New projections from the federal Energy Information Agency show an even larger decline for Central Appalachian coal. By 2035, coal is expected to comprise just 39 percent of our nation's energy mix, and Central Appalachian coal production is estimated to decline 54 percent. This isn't shocking news to anyone who has been watching the trends for the past few years, and yet few of our elected leaders are talking about how to deal with it beyond inflammatory language that, as Ken Ward over at the Coal Tattoo puts it, "simply allows the region’s political leaders to cover up the fact that they don’t have a plan for dealing with the impact of the coming coal production collapse."
We here at Appalachian Transition spotlight some of the promising examples of new thinking and new economies for Central Appalachia, and there are many of them. From the revival of family farms and local foods to opportunities in higher education and clean energy, Appalachians are having important conversations about transition. But without the necessary policy changes and political will to scale up these pockets of success and diversify the region's economy, Appalachia will remain woefully unprepared for the next coal bust.
Yes, economic transition is challenging. It is politically fraught. It requires new thinking and openness to change. But when study after study shows us that coal will not be here forever, we cannot afford to remain complacent. And if our politicians and elected officials aren't willing to act, then maybe you should take their place.