Appalachian Coal Set For Big Decline, Protests & High Profile Debates or Not

coal photo

photo: Ryan via flickr.

Regardless of the outcome of high profile public debate--viz Waterkeeper Bobby Kennedy Jr v. Dirty Coal Don Blankenship smackdown tomorrow night at the University of Charleston--or vehement protest from the likes of youth activists to seasoned scientists, Appalachian coal is set for big declines in the coming decades due to market and legislative forces. That's the word from Downstream Strategies' latest report. The solution? Diversify now.

appalachian coal production chart

Production Peaked in 1997
The report says that Central Appalachian coal production is set to decline 50% by 2020, continuing a trend over the past 12 years or so which has seen production falling--it peaked back in 1997--as other regions become more attractive due to lower production costs.

Report lead author Rory McIlmoil described the situation:

This trend is expected to continue as mining costs increase due to the depletion of the lowest cost coal reserves, and as new environmental regulations are implemented. As this happens, local and state economies will need new sources of jobs and revenue to replace coal mining jobs and taxes.

Invest in Renewables + Cleantech Job Training
To remedy this Downstream Strategies recommends policy measures such as 1) requiring each state in the region to mandate 25% of energy from renewable sources; 2) support of renewable energy development through grants, tax credits, low-interest loans, and bonds; 3) stronger net metering laws; 4) workforce training programs to provide skills required from renewable energy development.

Read more (good summary and background): The Charleston Gazette

And, the original report: The Decline of Central Appalachian Coal and the the Need for Economic Diversification [PDF]

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