Sunday, April 02, 2017

Coal jobs aren't coming back, but a "just transition" to a different future is possible

Coal is dying, and Trump can’t save it: There are much better alternatives for coal country and our economy.


Donald Trump is wrong again — it’s not government regulation that’s killing off the coal industry. It’s the marketplace. Even if that could be reversed, today’s coal mining is much less labor-intensive. It would never be a jobs bonanza. The idea that coal is suffering from some enviro-radical “war on coal” may still sell to the fake news crowd, but in the real world coal’s share in power-generation continues its long-term decline, supercharged by cheap natural gas as much as by government action.

As noted by Devashree Saha of the Brookings Institution in December:
In 2000, coal accounted for 51.7 percent of electricity generation, compared with just 15.8 percent for natural gas. By 2015, coal’s share had dropped to 33.2 percent, while natural gas rose to 32.7 percent of total generation.
Beyond that, there’s the dramatic development of renewables, the undisputed fuels of the future. As Bloomberg News explained last April:
Government subsidies have helped wind and solar get a foothold in global power markets, but economies of scale are the true driver of falling prices: The cost of solar power has fallen to 1/150th of its level in the 1970s, while the total amount of installed solar has soared 115,000-fold. [Chart.]
(Continued here.)


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