Coal is Over

August 14, 2019

Everybody knows it now.


Set in a wooded valley between the Tug Fork river and the Mate creek, Matewan, West Virginia, was the site of the 1920 Matewan massacre, a shootout between pro-union coalminers and coal company agents that left 10 people dead and triggered one of the most brutal fights over the future of the coal industry in US history.
The coal industry in Appalachia is dying – something that people there know better than anyone. Some in this region are pinning their hopes on alternative solutions, including rising Democratic star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal.
“Coal is over. Forget coal,” said Jimmy Simpkins, who worked as a coalminer in the area for 29 years. “It can never be back to what it was in our heyday. It can’t happen. That coal is not there to mine.”

A coal production forecast conducted in 2018 by West Virginia University estimates coal production will continue to decline over the next two decades. Over 34,000 coal mining jobs in the US have disappeared over the past decade, leaving around 52,000 jobs remaining in the industry, despite several promises made by Donald Trump throughout his 2016 election campaign that he would bring those jobs back.
“A lot of guys thought they were going to bring back coal jobs, and Trump stuck it to them,” said 69-year-old Bennie Massey, who worked for 30 years as a coalminer in Lynch, Kentucky.
The town was at the center of the American labor movement in the early 20th century. At the peak of the coal industry in the 1920’s, about 500,000 miners were union members. As the coal industry declined, so did union membership, and now the town’s local miners’ union, United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) Local 1440, consists entirely of retired miners.
Carl Shoupe, a retired coalminer in Harlan county, Kentucky, who worked as a union organizer for 14 years, said people in Appalachia need to start moving away from relying solely on the coal industry as an economic resource for the region.
“What we’ve been doing is trying to transition into the 21st century and get on past coal,” he said.

New York Times:

SHERIDAN, Wyo. — The soldiers were about to storm the fortress when they suddenly went still. James Smith, 17, and his teacher, Shirley Coulter, squinted at the desktop monitor.
James was programming his own military game, the final project in his Advanced Placement computer science principles class at Sheridan High School, here in the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains. Users competed as countries, like Israel or Japan, to take over a castle. But the game had crashed, and neither James nor Ms. Coulter — a 19-year veteran whose background is in teaching business classes — could figure out how to debug it.
“I’m learning with the kids,” she said. “They grasp it faster than I do.”
Ms. Coulter is one of hundreds of teachers in this sparsely populated state tasked with carrying out one of the most ambitious curriculum reform laws in the nation. Dozens of states have taken steps in recent years to expand students’ access to computer science, but last year, Wyoming became one of the few to require that all K-12 public schools offer it.
The mandate is part of a wide-ranging package of new laws, passed by the State Legislature last year, that is intended to wean Wyoming off its heavy reliance on the oil, gas and coal industries, and stem the flow of young people leaving for better jobs. Both major political parties have embraced the effort, as have tech companies eager to promote a national vision of rural economic revival built on coding skills.

There is little evidence that public school computer science lessons can drive economic change. But those who see them as fundamental to understanding today’s world say the grand promises from politicians do not matter. Nationwide, most students never have the opportunity to take a coding course. Now Wyoming’s 48 school districts have until the 2022-23 school year to begin teaching computer science at every grade level.

“I’m comfortable with the economic argument happening because a side effect of that is tens of thousands of fifth graders learning programming who otherwise wouldn’t have had that opportunity,” said David Weintrop, a professor at the University of Maryland and an expert on how computer science is taught.
Full of coal mines, vast cattle ranches and snow-capped peaks, Wyoming is perhaps an unlikely leader in a drive to bring coding into the classroom. Computer programming and software development account for fewer than two jobs per 1,000 here, compared with 19 per 1,000 in Washington State, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 
But with half of Wyoming’s revenue coming from the boom-and-bust cycles of the energy sector — one facing an uncertain futurebecause of climate change and environmental regulation — state leaders are looking to branch out.

13 Responses to “Coal is Over”

  1. Paul Whyte Says:

    May be those same guys could run a fill-in service powered by a “new deal” that puts charcoal underground from biochar makers. A really long term job. Good for at least a thousand years till CO2 is under 300 ppm!

    It could be paid for by a rapidly rising carbon price. Lots to do for those use to dealing with carbon!


    〉 any & all
     ̄ ̄┗┓ productivity
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  2. redskylite Says:

    News that insurers are quitting coal projects in Australia –

    U.S. firms have been a little slower to move, but Chubb announced a divestment policy in July, and Liberty has confirmed it will not insure Australia’s Adani project.

    Other big firms such as America’s AIG are coming under increasing pressure.

    Even more than divestment of coal shares by banks and managed funds, the withdrawal of insurance has the potential to make coal mining and coal-fired power generation businesses unsustainable.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      Let’s hope so, but it’s hardly something to count on. Self-insuring and other scams have been common, and when owners walk away from failing mines, oil and gas fields and corporations, the public is left with either the horrible pollution or the cost of clean up, usually both, because the clean up is almost always half-fast and fails miserably.

      And of course, there are always employee benefits, retirement plans, and the cost of diseases caused by burning things for corporations to run out on.

      ”…remediation…the cost of cleaning up environmental messes and abandoned infrastructure left behind by fossil fuels. Shady insurance, bonding, and liability-cap policies mean that taxpayers are probably on the hook for lots more than this in the end, but it’s difficult to quantify in advance.

      Coal firm seeks end to employee, retiree obligations in Kemmerer

      Cancer risks elevated in areas near oil and gas wells—new study

      Utah coal-cleaning plant leaves behind trail of waste and unpaid debts
      “…was to receive substandard coal from nearby mines, blast it with air to separate out sulfur, dirt and other impurities and sell it as fuel… proved a failure, and now its operators have abandoned the 30-acre facility, still contaminated with coal waste… State and local authorities are left to clean up the mess and recoup taxes and fines from a non-responsive company.
      To make matters worse, the division alleges the Wellington plant illegally sold at least 2,000 tons of the waste to a trucking company, which used it as a road base for a parking lot in 2017.”

      • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

        Self-insuring and other scams have been common, and when owners walk away from failing mines, oil and gas fields and corporations, the public is left with either the horrible pollution or the cost of clean up, usually both, because the clean up is almost always half-fast and fails miserably.

        Even with nominal insurance, it wouldn’t prevent the businesses from collapsing, and the investors would likely get the first scoop of money anyway.

        • J4Zonian Says:

          I don’t know what you’re saying so I don’t know if we’re arguing or agreeing.

          “the withdrawal of insurance has the potential to make coal mining and coal-fired power generation businesses unsustainable.”

          CONG is unsustainable already, and has been for decades, in every way imaginable. It can’t get any more unsustainable than it already is and has been. The industries are going to collapse; that’s been obvious for decades, since the owners refuse to get out and reinvest in anything sustainable in an orderly, compassionate, or responsible way. They clearly will exploit to the end–until it’s too late to save civilization or the biosphere as we know it–and then they’ll cut and run. That’s been obvious for decades. Everything they do, including fraudulent insurance that’s already the norm in some states, is to prop up that “plan” until the last minute–to deceive, manipulate and control in accordance with their narcissistic, nihilistic, psychopathic psychosis.

          The investors (aka owners) get all the money, and citizens are left paying for everything, with money, poorer lives, failed government and communities, disease, and early death. All part of the plan. But the plan is ending early because of science-backed activist pressure on all of the above–fossil fuel corporations, insurance corporations, universities or other shareholders… it’s all the same. Shame-based activism; not the first choice but if it works…

  3. dumboldguy Says:

    Correction—coal is ALMOST over in the U.S. and the issue is still in doubt in much of the rest of the world.

    Project the trend line of the “renewables eclipse coal” graph and it may not reach zero until 2030 or later. And much of the coal has been replaced with natural gas, not renewables.

    Until we take steps to stop increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and actually work to decrease it, talk of “computer programming classes will save us” is just brightsided foolishness. Wake up and smell the fumes, people!

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      There’s usually more money in illegal hackery than in programming, unless you are a competent Software Engineer.

  4. rsmurf Says:

    Bye Bye and don’t come back!

  5. redskylite Says:

    Coal is certainly on the decline, and the bigger private financial institutions have got the message, but still a threat among threat, that requires uniform global attention.

    Massive decline in India in coal power project lending: Report

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