Coal, the nation's most abundant fossil fuel and the only one that is exported, represents one of our most valuable natural resources. This study undertakes a thorough review of the economics of the Appalachian coal industry. It establishes, first of all, the international framework within which the American and the Appalachian coal industry function. It next examines the underlying principles that govern the production of and the demand for coal. This demand is influenced not only by price but also by world politics, the economic well-being of dozens of countries, government regulation, and the availability of fuel substitutes. Included are a comprehensive treatment of the regulation of the industry, the effects of coal utilization on air quality, land reclamation, safety, transport, and legislation pertaining to port use.
In conclusion, Harvey looks at the prospects for Appalachian coal, considering the impact of technologies such as fluidized bed combustion and coal-water slurry and the issue of energy policy and fuel alternatives. The picture that emerges is not unexpected—an industry whose recovery and enduring health depend on resurgence of world and domestic economic activity, social and political stability, and government regulation.