CHARLESTON — Anyone who grew up in the Mountain State or has spent any amount of time visiting can probably sing the West Virginia Coal Association’s ubiquitous jingle, “Coal is West Virginia,” from memory.
The succinct song has played over the airwaves for years, reminding all those who hear it of the hundreds of years of coal mining history in West Virginia and the important economic role the industry has played throughout the state’s growth and development.
While the song still can be heard daily on radio and television stations around the state, its message and meaning have started to ring less true as the coal industry struggles to maintain stability and much of the state’s attention remains focused on the oil and gas industry.
While the song remains, the message of coal has become mixed at best. The coal industry reached a production peak in West Virginia in 2008, when nearly 158 million short tons were mined. Over the next decade, production levels slowed until reaching a 40-year low of just 80 million short tons in 2016.
In 2017, West Virginia was still the second-largest coal producer in the nation, after Wyoming, and accounted for 12% of U.S. total coal production, according to information from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.