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Could Coal Decline in Appalachia?

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It seems so.

Essentially, the easy to reach coal seams are disappearing, creating the necessity for extremely destructive methods like mountaintop removal in order to reach what is left. With increasing outrage over these methods and more environmental regulations, coal’s dominant role in Appalachia could decline.

I am a bit skeptical, given the coal industry’s traditional mendacity when it comes to protecting its own interests, but there’s no question that more and more American coal is coming from Wyoming and employment in coal mining has declined significantly in Appalachia over recent decades.

In some ways, coal’s decline in Appalachia would be a true good. Mountaintop removal is a truly loathsome method that reshapes an entire ecosystem in order to keep our homes at 75 degrees in winter. But despite the decline in employment, coal directly employs around 20,000 miners today. That’s a lot of jobs in a long impoverished area. Taking those away without replacing them with something else would be a real punch in the gut to southern Appalachia. So, like so many things, it’s really complicated.

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