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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Coal: West Virginia's Dying Industry

from Joost J. Bakker lJmuiden on flickr
West Virginia is a pretty one-dimensional economy.  If you take a trip down to the southern part of the state (Mingo County for example) you can hardly travel five miles without seeing some sign of coal, whether it be a coal truck or mining site etc.  Coal, despite the "ignorance is bliss" attitude of the industyr, is a non-renewable resource that will eventually run out.  I've been wondering for years how West Virginia plans to overcome the decline in coal. 

The decline may be starting. The Charleston Daily Mail reported, earlier this week, that the coal severance tax is expected to decline in the coming year.

The official forecast predicts coal severance tax collections will decline to $519 million in the fiscal year that began July 1. The forecast was made in December.
"Even though total severance tax collections for the first three months of this fiscal year are up by nearly 19 percent over last year, there are signs of an emerging trend of slower collection growth on the near-term horizon," Muchow said.
As much as coal employs the state, it also hurts it.  The industry gives several people jobs, and allows many to continue the rich family tradition of working in the mines.  Sometimes its customary for a son to follow in his father's footsteps and enter into the mines for a living (and a decent wage at that).  However, this tradition is something that won't be around forever.  No, coal will one day be gone and the state will be left struggling to find other forms of revenue and employment if they don't act accordingly.

Marcellus shale, as mentioned in my last post, is supposed to be a similar boon to the economy.  However, the natural gas pulled from under the rock is not permanent either.  West Virginia needs to be considering investing in alternative energy and clean ways of powering the state.  More investment in things like the Beech Ridge Wind Farm, and focusing on ways to employ the hard workers of West Virginia


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