For communities in parts of Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, coal mining has sustained local economies for multiple generations. Priorities within the current regime of fossil fuel production and consumption have shifted in recent years, however, with increasing emphasis on natural gas.
Many mines have decreased operations or even closed, leading to unemployment and economic uncertainty. Donald Trump tapped into this anxiety with promises of restoring jobs in coal and energy production, railing against “job-killing” regulations. But many wonder if putting coal miners back to work is possible.
- “In Ohio Coal Country, Job Prospects Lie With Neither Coal Nor Trump’s Promises.” NPR News, December 13, 2016.
As NPR notes, “The market of coal consumers is rapidly shrinking as utilities convert to natural gas. In 2008, coal-fired plants produced 48 percent of the country’s electricity. Last year, it was down to 33 percent.”
Part of this shift is due to air pollution regulations that have encouraged natural gas as an alternative to coal, but it’s also due to the expansion of hydraulic fracturing technologies and the increase in unconventional energy production.