Thirty Years of Coal Production in West Virginia “Energy Crisis” to Present.
McColloch, Jr., Gayle H.
West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey, Morgantown, WV.
In the 1970’s demand for energy was high as a result of the Arab Oil Embargo. The price of coal was also high, but production was surprisingly low. In the 1980’s prices moderated, but production steadily increased. The 1990’s brought the Clean Air Act and production in the northern coal field stagnated while it grew rapidly in the south.
Areas and parts of the geologic section have been depleted of economically mineable resources due to decline in demand and other factors while other areas have become economically viable. Employment has declined steadily during the whole period; however there is currently an anticipated shortage of miners due to the retirement of the remaining workforce who were mostly hired in the 1970s.
Over the last 30 years, surface mine production has increased from around 25 percent of the state’s total production to over 36 percent today. This percentage appears to be more or less steady over the last few years. Analysis of recent data suggests only moderate increases in annual production in the face of high demand.
Recently, Allegheny Energy announced that they would begin burning some Powder River Basin coal in their system in 2005.
Beginning in 1980, I have been involved in various attempts to understand the ups and downs of West Virginia coal production. During that time, some predictable trends have played out and some really surprising trends have developed.