MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Two recent reports from WVU’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research highlight the continued decline of coal demand and production, but also the still-significant impact coal has on the state economy.
The first report is a regional look: An Overview of Coal and the Economy in Appalachia looks at coal production form northeast Pennsylvania down into Alabama. It was a fourth-quarter 2020 update written at the request of the Appalachian Regional Commission.
The COVID pandemic, BBER says, further weighed down the steady decline seen since 2005. Appalachian coal production fell by 65% during the 2005-2020 time span, compared to 54% nationally. Recently, low natural gas prices helped accelerate the decline.
The report looks at three Appalachian coal basins: northern, Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and northern West Virginia; central, southern West Virginia eastern Kentucky and northeast Tennessee; and southern, a bit of south-central Tennessee and northern Alabama.
The biggest losses fall in the central basin, BBER says, tied to lower worker productivity stemming in part from harder-to-reach seams that are more expensive to extract…