As the U.S. confronts climate change with a move to a new, clean energy future, what happens to those places that gave us the old energy — the fossil fuels that powered the country for more than a century?

 

In “Welcome to AppalachAmerica,” host Jeff Young and the reporters at the Ohio Valley ReSource dig into the big questions around this energy shift: How can we move forward on clean energy when so many people fear they’ll be left behind? Can coal country come out a winner as we tackle climate change? And just what would a “just transition” look like?

 

You’ll hear from miners making a career shift, people trying to reimagine their communities, and some of Washington’s power players on climate policy. And you’ll learn why the path to solutions to some of America’s biggest challenges runs right through Appalachia.

Episode One: Climate Change in Coal Country

Episode one of “Welcome to AppalachAmerica” features conversation with White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy about President Joe Biden’s plans for investment in coal-dependent communities. We also hear from ReSource reporters about chronic flooding that afflicts parts of Appalachia — and how a warming climate is raising the risk of rising waters. 

Episode Two: “Power and Powerlessness”

We know what most people think: Appalachia is Trump country. Coal country voters don't care about climate change. But a look at the numbers might make you think twice. We talk with folks at the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication about surprising attitudes about clean energy in coal country, and we explore the root causes of the low voter turnout in much of Appalachia. Also, in an extended interview from our book, “Appalachian Fall,” we hear from scholar John Gaventa about his groundbreaking study on power and powerlessness in an Appalachian coal mining community — and where we got the phrase “AppalachAmerica.”

Episode Three: “Major Change for Miners”

In this episode, conversation with United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts about climate change and coal. As President Biden announced a goal to halve U.S. global warming emissions, Roberts had a message of his own: he will not accept further job losses in the coal sector. Reporter Curtis Tate explains the complicated politics around Biden’s climate agenda. And we hear from a former Kentucky coal miner who made a power switch of his own, from mining underground to using energy from the sun.

Episode Four: The Energy Switch

In this episode, host Jeff Young talks with U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm about the difficult task President Biden has assigned her: to cut the use of fossil fuels while supporting the places that dug our coal and drilled our oil and gas. Also: what can Appalachia learn from other places around the globe that closed down coal mines? We'll hear from filmmaker Tom Hansell, who explored how Wales dealt with the end of mining in the United Kingdom, and what lessons the Welsh experience holds for coal communities here.

Episode Five: Buried History

Host Jeff Young talks with historian Chuck Keeney about his new book, "The Road to Blair Mountain," which tells the story of the effort to save the site of a bloody fight in the region's mine wars a century ago. Not only was this chapter in labor history deliberately suppressed, the mountain itself was nearly destroyed by coal mining. And we hear from a retired coal miner who now volunteers his time to a museum dedicated to reviving Appalachia's labor history.

Episode Six: The Long Arc of the ARC

Fifty-seven years ago President Lyndon Johnson visited Martin County, Kentucky, to launch his “War on Poverty.” He formed the Appalachian Regional Commission to help address the poverty and lack of basic services in the poorest parts of the area. Today, Martin County still has some of the country’s worst poverty and residents say they can’t rely on their water system. Host Jeff Young talks with renowned historian and author Ron Eller about the Appalachian Regional Commision and why it has fallen short of its goals. And reporter Curtis Tate tells us about the Commission’s newest leader, Gayle Manchin of West Virginia.  

Episode Seven: Gas Pains

Fracking for natural gas has already transformed parts of Appalachia and revolutionized American energy. Now, petrochemical plants in the region could be the next phase of energy production — using the products from fracking to make plastics. We’ll hear about the multi-billion-dollar petrochemical proposal, and how changes in the plastics industry could put an end to those plans.

 

Also: An Appalachian resident describes life amid the fracking boom that forced her from her family land. And, how satellite technology revealed Appalachia as the nation’s number one source of a powerful greenhouse gas.

Episode Eight: Imagining A New Appalachia

Brian Anderson comes from a family that has a generations-long connection to West Virginia coal and fossil fuel development. Today he’s leading a Biden administration effort to make sure coal communities aren’t left behind in a transition to cleaner energy.

 

Jeff Young talks with Anderson about the multi-agency federal working group he’s leading, and about his role as director of the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. Also, what might a Green New Deal look like in Appalachia? Jeff talks with design professor Billy Fleming about a project to give form to Appalachian people’s ideas about a more sustainable future.   

Host: Jeff Young

Audio Editor: Rip Rinehart

Theme music: Michael Lipton and Tistram Lozaw

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