Coal communities in Appalachia and Wyoming are vital revenue engines for huge portions of the rural U.S., and they face devastation with little time to adjust to new realities.
Coal country in the United States is in the midst of a historic transition. Whether it’s Welch, West Virginia; or Cumberland, Kentucky; or Gillette, Wyoming, communities that have built their cultures and economies around coal face a future without it.
This transition is not one most coal communities would have chosen, and because of the economic shock of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s transpired much sooner than anticipated.
The decline that many coal communities expected to stretch years into the future has instead arrived, seemingly, overnight. Coal’s demise was already baked into market and policy forces driving toward cleaner energy for the past 20 years, according to analysts.
But this year the coronavirus pandemic’s economic implications abruptly exposed the industry’s weaknesses to hasten its downfall. Rather than a “glide path” of a decade or more to diversify from the economic base of coal, communities in coal country may see that foundation erode in just a few years.
“Basically the [Wyoming revenue] trend that’s happened here is a vertical-downward; there’s no slope, it’s just straight down,” University of Wyoming energy economist Robert Godby said in April.
For the rest of this article: https://energynews.us/2020/06/23/west/whats-next-for-coal-country/