The Decline of Appalachian coal and the need for diversification
By Rory McIlmoil and Evan Hansen
Rory McIlmoil, M.A., Staff Research Analyst, Energy and Climate Change Program.
Evan Hansen,M.S., Principal, Environmental Policy Program
The U.S. Department of Energy projects that in a little more than three years, the amount of coal mined in Appalachia will be just half of what it was in 2008. After that, the downward spiral will continue. There is no magic remedy, no quick fix: when the coal is gone, it’s gone. Source: AP
More important, the decline of Appalachian coal means it’s time for every political candidate with national aspirations to stop kissing the industry’s ass in important swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The future of these states depends on their ability to re-invent their economies, not preserving a relic of the past. The relevant questions now are: How do we move beyond coal? How do we bring new jobs to the coal fields and retrain coal miners for other work? How do we inspire entrepreneurialism and self-reliance in people whose lives have been dependent on the paternalistic coal industry?
It also means it’s time to stop letting Big Coal spike every conversation about climate and energy policy. For decades, climate and energy policy has been held hostage by bullshit arguments from the coal industry that any attempts to reduce greenhouse gas pollution or shift to renewable energy will bring economic ruin to America.
Well, the decline and fall of the coal industry shows that just the opposite is true: Our future is not dependent on burning more coal, but on getting off it as quickly as possible and creating a new economy based on clean, renewable energy. It may be too late for West Virginia to save itself from the ravages of Big Coal. But it’s not too late for America.