WE’LL SEE: Can West Virginia’s coal jobs come back? [archive]

Can coal really hope for a lasting revival in West Virginia? Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, is upbeat.

He says regulatory “overreach” by the previous administration “paralyzed the coal industry,” but that since the start of the year “the attitude has been very, very positive.” Economists are not so optimistic: many say the gains are illusory — and warn against equating a small, short-term improvement with a genuine resurgence. . . .

The fracking boom has drastically lowered prices, leading natural gas to overtake thermal coal in US electricity generation, shrinking the share of coal to 30 percent. Industry officials say even Trump’s lifeline to coal-fired power plants, with the suspension of clean air rules, will not alter the move towards using the cleaner fuel in new plants.

And with an huge oversupply of steel in the world market, even demand for higher-price metallurgical coal is not expected to pick up — unless domestic demand for steel jumps dramatically, for example if Trump follows through on promises of a massive infrastructure project.

Related: Stephen Moore: Coal’s Colossal Comeback. [archive] “Buried in an otherwise-humdrum jobs report was the jaw-dropping pronouncement by the Department of Labor that mining jobs in America were up by 11,000 in March. Since the low point in October 2016, and following years of painful layoffs in the mining industry, the mining sector has added 35,000 jobs.”