As readers may know, we’ve talked a lot recently about the future of coal in West Virginia. Specifically, we’ve aimed at taking a data-driven and evidence-based approach to the issue instead of one focused primarily on unsubstantiated political posturing. The issue is just too important not to be taken seriously. Now, with the election over, this column in Forbes by energy columnist Ken Silverstein offers a prudent strategy on moving forward:
“Increased government oversight may be coal’s most conspicuous villain. But its real culprit right now is a lot tougher: free market forces. Here, coal’s true competition is natural gas, which is now just as cheap and potentially more abundant. It’s also cleaner and easier to permit, enabling it to capture some of coal’s market share.
Shale gas, or unconventional natural gas, is thus the path of least resistance. It’s a potential gold mine in multiple parts of the country that include Ohio’s Utica basin and throughout in the East Coast in the Marcellus Region. President Obama has said that those plush areas would get developed but with stricter oversight than if his challenger would have been elected.
All this is to say that if Tuesday’s election results don’t push coal into greater compliance then free market forces will. Insightful industry leaders should then be less intent on turning back the regulatory clock and instead, more focused on ushering in relevant technologies.”
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