Last month, natural gas generated as much electricity as coal did. NPR takes a look at what the growth of gas means for the coal industry, which is facing decreased demand for its product, as gas becomes cheaper and cheaper:
Last month, Arch Coal, the operator of one of the biggest mines in the county, announced a round of devastating layoffs — more than 1,300 employees in West Virginia and Kentucky alone. Between the other big players in central Appalachia — Consol, Patriot, Alpha — thousands more jobs have been lost. This past week, Patriot Coal filed for bankruptcy protection.
“I’ve never seen anything as quick as this to devastate the market, and this many layoffs at one time,” says Thomas Clark, publisher of The Echo newspaper and a mine inspector for the past four decades. “It’s been a landslide.”
…For 19 years, Rich Lewis worked as a miner on this mountain and for most of those years he was able to work as much as he needed, including weekends and overtime.
“For 17 years it was work all you [want to] work,” Lewis says. “We [were] shipping anywhere from 30 to 35 trains a month … in the last year and a half it went down to 20 trains a month.”