Appalachian Coal Belt
Resources: A measure of total energy production and consumption per capita
Market: The cost of consumption, measured in electricity prices and gasoline taxes
Infrastructure: Capacity to generate and refine energy sources; miles of pipelines
Nearly 70% of the region’s energy production comes from coal.
Virginia is the nation’s second-largest importer of electricity.
The Central Appalachian Coal Belt, which contains parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, is the middle of the three basins that comprise the Appalachian Coal Belt region. Coal production in the region reached an all-time peak of 294 million tons in 1990 and peaked a second time at 291 million tons in 1997. But production has declined significantly since then due to several factors, including restrictive environmental emissions standards, cheaper—and cleaner—coal from the Powder River Basin and increasing natural gas production from the Marcellus Shale. In West Virginia, the natural gas industry has been gradually supplanting coal as the dominant economic generator. (Hence the state’s placement in the Central Atlantic region with the other Marcellus Shale states.)
The Tennessee Valley Authority, a federal corporation, owns more than 90% of Tennessee’s electricity generation capacity and provides service to almost all of the state’s 95 counties. Electricity from the TVA is distributed to 9 million people, including those in neighboring states (Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Virginia) through its power grid.
Kentucky is part of the Central Appalachian (CAPP) coal delivery zone, an area along the Ohio and Big Sandy rivers where coal from the region is bought and sold under spot and futures contracts.
The seaport in Norfolk, Virginia, is America's largest coal exporting facility. It processed more than 38% of U.S. coal exports in 2012.
Tennessee's coal production peaked in 1972 at about 11 million tons and has fallen considerably since then. The state produced 1.1 million tons of coal in 2013—a fraction of a percent of the nation's total coal output.