The Obama plan notes, for example, that natural gas has increased its share of electricity generation in recent years, and promises to "promote fuel-switching from coal to gas for electricity production."
Nationally, natural gas lobby groups generally praised the parts of Obama's speech that "again recognized the benefits of natural gas as an American source of energy that is clean, reliable and affordable."
West Virginia-based natural gas groups, though, weren't exactly on board with what the president had to say.
Corky DeMarco, executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, said his group doesn't necessarily want to see natural gas replace coal in power plants. Instead, DeMarco said, his members support efforts to export more natural gas and to use their product as a fuel for trucks and cars.
"We have said all along that West Virginia is a state that is rich in natural resources, and we ought to use all of the natural resources we have," DeMarco said.
James Van Nostrand, a West Virginia University law professor who studies energy policy, said it's not necessarily a surprise that the state's political leaders focused solely on the Obama climate plan's impact on coal.
"The state doesn't really see itself as a natural gas state," VanNostrand said Wednesday. "It sees itself as a coal state."
He said the president's comments about natural gas could be seen as an opportunity.
"That's a beneficial thing for West Virginia," Van Nostrand said. "We're fortunate that we have natural gas to fall back on."
Still, Van Nostrand and other experts caution that West Virginia's energy sector and its broader economy should not think that dealing with climate change is as simple as transitioning from coal to natural gas.
Natural gas jobs aren't necessarily in the same parts of West Virginia as coal jobs, and while natural gas pays well, its average wages aren't as high as those paid to coal miners.
To succeed in a clean-energy economy, West Virginia will need other efforts that focus on things like energy efficiency, increased renewable production and further diversifying the overall statewide economy, experts say.
"While the state is experiencing a boom in natural gas production from the development of the Marcellus Shale in the northeastern part of the state, the southern part of the state is projected to witness a steep decline in coal production," Boettner's group said in a report last year. "To compensate for the loss of good-paying jobs in the coal industry, the state will need to transition by developing clearer economic development and diversification strategies in the southern coalfields that will build a more sustainable economy."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.