States such as Kansas have already begun a switch to natural gas. Prior to 2002, there were only 63 registered natural gas wells in the Cherokee Basin. In 2009, more than 5,200 were registered.
Southern West Virginia, known for its vast coal reserves, would likely be hurt the most from a blow to the coal industry. Northern West Virginia, which is over the Marcellus Shale, a large natural gas deposit, may benefit from gains in the natural gas market. Though much of the state sits over the gas deposit, efforts to extract natural gas have largely occurred in the northern part of the state.
Coal has largely remained in demand because it is abundant and inexpensive. Various environmental groups believe a push toward tighter regulation may be enough to snatch King Coal’s historic price advantage. Already, natural gas prices have slipped from a high of $14 in mid-2008 to about $4 per thousand cubic feet.
Despite rising costs of coal production, falling natural gas prices and the push for renewable forms of energy, people are confident in the future of coal as we will need every bit of energy we can from every source we can find whether coal, oil, natural gas, wind, solar, hydro or nuclear.
Though coal still provides about half of the nation’s energy, others are skeptical about coal’s ability to hang on to its market share for long. Black & Veatch, an energy consulting company, estimate coal’s market share will fall from 48 percent to 21 percent by 2035. The same group expects natural gas to grow from 21 percent of the electricity market to about 40 percent by 2035.