Association Webinars: Coal Decline and Opioid Overdoses: Need for Just Energy Transition



The energy transition is liable to impose negative impacts on communities reliant on legacy industries such as fossil fuel. This seminar will discuss empirical evidence on how the decline in coal mining during 2010-2017 increased opioid overdose mortality in coal communities in rural central Appalachia, a region that features the coal industry and is an epicenter of the U.S. opioid crisis. We separated the channel of “deaths of despair” whereby economic distress, unemployment, and hopelessness might give rise to opioid use and misuse, from the “coal mines to drugs” pipeline that could result in “prevalence of drugs” as coal miners are likely to suffer from job-related injuries and pain and treated with painkillers. We found significant impacts of coal production, but insignificant impacts of coal employment, on opioid overdose mortality rate, indicating the dominance of the “death of despair” channel. These results highlight the importance of a just energy transition and the need for providing support to communities that might otherwise be harmed by the energy transition.

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Zhen Lei is currently an Associate Professor of Energy and Environmental Economics at Pennsylvania State University in the U.S. He has expertise in both economics and natural sciences, and his research interests include energy and environmental economics and policy, science and technology policy and intellectual properties, big data and data science. His research has been supported by research grants from the U.S. National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

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Event Date: August 15, 2022

Event Time: 10:00 - 11:00 aM Eastern Time

Topic: Coal Decline and Opioid Overdoses: Need for Just Energy Transition

Speaker: Zhen Lei

Price: FREE

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