Coal mining, celebrated with rhinestones and pageantry, is an enduring legacy rather than a thriving enterprise. Which is coal country’s problem, and the challenge for its boosters. We’re stuck on the idea of coal, its potent history and Walker Evans imagery, although much of the world has moved on.
But some parts of the United States have not.
“We’re keeping our heritage alive. We don’t want it to be a dying industry,” says Delores W. Cook, titularly vice president/treasurer/assistant director but in fact the true sovereign of the
West Virginia Coal Festival in Boone County. “This has been a way of life for people in West Virginia, keeping the lights on for all of the United States, for many, many years.”
Coal dominated the energy debate during the presidential campaign, embraced by Donald Trump and dismissed as obsolete by Hillary Clinton.
“We’ve got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels,” said the Democratic candidate, promptly rendering her a pariah in parts of West Virginia.
“I happen to love the coal miners,” declared President Trump in June, announcing the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. Trump has welcomed coal miners and executives to the White House for a photo op, the first in ages, and declared “an end to the war on coal” — a term minted by an industry association — at a time when even the Kentucky Coal Museum is switching to solar energy.