Eastern Kentucky coal country is filled with people competing for nonexistent jobs, tied to the area by family and unable to sell their homes even if they want to leave.People such as 50-year-old Frank Dixon, who was laid off from a coal mine right before Christmas. He has a son in college, another in high school and a mother in failing health. Dixon has worked in the coal industry since he was 21, and he's struggling to figure out how to make a living."I've been looking for a job. But there are so many miners laid off in this area that wherever you go there's already been 20 or 25 other people there looking for the same job, or for any job," Dixon said.America's glut of cleaner, cheap natural gas from fields such as the Barnett Shale in North Texas is pushing out the use of coal in the United States. But while Dixon and thousands of others in the U.S. have lost their jobs, coal is booming in the rest of the world.The International Energy Agency's latest report forecasts that coal will become the world's dominant fuel, with global burning of the fossil fuel rising by 1.2 billion tons over the next four years. That's the equivalent of adding the existing coal consumption of the U.S. and Russia combined. The agency's executive director, Maria van der Hoeven, said coal makes up a greater share of the global energy mix every year. "If no changes are made to current policies, coal will catch oil within a decade," van der Hoeven said.The International Energy Agency says the rest of the world should learn from the American experience of how to reduce coal use and lower the carbon emissions blamed for global warming."Europe, China and other regions should take note," van der Hoeven concluded.Some eastern Kentucky counties already have unemployment rates of 13.5 to 17 percent and are bracing for an expected continued decline in coal jobs. The loss of tax revenue from coal production is creating million-dollar budget shortfalls for county governments struggling to pay their bills.Coal-burning power plants are closing or switching to natural gas. Even the Big Sandy electric power plant, in the heart of Kentucky's coal country, plans to shut its coal-burning boilers rather than retrofit the plant to meet environmental regulations. The Sierra Club counts 54 coal plants that closed or announced plans to close in 2012, and 11 more in just the first month of this year, reacting to the nation's natural gas boom and tighter environmental regulations.That leaves 384 coal-burning power plants in the United States, according to the Sierra Club, down from 521 the group tallied at the beginning of 2010. Coal accounted for more than half of America's power generation four years ago and is now down to about a third, similar to the amount that natural gas fuels.Laid-off Kentucky coal worker Dixon said he believed that tight Environmental Protection Agency rules had led to the closure of the surface mine where he worked. "The EPA is playing such a hard role in it, and that's kind of a good thing. But it's kind of put us completely out of work," Dixon said.Dixon is saddened by what's happening to Harlan County, where he grew up and still lives. People are forced to leave their families to look elsewhere in search of work, hoping to send for them later."This area here, everything, hospitals all the way down to the dollar store, always depended on coal mining. It's just terrible -- really, really terrible. It's dried up," he said.