Efforts to revive coal industry unlikely to work, may slow job growth

October 27, 2017

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Current federal efforts to revive the coal industry will likely do more harm than good to fragile Appalachian communities transitioning from coal as a major source of employment, according to a study conducted by Indiana University researchers.

Based on research involving focus groups and interviews in Appalachia, the research team reached these key conclusions about an industry that has seen employment drop by 71 percent since 1985: Quotes from two participants in focus groups underscore the study's findings:

In reference to the decline of the coal industry, one former coal miner said, "I can tell you what my grand-daddy always said: 'No matter how many times you beat and kick that dead horse, it's not getting up to plow again.'"

Another participant said, "I'm beginning to see some real enthusiasm, particularly among young people in small communities in West Virginia, to begin looking for something beyond, something beyond coal."

The researchers conducted interviews with former coal miners, religious leaders, economic development experts and many others in Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia. The focus group discussions were held in Williamson and Ghent, West Virginia, and included miners who had been laid off, their families, part-time retail workers and others. The interviews and focus groups were conducted in July 2016.

One of the biggest challenges confronting coal communities, besides the need to develop new economic opportunities, is overcoming the deeply rooted culture of coal that has defined the lives of residents and full communities for generations.

"We found substantial evidence that Appalachian coal communities are working to shed the culture of coal and develop new opportunities and an evolving conception of identity based on these opportunities," said researcher Sanya Carley of IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

The researchers believe their findings have application outside coal country. Many communities in other parts of the country are also grappling with a transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy.

"The energy transition will have uneven impacts for individuals and communities, and it is critical that we develop strategies to assist those most negatively affected," said SPEA researcher David Konisky, a co-author of the study.

Carley, Konisky and Tom Evans of the geography department in IU's College of Arts and Sciences published their findings, "Adaptation, culture, and the energy transition in American coal country," in the peer-reviewed journal Energy Research and Social Science.
-end-


Indiana University

Related Energy Articles from Brightsurf:

Energy System 2050: solutions for the energy transition
To contribute to global climate protection, Germany has to rapidly and comprehensively minimize the use of fossil energy sources and to transform the energy system accordingly.

Cellular energy audit reveals energy producers and consumers
Researchers at Gladstone Institutes have performed a massive and detailed cellular energy audit; they analyzed every gene in the human genome to identify those that drive energy production or energy consumption.

First measurement of electron energy distributions, could enable sustainable energy technologies
To answer a question crucial to technologies such as energy conversion, a team of researchers at the University of Michigan, Purdue University and the University of Liverpool in the UK have figured out a way to measure how many 'hot charge carriers' -- for example, electrons with extra energy -- are present in a metal nanostructure.

Mandatory building energy audits alone do not overcome barriers to energy efficiency
A pioneering law may be insufficient to incentivize significant energy use reductions in residential and office buildings, a new study finds.

Scientists: Estonia has the most energy efficient new nearly zero energy buildings
A recent study carried out by an international group of building scientists showed that Estonia is among the countries with the most energy efficient buildings in Europe.

Mapping the energy transport mechanism of chalcogenide perovskite for solar energy use
Researchers from Lehigh University have, for the first time, revealed first-hand knowledge about the fundamental energy carrier properties of chalcogenide perovskite CaZrSe3, important for potential solar energy use.

Harvesting energy from walking human body Lightweight smart materials-based energy harvester develop
A research team led by Professor Wei-Hsin Liao from the Department of Mechanical and Automation Engineering, The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has developed a lightweight smart materials-based energy harvester for scavenging energy from human motion, generating inexhaustible and sustainable power supply just from walking.

How much energy do we really need?
Two fundamental goals of humanity are to eradicate poverty and reduce climate change, and it is critical that the world knows whether achieving these goals will involve trade-offs.

New discipline proposed: Macro-energy systems -- the science of the energy transition
In a perspective published in Joule on Aug. 14, a group of researchers led by Stanford University propose a new academic discipline, 'macro-energy systems,' as the science of the energy transition.

How much energy storage costs must fall to reach renewable energy's full potential
The cost of energy storage will be critical in determining how much renewable energy can contribute to the decarbonization of electricity.

Read More: Energy News and Energy Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.