Shoot straight with coal miners

I truly feel sorry for coal miners. They do a very hard, dirty and dangerous job in an industry that is in decline. Many are losing their good paying jobs as the industry continues to go downhill as other industry sources replace this source.

They are being promised things that politicians will have a hard time keeping. And, they have been told such promises for years. Leaders need to shoot straight with these hard working men and women. Frankly, I fault their Senators, Congressional Representatives and Governors for not shooting straight as what has been happening has been known for several years.

Coal has been on the decline for several years, primarily due to the fracking boom which produced increasingly cheaper natural gas. The gas burns cleaner than the coal, although it has its own issues. But, the lower production costs caused utilities to switch their coal-fired plants to natural gas. Plus, they do not have to maintain coal ash for many years in the future, even after the plant stops producing electricity.

The next wave became the movement to more renewable energy sources like wind, solar and biomass. Solar and wind energy continue to plummet in price and are comparable to coal in cost. Yet, these renewable energy sources don’t have the additive long term costs of maintaining coal ash sites, health costs that coal burning creates and the environmental costs of acquisition and transport. Plus, there is ongoing litigation risk, which TVA and Duke Energy are witnessing in spades.

Finally, the concept of a “virtuous cycle” enters in. With solar and wind energy, energy need not be created to produce electricity. With coal and natural gas, energy must be expended through burning to create steam out of water to turn the turbines which turn the electromagnets to create electricity. This less virtuous cycle costs money, which means over time the efficiency of renewable energy will be greater. So, a company may not invest in a coal-fired plant, as it will eventually become less cost-effective. This will be heightened further by improved battery storage and long term, if clean nuclear fusion can be accomplished in large scale, following small scale success in the last two years.

What this means is coal miner jobs will continue to decline and they won’t  be coming back. With climate change, the need to move is great. Unfortunately for these workers, coal is not the future answer. Yet, the leaders in these states should have communicated this a few years ago and worked to get money for retraining and new industries. To me, they have been derelict in their duties. One Presidential candidate has said he will bring those jobs back, which is a false promise. On the flip side, the other party has said let’s focus on retraining and new industries. Bernie Sanders even proposed a bipartisan bill in the Senate to do just that.

On a positive note, the sister and brother-in-law of a coal miner are teaching several displaced coal miners how to computer program. It started small, but has grown with the increasing need and additional funding. The program is appropriately called “Mined Minds.” This is the kind of investment in our coal miners that is needed, as those jobs are going away. Now, the leaders need to step in and do what they should have done a few years ago. It is time to shoot straight with these hard working men and women.





8 thoughts on “Shoot straight with coal miners

  1. Note to Readers: If I were a coal miner in Kentucky, I would be frustrated that the Senate Majority Leader who hails from my state has not done more to address retraining, transitional compensation and new industry. If I were a WVa coal miner, it would bother me to see the owner of a coal mine, who is headed for jail because of an explosion that killed many of my fellow miners due to sloppy cost cutting, glad handing folks at a Trump rally. If I were a PA coal miner, I would be asking the Governor why the major investment in fracking, which led to further declines in the coal mining? These are example of not shooting straight with honest hard working folks.

  2. You are right, of course, the owners should have been warning these men in years past. But the coal and Big Oil industries are not known for their honesty in dealing with crises.

    • Hugh, I would agree with your assertion. I don’t know if you are following the cancer problem with the guys who did the TVA coal ash clean-up after the spill five years ago. They were not told of the risks. I also witnessed folks in Venezuela cleaning up oil spills in the Amazon, with buckets and no mask. Keith

      • I taught Business Ethics for years and did quite a bit of research. Believe me, these stories are fairly common in large corporations where profit is the only concern.

      • Maybe you should offer that course to leaders today. Here in NC, the GOP leadership is accusing the NBA of using their power to sway them to repeal an unconstitutional law in HB2. 68 companies have joined the NBA in the push. The GOP is saying how dare them, yet this is the same GOP that does heavy lifting to promote the profits of the fossil fuel industry to the detriment on common folks.

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