Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Market Forces and Geology, Not an Alleged War on Coal, Are Driving Reductions in Appalachian Coal Jobs
Press Release

RELEASE: Market Forces and Geology, Not an Alleged War on Coal, Are Driving Reductions in Appalachian Coal Jobs

Washington, D.C. — For years, the coal industry and its political allies have claimed that the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, is orchestrating a war on coal. Last month, two West Virginia coal-mining companies announced the layoff of hundreds of workers, prompting additional finger pointing at the EPA’s air-quality and climate rules. In a new issue brief, the Center for American Progress takes a deeper look at the complex and compounding market conditions facing the Appalachian coal industry and discusses how the competitive coal market and geology, not an alleged war on coal, are the driving forces behind the industry’s problems.

“The Appalachian coal market is confronting a perfect storm of mature coal resources, abundant and low-cost natural gas, deflated global coal prices, an influx of coal from Colombia and other countries, and competition with coal from other parts of the United States,” said Alison Cassady, CAP Director of Domestic Energy Policy and the author of the brief. “These multiple market factors are enough to rattle any industry. It is important to understand all of the challenges facing Appalachian coal so we can identify ways to help the coal communities affected by the downturn. It does not help to blame the EPA and ignore the more fundamental market forces at work.”

The CAP brief identifies several market trends that have affected coal production in Appalachia. The U.S. coal industry overall is facing intense competition from cheap and abundant supplies of cleaner-burning natural gas. But Appalachia also is losing market share to other coal basins in the United States. Coal producers in the Powder River Basin can produce coal much more cheaply than Appalachian producers. In addition, several electric power plants, equipped with effective coal scrubbers, have switched from Appalachian coal to cheaper, higher-sulfur coal from the Illinois Basin. Appalachian producers also face international pressures, from an influx of cheap imported coal from Colombia and elsewhere and from falling global coal prices that make coal exports less profitable.

Click here to read the report.

For more information, please contact Tom Caiazza at 202.481.7141 or [email protected].

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