Appalachia is a region with a history tied to coal mining. In recent decades, as natural gas and other resources replaced coal as the primary fuel for energy production, the economies of many coal-dependent states have struggled. This has led to much public debate about the importance of coal, with many politicians in states such as West Virginia arguing that more coal production is necessary to provide jobs and move the economy forward. However, federal data from 2021 shows that while coal production in the region rose for the year, employment rates in the industry actually fell. In 2021, coal production in Appalachia rose 12%, compared to a national 8% increase. However, employment rates in the coal industry fell 5% in the region (6% nationally). This increase in coal production can be partially attributed to the high price of natural gas, which caused energy companies to seek other resources for power production. It will be interesting to see whether these coal production and employment trends continue as the demand for energy worldwide continues to increase.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting