Coal production and employment trends
Today coal mining provides about 18,000 jobs in eastern and western Kentucky, down from about 48,000 just 30 years ago. Those jobs are important for our workers and communities. They tend to pay well and are often concentrated in counties with few other economic opportunities. Coal mining in eastern Kentucky also provides an important source of revenue for local counties and school systems, including funds generated through the coal severance tax and unmined minerals tax.
But the full story of coal’s impact on our economy is more complicated and troubling.
- Many eastern Kentucky counties with the highest percentage of mining jobs and historically high levels of coal production are among the state’s worst in terms of poverty and unemployment.
- The public health costs of pollution from coal operations in Appalachia amount to a staggering $75 billion a year in increased health care costs, injury and deaths, according to a 2011 peer reviewed study.
- Kentucky tax payers spent $115 million more in just one year to subsidize and regulate the mining industry than the state received in tax revenue generated by the coal industry, according to an analysis produced by the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development.
Peak Coal: the reality of a finite and declining resource
Coal production has been declining and mining jobs disappearing for a while now. Coal is a finite resource, and the region’s most accessible and profitable seams are now largely mined out. As the remaining coal in eastern Kentucky becomes more expensive to mine, coal companies are competing against cheaper fuels, including western coal, natural gas, energy efficiency, and some renewable sources.
The 2009 National Coal Resource Assessment produced by the U.S. Geological Survey echoes that prediction, stating that “annual coal production from the Appalachian Basin will enter a period of irreversible decline during the next several decades.”
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|KFTC hosted this conference on a just transition for Appalachia in Harlan in April 2013. Visit these pages to learn more about the conference and find lots of great resources on Appalachian Transition.|
Appalachian Transition is a joint project of KFTC and the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development.
Making Connections is a related website created by our friends at Appalshop in Whitesburg, Kentucky.
Retooling our world
“Addressing climate risk is not a distraction from solving our economic problems. My friends, addressing climate risk means retooling our world – it means that every factory and power plant, every home and office, every rail line and highway, every vehicle, locomotive and plane, every school and hospital, must be modernized, upgraded, renovated or replaced with something cleaner, more efficient, less wasteful.
"Taking on the threat of climate change means putting investment capital to work creating jobs. It means building a road to a healthier world and a healthier world economy--one less dependent on volatile energy prices, one where many more of us have the things that modern energy makes possible.”
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