Can the Coal Industry Even Make a Comeback?

Can the Coal Industry Even Make a Comeback?

One of President-Elect Donald Trump’s key campaign promises is to restore the floundering coal industry, but is the industry salvageable?

Since his election, Trump has been discussing the possibility of eliminating environmental regulations on the coal industry put in place by President Barack Obama. This proposal, however, has been met with resistance by proponents of environmental regulations. These supporters are concerned with the health of our environment and the long-term repercussions of continuing to pollute our air with coal emissions. Beyond the environmental concerns, many have questioned if the coal industry, an industry that has been in decline for almost a decade, has the ability to make a comeback.

The coal industry has been on a steady decline since the election of President Obama in 2008. President Obama sought to address growing concerns over climate change by implementing aggressive regulations (often called the Clean Power Plan, or CPP) that cut emissions from power plants. Coal plants produce power by burning coal, the emissions cause smog and soot to be released into the air, potentially leading to acid rain. Many environmentalists also believe that over time these emissions could contribute to global climate change. Beyond the emissions, additional waste is generated from burning coal, including ash, sludge and many other toxic chemicals that contribute to environmental pollution.

Coal has been the dominant power source for decades, but it is quickly being replaced with much cleaner burning sources of electricity. Natural gas, wind, and solar have steadily been on the rise over the last decade. These natural sources release fewer carbon emissions when burned and are a much healthier choice for the environment and atmosphere. Additionally, new technology and research are making it less expensive to use these natural resources for energy.

Researchers from the University of Texas released an interactive map that shows that, even if Obama’s Clean Power Plan is taken out of the equation, in most of the country it is still significantly cheaper to use other energy sources.

The shift to natural sources has been devastating for the already-struggling coal industry. Instead of attempting to bring back jobs in the coal industry, many experts have urged the federal government to focus spending on helping unemployed miners in coal-producing areas transition to jobs in the clean energy sector.

In addition to the declining use of coal, mechanization (controlling mining equipment with computer hardware) is also responsible for the loss of coal jobs. Simply put, machines are able to do a more efficient job than their human counterparts. Mechanization alone eliminated 50,000 coal-related jobs between 2008 and 2012. If coal production were to increase, it is still unlikely that the majority of those jobs would return.

Just how bad is it for coal miners?

America’s second-largest coal mining company, Arch Coal, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this year, and they weren’t alone. Walter Energy, Alpha Natural Resources, and Patriot Coal, among others, have all followed suit.
President Barack Obama proposed the POWER Initiative in 2015. The initiative would set aside grant funding for economic development in communities that have been impacted by the coal industry’s decline. According to the White House, this program would “diversify economies, create jobs in new or existing industries, attract new sources of job-creating investment, and provide a range of workforce services and skills training including work-based learning opportunities.”With a proposed budget in 2016 of $55 million, Republicans have remained skeptical of the merits of the program.

Trump has frequently spoken about reducing regulations on the shale gas industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics , “the most interesting shale development is in the Marcellus Shale. Much of the recent drilling in that shale has occurred in Pennsylvania, a traditionally coal-producing state that has seen a surge in natural gas production and employment over the past few years.” Reduced regulation on natural gas, while lowering the cost of the product and allowing it to further surpass coal, would also create more jobs in an industry that would translate well for unemployed coal workers.
Despite the current state of the coal industry, a sliver of hope is being felt by miners in states like Wyoming, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania that has been absent for years.

Gary Chapman, 25, is a long-time coal miner in Montana. Having worked in the industry for over eight years, Chapman has survived more than seven layoffs. Several months ago, his shifts were reduced to only four per week. However, just days before the election they returned to five or six shifts a week with several opportunities for overtime.

“I believe they will bring a lot of it back,” Chapman said, “But do I believe that it will be what it used to be? No, it will never be that again.”

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Margy Schweitzer Ahearn: I believe they can, especially in West Virginia
Posted ON : 12/29/2016
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Lane Ralph:
Posted ON : 12/29/2016
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James Cecil: Sorry to say it's not going to happen! Coal is gone for good!
Posted ON : 12/29/2016
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Joe Heayn: Even if coal were to rebound somewhat, it will never recover fully. The people involved in the industry should seek out any retraining available.
Posted ON : 12/30/2016
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Leo Lakey: Sure what one asshole can do one man can undo
Posted ON : 12/30/2016
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Carol Yngve: Trump promised you
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Connie Harmon Weaver: It's sad these people refuse to retrain. They work hard, they're proud but they're stubborn. They're not well educated but that didn't matter because coal mining paid well and allowed them to buy homes and raise their families for generations. My great grandfather was a coal miner around Scranton. Unfortunately he died at age 39, leaving a wife, 5 little kids and a 6 week old baby. Throughout history, times have changed and jobs became obsolete. Coal mining is done. From companies to countries, we have moved to cleaner energy. Miners aren't the first workers to go through this and they won't be the last.
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Dean Minshall: Yep. Once the EPA is brought under control and restrictions are lifted.
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Marty Browne: If the EPA is totally defanged, gas will still be the cheaper, cleaner, and more desirable fossil fuel. Most miners know that they have a high risk of Black Lung and other respiratory diseases, even with the best breathing gear.  
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Thom Trampf: Exactly! Most electric companies have already switched to natural gas...Because it's cheaper! Don't believe all that crap Trump tells you.  
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Thomas P Walker: No, it is a very outdated form of energy.And the coal industry has moved out west and use automated strip mining.
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Tom Acord: THAT WOULD BE LIKE ME RUNNING A 2 MINUTE 1/2 MILE LIKE IN SCHOOL ''''' AINT GONNA HAPPEN '''''
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Ray Knisley: I hope it never comes back, the pollution hurts far more people than a few miners.
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Randall Lee Willis: No comeback for this destructive, poisonous industry.
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Robert Frank: It is called PROGRESS! WAKE UP AMERICA! Many Industries have changed over the years and will continue to change! The Coal Industry provided descent Jobs but is fading away! New jobs will be created in the Solar Power Industry! It will be cheaper and cleaner! The Oil and Coal Companies don't want this because they can't sell polluting fuels because they won't be needed! We as a Country need to embrace this! There will be jobs maintaining, installing and making this equipment. The US needs to LEAD, NOT lag behind on this and become the World Leader in this new Technology! That is how we did it in the Past and how we need to do it in the future. Many times in the past we as a Nation had to adapt to survive! We will need to do it again to survive or we will extinct like the The Dodo!
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Cathy Blair: I agree, that's what Hillary spoke about being the world leader in clean energy now I fear it's down the drain!  
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Robert Frank: Amber Robinson As opposed to the drumpf Billionaire Boys Club that will be sure to look out for you! Wanna buy a Bridge?  
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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John Berg: No.
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Larry McCoy: no
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Daniel Mendez: Why
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Dennis Earl Smirl: Hopefully, NO. Renewable energy sources are the future. Coal is the dead past.
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Patricia Champa: Why? We don't restore jobs as manure sweepers in our streets...... move forward...... not backward...... go clean energy....... save our land, air and water......
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Marty Browne: Black lung and other respiratory diseases are killing miners. Even the best breathing devices can't prevent those diseases.
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Michael Hickok: Coal is and has been dead. The proposition that there are people who don't know how to do anything else but mine it is irrelevant.
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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John Moxey: It's day is over. Natural gas, cleaner and cheaper, and renewables are the future. Many nations have cut the coal comsumption by 50% and target 2030 as being coal free.
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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John Billings: Maybe they can subsidize an up to date plant .
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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John Billings: That would be too easy .  
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Curtis Lester: The market is against them. How about some disaster aid to put the locals to work building infrastructure to support new industries? Maybe manufacturing solar pannels and wind turbines. Cultivate hemp and open plants to process the fibers and seeds.
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Joe McCloskey: Trump was saying anything to get elected, unfortunately too many voters believed his false promises.
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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John Bishop: unlike Obozo who kept ALL his,,,,right,,,,,,,,LMAO  
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Joe McCloskey: John Bishop please list the promises Obama made and did not keep?  
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Elmo Struck: John, we'll send a note from the future.  
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Patti Anzar: You can keep your Inc if you want to. Just one of many.... Joe McCloskey  
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Roger Thoreson: no
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Dave Landreth: The only way to bring back jobs in the coal industry is through massive subsidies from taxpayers. It's time to move on to renewable energy that is a better job creator. Those jobs don't result in mountaintop removals and streams being trashed.
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Joe Marine: Yes, it can.....as long as China buys from us and agrees to continue ruining their own environment.
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Robert Egan: I don't know. Let me go check my horse and buggy.
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Renee Anne: yes kill moe people with lung cancer and take there properties isnt that the republican way?
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Renee Anne: none of republicans have to give up there homes for healthcare why do the common people have to? unfair dictator america
Posted ON : 12/31/2016
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Tom Hollingsworth: If our coal miners are out of work, we could start by not importing coal anymore. It is borderline traitorous to import coal, while Americans live off welfare.
Posted ON : 01/01/2017
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Al Spratley: no
Posted ON : 01/01/2017
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Al Spratley: No work,no healthcare for black lung .raise retirement age.lower social sucurty .
Posted ON : 01/01/2017
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Gregg Durrance: It all comes down to cost and demand. You can't order people to use coal if they don't want.
Posted ON : 01/01/2017
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Kenny Ray:
Posted ON : 01/01/2017
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Patricia Andrews Martinez: Don the Con
Posted ON : 01/01/2017
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Charles Harry Gray: No, and it certainly should not.
Posted ON : 01/01/2017
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Alan Busnelli: Lets go back to the horse and carriage while we're at it. Would cut down on air polution,wouldn't it?
Posted ON : 01/01/2017
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Ben Jester: Sure thing and just imagine the traffic jams and the horseshit in the larger cities.  
Posted ON : 01/01/2017
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Carol Lee Gates: nope
Posted ON : 01/01/2017
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Sharon Gibson: Coal is a carcenogen....we can hardly breathe our air is so polluted already.
...what meathead wants to spark a comeback for coal?
Posted ON : 03/09/2017