Energy Careers Rise as Coal Jobs Drop

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COALAs Coal Jobs Go Up In Flames, New Energy Positions Will Emerge From Ashes.

Coal-related jobs are going up in flames, but new ones will emerge from the ashes. That’s the conclusion of a new economic study that examines the Obama administration’s energy policy and its potential impact on the broader economy.

Appalachia’s coal counties are smoldering for a multitude of reasons, namely the decline in coal production as a result of thinning seams that are hard to mine, inexpensive natural gas that is more of a national favorite and, tougher environmental regulations that are clamping down on power plant emissions.

Just how, though, does the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan factor into this? Expected to be finalized this summer, it would require a 30 percent cut in carbon dioxide releases from existing electric plants that are powered by fossil fuels. While certain sections of the country will feel an unenviable social and financial pain, other regions will prosper, discovering newfound opportunities and realizing an economic expansion.

“At a higher level, when you see a big shock, things will eventually get better,” says Doug Meade, an economist at the University of Maryland, and co-author of the just-released economic study, in an interview. “Yes, the economy does heal: for industries that lose jobs there will, eventually, be demand in other places.

“For coal, it is very localized,” he adds. “People may have to move to other places. Look at shale gas and oil: there is lots of migration to these areas” that include such places as Texas, North Dakota, and even West Virginia.

The study, which was funded by the Energy Foundation, concludes that job creation would start out modestly but pick up over time. Along with Jason Price of Industrial Economics, the two found that beginning in 2020, job growth would equal 74,000. That number expands to 273,000 in 2040. Why? new energy efficiencies would lead to greater savings that are reallocated in everything from natural gas to renewable energy.

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