Hazard Herald on coal transition

Today's editorial in the Hazard Herald reacts to the recent news that Arch Coal will be laying off hundreds in Eastern Kentucky. The editors make this crucial point: "if the utilities go forward and build the necessary infrastructure to utilize natural gas, which is currently a cheap source of power, then we can be certain that coal is largely out the door domestically, and we’re going to be getting our power from natural gas for a few decades to come. The average lifespan for a natural gas plant is approximately 75 years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. " 

Importantly, the editors stress the importance of getting beyond pointing fingers and lend their voices to the growing chorus in the region calling for diversification. 

 [I]f we don’t work to diversify now, our economy is going to sputter to the point that it can’t support the people it currently does.

Through Hazard Community and Technical College and the University Center of the Mountains we have a means to train or re-train people for a number of professions. We also have an able and intelligent workforce.

We also have the natural beauty that our mountains provide that can spur a viable tourism industry. Other counties have acted as models for this, and there is no reason why our local leaders can’t work with our state legislators to build a regional tourism industry stretching from Pike to Laurel County. … Here in Perry County we also have two state legislators that have shown a definite willingness to work on tourism initiatives. We hope they can continue to offer meaningful legislation in Frankfort to that end.
It's going to be increasingly difficult for our elected leaders to ignore the need for economic diversification in Appalachia. Let's hope that they will listen to their constituents and will have the vision needed to see the region through this transition.