Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:
The Coal Forum, a Charleston-based coal lobbying group, has released a study on the impact of coal on the West Virginia economy in 2017.
The study, “The Economic Impact of Coal in West Virginia,” was completed by the Bureau of Business & Economic Research at the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics under the direction of John Deskins.
According to the commissioned study, coal mining and coal-fired electric power generation totaled some $12.9 billion in economic activity in 2017 with the state’s gross domestic product being approximately $77 billion.
Additionally, direct mining operations employed 13,000 miners who earned over a billion dollars annually.
With coal production rising some five percent nationally from a low in 2016, West Virginia production rose 16 percent in 2017 from 80 million short tons in 2016.
While a slight bounce back, that figure is still far shy of the 158 million short tons produced in the state in 2008.
Overall, West Virginia’s share of national production has been on the decline though the state is still ranked second behind Wyoming.
In 1995, the Mountain State produced 15.8 percent of the nation’s coal. By 2008 that figure had dropped to 13.5 percent and last year to 12 percent.
That decline has been felt the most in the southern portion of the state.
According to the study, between 2008 and 2017 coal production in the southern portion of West Virginia declined by approximately 60 percent.
In 2008, southern West Virginia mined 74 percent of the state’s coal. Last year, the southern portion of the state mined 50 percent of the state’s coal.
That drop in production has meant a loss of many jobs.
When you compare last year to 2001, mining jobs are down approximately 20 percent with that number being even higher, down 42.8 percent, in the high production year of 2011.
While the mining jobs have grown scarcer, they are still lucrative.
The average salary of a coal worker in 2017 was $85,000 a year.
While miners make up only 2.5 percent of jobs in the state, they made up 4.8 percent of the state’s earnings.
The drop in production is directly tied to the drop in need for electric-producing coal.
Since 2008, the state has seen a 60 percent drop in production of thermal coal.
Overseas exports also have dropped a great deal from $7.5 billion in 2012 to $1.3 billion in 2016, though they rose to $3.2 billion in 2017.
“Despite production declines in recent years, coal remains a very important part of West Virginia’s economy, as illustrated in our research,” Deskins said in a news release. “Coal continues to support a sizable share of the state’s economic output and thousands of high-paying jobs.”
According to the study, the experts from WVU are predicting that the demand for coal will generally remain even until at least 2050.
While coal may not bounce back to earlier highs if the forecasts come true, officials from The Coal Forum are optimistic.
“Coal and coal-fired electric power always has been a major driver behind West Virginia’s economy, and this study proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that not only is coal the bedrock of our economy, it’s a key component of our future,” said Coal Forum Co-chairman Chris Hamilton in the release. “The 2017 figures show that our industry is rebounding from the years of oppression during the previous administration.”
The study is available for view at http://busecon.wvu.edu/bber/.
See the article here.
- On August 6, 2018