Indiana Daily Student

IU research finds coal industry may slow job growth in the future

The culture of coal may actually harm Appalachian communities moving from using coal as a source of job growth.

Since 1985, employment in the coal industry has dropped 71 percent, according to an IU-Bloomington release.

IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs researchers found significant conclusions from a study conducted in these Appalachian communities. It used focus groups and interviews with former coal miners, religious leaders and economic development experts. 

According to the study, rolling back environmental regulations will not bring significant resurgence of the coal industry. A promise of coal in the future will threaten progress in launching other job-training programs. 

The study found evidence of these coal communities working to shed the culture of coal and work toward renewable sources of energy, according to the release. 

A co-author of the study, SPEA researcher David Konisky, said in the release that the energy transition will have uneven impacts for individuals and communities. 

"It is critical that we develop strategies to assist those most negatively affected," Konisky said in the release.

The study found government programs should focus on helping communities find and harness new economic and human development in health and education, professional growth and public services.

An unnamed participant in the study told researchers there is increasing enthusiasm in leaving the coal industry. 

"I'm beginning to see some real enthusiasm, particularly among young people in small communities in West Virginia, to begin looking for something beyond," the participant told researchers, according to the release. "Something beyond coal."

Katelyn Haas

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