We Can Be podcast - The Heinz Endowments

Appalachia‘s battle b/w wish & hope w/ energy industry researcher Sean O’Leary (We Can Be S04EP08)

September 22, 2021

Energy industry researcher and “The State of My State” author Sean O’Leary zeroes in on the role of coal, natural gas and petrochemicals in the economies of Appalachia.

He does it with with a deep respect for the region where he grew up, and an understanding that with the beauty and grandeur of that region also comes unfulfilled promises of hydraulic fracturing-related prosperity.

Sean was born and raised in West Virginia, and is a senior researcher and writer with the Ohio River Valley Institute. The Institute was founded in 2020 with an aim of providing sound research that will help promote a more sustainable, equitable, democratic and prosperous Appalachia.

His book, newspaper column and blog—all titled “The State of My State”—have been widely shared and cited, and have captured the attention of the U.S. Department of Energy, where Sean was asked to present earlier this year.

Sean shares with host Grant Oliphant the painful battle regarding “wish and hope” that he has heard families in Appalachia express.  He says that while they often “wish their kids and grandchildren would stay when they are grown and have families of their own, the lack of opportunity makes them also hope they don’t.”

Hear about eye-opening data and the post-fossil fuel economic plan playing out now in a community in Washington state that is giving hope that a similar blueprint for Appalachia is possible—all on this new episode of “We Can Be.”


“We Can Be” is hosted by Heinz Endowments President Grant Oliphant, and produced by the Endowments, Josh Franzos and Tim Murray. Theme music by Josh Slifkin. Guest inquiries can be made to Scott Roller at sroller@heinz.org. Guest image: Steve Stolee.

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