s the point on the earth’s surface vertically above the focus of the eclipse….um….nevermind.

  25. bachfiend says


    Not quite. The Moon in its orbit is travelling at almost 4,000 km an hour. If the Earth was a flat disc, then the Moon’s shadow would be moving at almost 4,000 km an hour across the Earth’s surface from west to east.

    But the Earth is a sphere. The first moment the solar eclipse will be visible will be at sunrise someplace, and you’d see (or not see) the Sun rising in the East already eclipsed. But the Moon’s shadow will be moving much faster than the 4,000 km an hour, because the Earth’s surface at that point will be directly curved towards the Sun, and totality will be correspondingly shorter.

    The same applies as to when the last moment the solar eclipse will be visible. It will be a sunset someplace and the eclipsed Sun will be seen (or not seen) dipping beneath the western horizon.

    Somewhere between these two points there will be a position at which the Moon’s shadow is moving at a speed somewhat closer to the possible 4,000 km an hour, and totality will be maximal for that eclipse. The ‘epicentre’. The Sun need not, and won’t be, vertically overhead (it would need to be between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn for that to ever happen. I’d imagine that the length of totality would also be very long.

    And then there’s also the fact that the Earth is also rotating from west to east, causing the Moon’s shadow to be travelling more slowly, increasing the length of totality.

    Which is why the July 22, 2028 total solar eclipse is going to be so long at over 5 minutes. Northern Australia is much closer to the equator so the rotational speed will be much closer to the maximum 1500 km an hour. To counter that, July is winter in Australia, so the sun won’t be anywhere vertically overhead.

    The ‘sweet spot’ or ‘epicentre’ will be in the Kimberley (which I can strongly recommend as a place to visit), and almost worth the lengths of the flights to get there.

    The ‘place’ to see the solar eclipse is the NASA website with streaming of images from the DSCOVR satellite located at the Lagrange 1 point which is about 1,600,000 km from the Earth. You’ll see the Moon moving against the Earth, which should be something amazing to see.