This month the U.S. Energy Information Administration and The Institute for Energy Research released statistics showing that Americans still depend on coal more than any other fuel source when it comes to generating electricity.
In fact, 37 percent of our electricity is generated by coal, while natural gas comes in second with 30 percent.
While coal is still king, its use is down from 53 percent in 1993 — quite a large shift.
Nevertheless, experts predict that by the year 2040 these numbers will remain relatively stagnant with coal producing 35 percent of America's electricity and natural gas producing the same 30 percent.
Of course, all of this is dependent upon natural gas prices, which could mean that coal will come in second if natural gas prices remain low.
So what does this mean for West Virginia and our mining industry?
Well, it means that coal is definitely going to have to learn to share more of the market with oil and gas producers, but it also means that coal is by no means a "dead" industry. America's electricity consumption is predicted to increase 0.9 percent each year through 2040, which should bode well for coal, a resource that has proven to be the most efficient and cost effective over the long run.
Overall, the news is terrific for West Virginia as a state, which will stand to gain more revenue from severance taxes. It should mean no shortage of jobs in the energy sector, be it coal or gas and oil — depending on where you live of course.
But somewhere in those few drops in percentage points there is a group of disenfranchised coal miners left with no hope of earning an honest living.
And while coal is going to be making up a smaller piece of the pie in the future, the Obama Administration has made what would otherwise be a slow transition into one that is happening almost overnight.