Industrial production in the United States for 2009 has dropped. Along with it, so has the price of coal. This has had a diverse effect on Carbon County because most of its coal is mined to be sold to electrical power plants. Total power generated from coal fell about 12 percent for the year, according to Kim Link of Arch Coal's external affairs.
Arch Coal operates two mines in Carbon County, the Skyline Mine and the Dugout Canyon. Neither operation has experienced any significant reductions in staff for 2009 besides long term downsizing plans, according to Link.
Although Utah as a whole only ranks around 13th in overall coal production for the United States, it produces around two percent of the nation's coal according to the National Mining Association in 2008. Carbon County is responsible for much of this production. As a result, tax revenues, as well as impact money and jobs place natural resources at the heart of the economy.
While Arch Coal is not the only mining operation in Carbon County, it is Utah's largest coal producer employing around 800 people statewide. The company also boasts revenues of $3.0 billion in 2008 making it also one of the nation's largest coal producers. With a national network of mines, Arch supplies roughly six percent of the nation's electricity. The company also ships coal to domestic and international steel manufacturers as well as international power producers.
With so many of the area's fortunes tied to coal mining, it is apparent that the price of energy has a big influence on growth. But coal is not the only resource Carbon County produces. Oil and gas are also becoming increasingly important. However, since prices of oil and gas have also dropped over the last year, the impact they will have on the county is unclear.
"It's important that we're able to responsibly move forward with oil and gas," said county commissioner Bill Krompel by phone. "These things are not just important to Carbon County. School exchange lands get about $25 million from Carbon County mineral lease royalties. They're important to schools."
Eastern Utah is very focused on energy production. Because of the large area involved, it is also important to Utah as a whole.
"Over the last year there hasn't been much drilling or exploration and it's hurt us because (the energy industry) between revenues and jobs, it hurts the state economy as a whole." concluded Krompel.