COAL MAY no longer be king, but it still can be a major player in our nation's energy game plan.
These are not the best of times in the coal industry. Several factors have contributed to coal's demise. The foremost may be the White House's anti-coal policy. The large supply of natural gas also plays into coal's reduced swagger.
In West Virginia, coal production has dropped by 25 percent over the past four years. That translates into the loss of 3,500 well-paying jobs. That is unfortunate, but it reflects the current state of the industry.
With that said, all is not gloom and doom for coal.
That was reinforced this week by West Virginia Coal Association Vice President Chris Hamilton. He believes the worldwide need for coal can provide the industry "somewhat of a silver lining for decades to come."
The Ohio Valley, if not the entire nation, will be better off if such a scenario plays out. Hamilton notes there is a massive need for coal outside of U.S. borders.
With that being the case, the tri-state region is more than up to the task. Ohio's and West Virginia's coal supplies have lengthy life expectancies while the work force is skilled and plentiful.
All that needs to happen for the coal industry to be galvanized is to give it a level playing field. The Environmental Protection Agency and the administration need to become coal supporters, instead of antagonists.
Coal exports are increasing to meet global demands. But more needs to be done domestically. If given the chance, coal could prove the driving force for our nation's energy needs.