An editorial published yesterday in the Hazard Herald of Perry County lays out a cogent view of where the economy of Eastern Kentucky is headed, as the coal industry shrinks and utilities begin transitions to cheaper natural gas. The editors of the Hazard Herald say it's clear there's work to be done, as Eastern Kentucky works to find economic alternatives to coal.
We don’t foresee a time in the coming years when absolutely no coal is being mined in Eastern Kentucky, and we can’t predict when we’ll reach the bottom of the current downturn, but what we can say is that if we don’t work to diversify now, our economy is going to sputter to the point that it can’t support the people it currently does. People will move away from Appalachia, in higher numbers than they presently do, in search of something better.
We can’t help but think that Eastern Kentucky, and Perry County in particular, has a tremendous amount of potential. We should be working to save the coal jobs we have left, but we also should be capitalizing on the other things we have going for us.
We see a lot of blame going around for last week’s job loss in the coal fields, but blaming is going to do little good. The federal government is not going to change its policy (we’re highly doubtful that a President Romney would change much either), the coal jobs for Arch are not coming back, and we can’t expect to have any help from those outside the region because, frankly, they have no help to give and likely wouldn’t give it if they did.
Maybe this editorial, as well as continued work by groups like MACED, will help get some of these conversations started in Kentucky–as well as throughout the region.