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Biden’s Road to Clean Energy Runs Through West Virginia Coal Country

The state’s senators, Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, are poised to shape the nation’s energy transition—with the challenges of their home state firmly in mind.

The New River Gorge in southern West Virginia. With the creation of a new national park here, tourism in the region is expected to increase.

The New River Gorge in southern West Virginia. With the creation of a new national park here, tourism in the region is expected to increase.

Photographer: Kristian Thacker for Bloomberg Businessweek

Gerald Lucas, 69, is a former coal miner and federal mine inspector who now gives public tours underground at the Beckley, W.Va., Exhibition Coal Mine, a working mine that ceased operations in 1953. He describes it as a fun job that allows him to share his decades of experience with visitors.

Lucas’s career change is becoming more common among West Virginians as the rural state of 1.8 million moves toward a new economy in which coal is no longer king. The state, which had a poverty rate of 16% in 2019, has long felt the effects of coal’s decline.