I agree with most of Mr. Daniel Payne’s points in his Opinion piece, “Coal is Failing,” but I thought I’d flesh out a few finer points about coal mining in Appalachia.
The single biggest blow to the coal industry in recent years is the rise of natural gas (which Mr. Trump also claims to support).
Another blow to miners is the creation of new mining techniques, including the environmentally questionable “mountaintop removal” technique, wherein the top of a mountain is blown up to better access the coal.
Look at a Google Earth image of mountains in West Virginia or Tennessee and you can clearly see the effects of the practice.
Coal is a non-renewable resource, and Appalachia has been mining its coal for over a century. Wyoming is catching up to West Virginia in coal production, and will likely surpass it in the coming years.
Many communities in Appalachia have relied on coal companies for everything, from housing to company credit cards to use at company stores, and now the industry is dying.
No longer can someone in Appalachia expect to make good money right out of high school by working in the coal mines. This has caused pressing problems in Appalachia, from poverty to heroin use.
Something must be done to diversify the economies of these coal communities in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and elsewhere, or these problems will only grow worse.
Jake Boomer is a history and anthropology major from Nashville, Tennessee.