Read the report : http://blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Coal production in Central Appalachia may not decline as sharply over the next five years as previously projected, but the long-term forecast looks even worse, according to a new U.S. Department of Energy report.
On Monday, DOE's Energy Information Administration increased its estimates of annual regional coal production for each of the next five years, but then projected steeper drops through the rest of the decade, with output reaching a low of 77 million tons in 2020.
Overall, production from Central Appalachia -- mostly Southern West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky -- is expected to drop to about 86 million tons, a decline of nearly 54 percent between 2011 and 2035.
Production in the Northern Appalachian coalfields of Northern West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania is expected to increase over the same period, but not nearly enough to make up the difference.
A larger share of Southern West Virginia's production comes from mostly non-union surface mines, while the northern part of the state remains a stronghold for underground operations that employ United Mine Workers members. Northern West Virginia mines also tend to producer higher sulfur coal, which can become more attractive as more power plants install pollution control scrubbers.
Rory McIlmoil, energy project manager at the Morgantown environmental consulting firm Downstream Strategies, follows coal production trends and co-authored a January 2010 report that warned of major production declines coming to the region's mining industry.
"Our 2010 report used EIA's projections, and since the publication of that report, those projections have come true," McIlmoil said Monday. "Central Appalachian production is on the decline.
"These projections suggest a far greater decline in coal production for West Virginia than did last year's estimates," he said. "Therefore, the new projections support to an even greater extent the overall message put forth in our report: That Central Appalachia needs strong policies aimed at diversifying the regional economy and energy portfolio."
The new EIA projections are included in Monday's preview of the 2012 edition of the agency's Annual Energy Outlook, which examines trends and tries to project future developments in energy supply, demand and production.