A Region in Trouble
Roger Bezdek is the president of MISI, in Washington, D.C. He has served as a senior advisor in the office of the Secretary of the Treasury and as research director at the Department of Energy. He is the author of six books and over three hundred publications in scientific and technical journals, including over a dozen articles in Public Utilities Fortnightly.
Acknowledgement: The U.S. Department of Energy provided funding for the analysis of these data. However, the paper does not necessarily reflect Administration policy.
The U.S. coal industry has been distressed for years, and the fate of U.S. coal mining regions and jobs, especially in Appalachia, figured prominently in the 2016 Presidential election. Coal mines have closed, coal power plants have shut down, and many jobs in coal-related industries have been lost.
In the 2017 Annual Energy Outlook, EIA forecasts that coal will continue to decrease as a source of U.S. electricity generation through 2050, even without the Clean Power Plan. It is important to determine the current state of the industry, jobs and potential future trends under different possible scenarios.
In Part I, we assess the recent past and current state of the U.S. coal industry, with emphasis on Appalachia. In Part II, we examine alternative scenario futures for the industry involving assumptions about economic growth, energy requirements, technologies, tax incentives, and research and development.
Coal was the cornerstone of the U.S. energy supply for nearly two centuries. Oil eventually replaced coal in transportation and natural gas replaced coal in space heating. However, moderately priced coal as the basis of U.S. electricity generation enabled families to take advantage of a vast array of home appliances and provided manufacturers with affordable and reliable electricity.