As Coal’s Future Grows Murkier, Banks Pull Financing

After helping to drive Wall Street’s profits for generations, the coal industry is in a free fall, and even daring investors are reluctant to risk trying to save it.

Comments: 209

  1. What is wrong with us? Why couldn't we have begun 30 years ago gently transitioning, creating jobs building solar panels for example, and transitioning the economy to where it should have been heading. Instead, banks and industries take as much profit as they can, then pivot to the next big thing, not caring what that means for an entire region. The top executives will stay ridiculously rich, and the workers in poverty. Such a shame. Think what all that money in "climate change denial science" could have bought in other research, and investments in a real future.

  2. in a word, greed. There are precious few upper-level executives now that are motivated AND incented to take the long view. In the name of making CEO's responsive to the shareholders, their compensation packages are overloaded with stock options in various forms. This breeds a focus on the next quarterly results and a "long-term" view that rarely extends beyond the end of the next fiscal year when another big batch of options vest and become exercisable. So the self-righteous disclaimers that "we have a duty to our shareholders" is merely thinly-disguised self-interest. And the corporate form is an inherently selfish creation that has no interest outside of its own survival and growth. When you look at the results through this lens, it is obvious what is wrong with us and why very, very few corporate decisions are made with any reference to the greater good. Its simply not why they exist.

  3. One of Ronald Reagan's first actions in office was to have Jimmy Carter's solar panels removed from the White House roof. Having them up there sent the wrong message. Need I say more?

  4. I agree, Paula, As a Kentucky resident I"m appalled by our elected officials using "Obama's war on coal" as a campaign tool, but I'm unaware of any legislation to help miners.

    The "Friends of Coal" organization funds from license plates and other sources go to promote coal but not as I can see to help miners train for jobs to replace mining. The culture here seems to be aimed exclusively toward promoting coal.

    A recent photographic exhibit at the University of Louisville had two old license plates on display, one reading "I'm a coal miner" and the other "I'm a coal miner's widow".

    Kentucky is helping tobacco farmers replace tobacco crops with others but the coal industry seems trapped in the past.

  5. The coal industry would have been bankrupt a long time ago if it had been forced to pay for the externalities of coal mining and burning in the 20th century. Consider the following:

    Destruction of coal miner health: Nearly a third of the adult population of the coal counties of SE KY are on total disability, far above national averages.

    Destruction of the environment: Mountaintop removal destroying whole ecosystems, coal ash slides contaminating waterways with heavy metals, acid rain, mercury and other airborne toxins contaminating land and waterways.

    Destruction of human health: Increased lung diseases like black lung, cancer, COPD and asthma from coal dust and airborne particulate, sulfur, mercury and heavy metal emissions.

    The air, soil, water and food chain will suffer long term damage from the effects of the coal industry, even as newer coal plants are "cleaner".

    But the worst impact of all is climate change exacerbated by coal burning, the most carbon intensive method of energy production.

    And that is an externality of unfathomable size.

  6. Look at China's air in Beijing; people are wearing face masks because the air is so bad. Children are kept inside. And, look at the polluted streams in West Virginia, full of coal sludge. It is not just the air pollution, and the environmental pollution, the black lung disease, the unsafe conditions with little or no safety regulations; it is the lack of planning for a transition from this old fossil fuel. People in West Virginia and Kentucky need to be retrained, and retired with decent pensions. The school systems need to be upgraded for future non-coal mining jobs. We can afford to do these things; just cut some of the fat from the Pentagon and DOD budgets. And, the CIA, unaudited, unsupervised and non-performing. There is plenty of fat in D.C., and it is time to use it to help people in these poor States. They deserve it; and, their families deserve it. If we can wage forever wars, we can support our own citizens and spend money to ensure a decent life for them.

  7. This is an interesting article, and it does a solid job of addressing both sides. That being said I hope readers understand something not addressed here: the reason banks are afraid of coal investments is because it has some very obvious pitfalls that make the risk of it being shut down too great.

    There is no such thing as clean coal. There is no proven Carbon Capture and Sequestration method. Coal pollutes far more than even oil or gas in a time when even those fuel sources are under scrutiny for being too polluting. Not only is it a leading cause of global warming, it contributes to acid rain, mercury in our environment, and is a major radiation polluter.

    The reason banks are not investing in coal is because we are moving towards a society where it does not make any sense to burn it, meaning it will have zero value in the future.

  8. I have never understood why banks and insurance companies don't drive action on climate change.

  9. Banks and insurance companies would do so if a look at the scientific data supported such action.
    They are betting their own money.

  10. Somehow, I find it hard to believe that banks care about the environment. Although, bankers should understand that their children face the same consequences as the rest of us from climate catastrophe.

  11. Part of the reason for coal's collapse is abundant supplies of super-cheap natural gas, which competes with coal to generate electricity. If for some reason cheap gas dries up, coal will be back on top.

  12. Yes. Unless we can find better baseline power, it's going to be the cheaper of coal or natural gas for the foreseeable future.

  13. "If coal companies are unable to pay for the mine reclamation, taxpayers could be on the hook for the cleanup costs."

    Nice racket. They shouldn't be allowed to operate at all if the are unable to pay for mine reclamation.

  14. all institutional investors should at a minimum make a similar pledge. They are a source of a large amount of such financing.

  15. Then the idle money would go to countries other than "wealthy nations" -- that's the Chase pledge.

  16. Unfortunately for the coal industry, it's time to transition to natural gas. It's our most abundant energy source, is lower in emissions and will allow us to be energy independent.

  17. My health versus coal miners' jobs? Sorry, my health wins every time. My house staying above water versus coal miners' jobs? Sorry, my house wins every time.

    The coal industry can just deal with it.

  18. The workers don't own the coal industry, although you may own your health and house. The coal industry will just fire them. How would you propose for the coal industry to deal with it?

  19. There is nothing good about coal, nothing at all, and with their blind loyalty to these coal mining concerns banks are still a huge part of the problem. Coal harms the health of the local environment and the people who mine it when you dig it out of the ground; it continues to harm the environment when you burn it and abandoned coal mines leave scars on the earth that last for decades. It makes me laugh when people describe coal as 'cheap'. What about the long-term costs of the damage it does to our air and water? Name one living creature on this earth that can survive without clean air and water? When ALL costs are factored in from the use of these 'cheap' fossil fuels an entirely different picture emerges. Cheap energy? It is anything but.

  20. Obama has done a lot of damage to the coal industry and our economy. He has signed meaningless international treaties on pollution that nobody except the United States is actually implementing.

    Obama will be out of office shortly so that the damage he has caused can be repaired.

  21. Rolling out the red carpet of conservative hysteria and outrage yet again, I see. That carpet is getting awfully threadbare by now, isn't it? Coal is a dying industry globally. Point out to me how Obama caused it.

  22. Good riddance. The coal industry's practices are rooted in the industrial age: rape the earth and exploit workers literally to their deaths. Those who've been caught up in its destructive cycle should think of its end as an escape. It's not enough to lament the loss of communities built on the coal industry. We should be ensuring that such exploitation never happens again.

  23. That coal needs to stay in the ground to save the planet.
    Solar and wind are the future.

  24. Wind and solar do not replace coal; they supplement it. Natural gas has replaced coal. Something steady needs to provide baseline power generation.

  25. China has identical problem on the excess coal, iron, steel and shipping capacity.
    Stay tune.

  26. Coal-related jobs represent a paltry o.1% of blue collar jobs in the United States, or roughly 175,000 jobs spread across the 50 states. About half of them are miners, the rest are in transport and electrical generation. That 0.1% of jobs is what Republican politicians claim they are trying to protect, but of course that's all hogwash. Those politicians couldn't care less if every one of those jobs was automated, as long as profits keep going where profits always go.

    Coal is a dying industry because its time has come, and I'm sure glad it has. I hope the trend continues. Its extraction alone creates environmental disasters and our insistence on burning it is literally suffocating our planet. Hopefully, the current downturn in China buys the world time to put better alternatives in place before the giant wakes up again.

  27. How would you feel if you were one of the 175,000 with a well-paying union job and, say, no college degree? That "paltry" .01% still matters. For all the whining the left in this country does about the destruction of middle class jobs, you'd think you'd have something less hypocritical to say.

  28. This is exactly why the coal industry is dead, and will not be saved. There is no constituency, no workforce. Mitch McConnell is living in a by-gone era. The irony of capitalists is that they espouse "creative destruction", except when it comes to their industry.

  29. Yes. Big Coal already killed the "coal jobs" a long time ago. Destroying jobs was the whole reason behind things like mountain top removal. Replace workers with huge earth moving equipment which rely upon burning oil.

    Hiring in the solar sector now exceeds hiring in coal and oil combined, and the number of jobs in the solar sector already exceeds those in coal. To use a favorite conservative phrase, coal workers need to take "personal responsibility" for their future and get trained in other sectors like solar.

    Silicon Valley engineers are CONSTANTLY having to retrain themselves for the constantly rapidly evolving technology sector, and everyone just says "well, that's the way of the world now." Time for the few remaining coal workers to adjust to "the way of the world" like workers in so many other industries.

    My heart goes out to them just like my heart goes out to the Silicon Valley engineer who finds him/herself being left behind and having to retrain (yet again).

  30. "...taxpayers could be on the hook for the cleanup costs." This is just one of the myriad ways the public subsidizes or otherwise pays for the operations of the fossil fuel industry. We pay for the health costs of breathing dirty air and drinking dirty water. We pay the costs of the destruction of our public lands, places no longer fit for hiking, biking, fishing, etc.

    Coal is not a cheap energy source, like its backers would have us believe. It has huge costs and externalities that we are always paying for. Glad to hear the bankers will no longer support this con game.

  31. Carbon tax. Let capitalism work its magic on finding clean ways to produce energy. Corporations understand one thing only, profit. Why not use that to the worlds advantage.

  32. As global warming progresses getting a 30 year home loan will be impossible in South Florida because the banks will see the risk is too high there - just as they are now no longer loaning coal companies money.

    If they had started ignoring coal 20 years ago perhaps South Florida would have been saved. The banks have more to lose from a collapse in South Florida Real Estate Prices....which is likely to happen sooner than later due to the fact that mortgages are typically 30 years - so 2050 ocean levels should start affecting real estate value by 2020

  33. Sounds just like the demise of the passenger train railroad industry that went out in the mid 60's and now is coming back in the form of freight trains full of oil and other commodities.

  34. Except for the New Haven, every railroad in the United States has always been a freight hauler first.

  35. Zhug Zhug Zhug, the coal powered steam engine will continue to run somewhere in the world where over half the population lives. Coal's future may grow murkier to those with a poor vision for the future and banks may pull financing and temporarily destroy jobs in the coal mining sector but I would not write it off. for the sake of my fellow Kentuckians and others in the country whose livelihood has depended on coal and if they do not have jobs from alternate fuels, it will be very dark days ahead for them. No wonder this red state voted for a candidate in the primary that visited the state and in a rally mentioned his support for clean coal jobs. Coal could be exported to countries that still use it and as reserve for the days when clean coal becomes a cheaper and more efficient environment friendly fuel.

  36. Long past time to keep dirty coal buried underground. the huge cost of remediation of current and past environmental devastation will be with us for a long time to come. We the people will be asked to pay taxes to clean up the messes left by dirty coal use.

  37. This is a mistake. Coal is cleaner now than it has ever been. Emissions have been significantly cut and many energy companies have invested even further to cut.

    The government and EPA, promoting the progressive thinking of all things 'green' (ethanol?!!), have knee-jerked this country. They are doing the same with healthcare, with policing, with everything and anything that makes the paper or results in a tweet.

    Please, change is inevitable, but never happens successfully if done over night. Tired of the government and citizens not understanding the impact of their over-reaching legislation fraught with unintended consequences.

    Enough!!!!

  38. Government? Citizens? Legislation?
    This article is about private-sector investment slowing in an industry which faces a great deal of current uncertainty and future risk.

  39. Coal is filthy from the second it is separated from the earth and moved through the process to power plant. The trace poisonous elements alone would invoke a prohibition if coal were something new that had to prove environmental and public health acceptability. Public officials should have been preparing for this death of coal for the past forty years, mostly by helping miners and related coal town families relocate. No viable resorts are going to built atop reclaimed strip mines, no real jobs are going to magically appear in Appalachia or other coalfield areas.

  40. Your assertion that coal is cleaner than it used to be is true, but then, cancer isn't as deadly as it used to be either, which is small consolation.

  41. The days of applying 19th century technology to 21st century energy challenges is at an end. First comes the nastiest technology, coal; with oil and gas to follow. America should commit the resources used to pillage and despoil our environment to retraining and redeploying fossil fuel workers in sustainable, modern jobs. While I think our cancer "moonshot" is a noble endeavor, transitioning from oil, gas, and coal is more urgent and, quite frankly, has a better chance of real success. And who knows, without all the fossil fuel effluent, maybe we'll have fewer cases of cancer. Win-win.

  42. As global warming progresses getting a 30 year home loan will be impossible in South Florida because the banks will see the risk is too high there - just as they are now no longer loaning coal companies money.

    If they had started ignoring coal 20 years ago perhaps South Florida would have been saved. The banks have more to lose from a collapse in South Florida Real Estate Prices....which is likely to happen sooner than later due to the fact that mortgages are typically 30 years - so 2050 ocean levels should start affecting real estate value by 2020.

  43. This is great news! The most damaging fuel to the environment, the one most contributing to global warming, is on its way out.

    Now, let us find other ways to help the laid-off miners to earn a decent living.

  44. Natural gas is not the answer to global warming. There is nothing wrong with coal versus natural gas except mountain top removal mining. Natural gas is just cheaper, and Dominion Resources is trying to force a pipeline through pristine Alleghenies so that they can sell liquified natural gas out of Newport News. Our water is at risk because of fracking, We need more nuclear power and other non-greenhouse gas sources.

  45. Nuclear power works.....Not the argument...It's what do you do with the waste by-products? They remain dangerous for hundreds of years and must be stored in a safe and non polluting environment..And still the inherent danger of reactor failure. Remember Japan??

  46. NYT Reader,
    Natural gas is far better than coal. Fracking to get it is not the way to go but it looks like we're stuck with it for a short while. Mountain top removal never should have been allowed. A pipeline is much less intrusive than any coal extraction method.

    The nuclear power industry still hasn't shown that it can take care of its spent fuel; and catastrophes like the ones at Fukushima, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl show us the dangers of nuclear accidents.

    Wind and solar power today are becoming very competitive and have enormous or virtually unlimited sources respectively to grow into. Tidal, friction, and many other overlooked sources can and must be developed.

    We don't need to put all our eggs in one or even three baskets. Howard Hughes' "Glomar" drillship platform, which recovered a Russian sub off Hawaii in 1968, captured energy from the friction caused by air temperatures meeting water temperatures. This wouldn't power a city but maybe an LCD light or two and that's fine.

  47. Natural gas aka methane, is another greenhouse gas causing global warming. See
    http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/methane.html
    Dominion Resources was smart in selling off much of its shale gas property a few years ago and instead will hopefully (for its stockholders) be purchasing the gas at low prices and selling liquified natural gas at high prices. Marcellus shale gas prices are below the return on investment price to drill a well and few if any new wells are being drilled in the Marcellus allthough new pipelines to the East Coast may raise prices.

  48. I can't wait for my electric bills to double in the not to distant future.

  49. "Coal, like railroads, steel and other engines of the nation’s industrial expansion in the 19th and early 20th centuries, helped drive Wall Street’s profits for generations."

    Too bad about loosing the railroads. Please don't put nasty coal in the same vein as the railroads, loosing them and the not having good rail in the U.S. is the joke heard around the world!

  50. Don't rule out Darth, I mean Mitch McConnell finding a way to enlist enough muscle toward getting public subsidies for coal production or some related crazy idea to "save jobs". There are enough dead-enders in this gerrymandered-to-a-death spiral of a Congress, enough lunatic right-wing rage against the 21st century, and enough clueless voters in you-know-which states to give coal a chance.

  51. and Mitch McConnell still claims that coal is king. The old hack is clinging to his 18th century world view.

  52. Good riddance to once of the most destructive industries the world has ever seen.

  53. Thorium Fueled Nuclear Reactors! Thorium, the power source that is cheaper than coal!

  54. I'am amazed that one third of this nation's electricity is still produced by coal. Nevada, recently 'changed' the rules for rooftop solar energy. Solar, became more expensive in state that has abundance of sunshine...

    I Am not sad that bankers are pulling away from coal.

  55. Go lemmings go! OK, I know the whole lemming thing was a myth but it's appropriate to the situation. Humans unlike lemmings, do follow each other over the cliff.

  56. What will all the "green" car owners do when their coal driven electric cars get much more expensive? Obama himself is responsible for this horror. He is deliberately crippling our economy. Vote for either Trump or Cruz.

  57. Either you are ignorant about what is used to make electricity, and how that mix is rapidly moving away from coal, or you think the rest of us are ignorant. In addition, the emissions produced by the electric generation utilized for an electric car are a fraction of a gas motor's, and they are not spewed into your kid's face.

  58. Obama invented fracking? Who knew?

  59. Coal is still, by far, the means by which the turbines generate the power. Next is natural gas. Together they make up the majority. You own an electric car? Is that it?

  60. The last bank standing will consolidate the coal companies and create a supply just below demand and get even richer than they are now. Of course the workers will be SOL, but they will have their guns and apparently that's all they want or need.

  61. Coal's demise, as good as it is for the environment, is not without costs. A future with broken companies and idled workers is not a positive outcome, and it creates a large base of voters with a permanent grudge against pro-environmental policies. A softer landing and a graceful transition is much better than a sudden death of an industry.

  62. Employment in the coal industry has been in decline for decades...mostly due to technological advances in coal extraction. Now that the industry itself is in decline, environmental regulations are a handy scapegoat.

  63. Yes, and the industry has been warned but would not listen.

  64. The economic violence that Obama and "progressives" have perpetrated upon coal workers and others is what is driving Trump's rise. The destruction of an industry and economic violence to the associated workers based on Obama's climate prophesies is unforgivable. Which industry will be targeted next for destruction? It is no wonder the economy is still struggling.

  65. Did you actually read the article? It is becoming too expensive relative to cheaper energy sources. It's usefulness is waning. I am sure you'd have been railing against automobiles as destroying the stage coach industry back in the day.

  66. @ AJT, coal is becoming more expensive as a result of regulations. Coal itself has a very high energy density and without those regulations it would still be economic, especially when compared to renewables. Your comparison to stage coach is a false analogy.

    Also so far climate prophesies have been proven to be less than accurate, there is no reason to believe they will improve in the future.

  67. Those regulations have a reason: without those regulations coal burning poisons large numbers of people.

    Air pollution kills 7 million people around the world each year:

    http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2014/air-pollution/en/

    much of this is due to unrestricted burning of coal. China and India both recognize how damaging coal burning is, and are cutting back on it.

    Coal burning is a "stage coach" technology -- it's not cheap unless you can poison people for free.

  68. It has always perplexed me that we continue to mine and burn coal which is slowly poisoning us, while at the same time thinking of nuclear power as "too dangerous". Nuclear power provides almost 20% of the nations electricity. Coal has the largest death per energy unit, while nuclear has one of the lowest. We'd be in a much better position today with cleaner air and cleaner oceans if we hadn't stopped building nuclear plants in the 1980's and 90's.

  69. Totally agreed, but thanks to Fukushima nukes will instill fear for a long time to come. Besides, solar, wind, geothermal and wave energy are abundant enough to power our society if we just made their depolyment as high a priority as the drug war, for one example.

  70. Arguments in support of the nuclear industry rarely address the issue of waste disposal. From the irresponsible storage of old fuel rods in above-ground, on-site pools, to the leaking tanks and continuing multi-decadal delays in dealing with the 60-70 year old high-level wastes at Hanford here in Washington State, to Japan's failure to deal with Fukushima's ongoing spillage -- the failures foresight, funding, and will condemn nuclear power to a demise almost as certain as coals. .

  71. Yeah, I think the Fukushima disaster really helped coal and oil companies. Fortunately as you mentioned solar, wind, waves, geothermal are all great energy sources with more benefits than drawbacks. Improving battery technology will also help renewables to store that electricity. That combined with favorable government subsidies, and loans from the banking sector will should help grow renewables across the country.

  72. The EPA won . Now the government will take over coal mining.

  73. When the prices of oil and natural gas go back up in reflection of the slowdown of extraction, Coal, Solar, Nuclear and Wind will be more attractive investments...
    The EPA didn't slay the coal industry, an over abundance of cheap oil and natural gas has. And when the price of those commodities goes back up, the investment banks will be back.

  74. So many lives and so much of our country has been destroyed by the coal industry I'm glad to see it go. In addition, we need to be ready to lend a helping hand to the miners and communities hit hard by this downturn.

  75. As global warming progresses getting a 30 year home loan will be impossible in South Florida because the banks will see the risk is too high there - just as they are now no longer loaning coal companies money.

    If they had started ignoring coal 20 years ago perhaps South Florida would have been saved. The banks have more to lose from a collapse in South Florida Real Estate Prices....which is likely to happen sooner than later due to the fact that mortgages are typically 30 years - so 2050 ocean levels should start affecting real estate value by 2020.

  76. The climate denial industry which for years knowingly funded phony science from unprincipled scientists and came up with the hand in glove "I'm not a scientist" mantra for Republican politicians was and is a creation of big coal née the Kochs and their ilk.

    Big coal has done immeasurable damage to the earth's climate and efforts to stop the global warming that threatens literally billions of people not to mention plant and animal ecosystems. The driver for the coal industry's cynical disinformation campaign of course is profitability.

    As waters rise to record levels on the east coast of the US during high spring tides, like my birthplace of Miami Beach with knee high water in business and residential areas, the guileless public is starting to realize that Mother Nature doesn't care about coal company balance sheets or the smooth disinformation screed of the right wing media and politicians.

    As Mr. Dylan so eloquently penned about bad karma, "a hard rain's gonna fall"; hopefully sooner than later on big coal and their political courtesans as people realize the very lives of future generations depend on the industry's demise.

  77. To those of high enthusiasm and little learning - Almost half of the electricity generated in the eastern US is from Coal, and about 39% of total US generation is Coal based. Unless you want to freeze to death in the dark, be careful of what you ask for.

    Coal is our most abundant energy resource. We have almost 200 years of Coal just within our own borders. The mess in the Middle East- Thousands of our men and women dead, tens of thousands maimed, $ Trillions wasted is due in large part to our defense of our oil supplies. None of this would have been necessary if we had an environmentally responsible way to use Coal.

    During the 70's and early 80's there was a lot of research on the in-situ use of Coal. This research was abandoned as the price of oil and gas came down. I would urge that we revive that research. Presently only Coal and Nuclear are capable of providing the massive base load power that the US needs as a country. There are too many problems with Nuclear. We need a responsible way to use Coal until Fusion power can be made commercially available.

    I would urge a priority research program to find a responsible way to use our Coal resources and to bring Fusion Power on line within 30 years. We must get off of carbon based power, but we will need a bridge technology to do so. US based Coal, used in a responsible way, may be the best option.

  78. I spent a substantial portion of my career, including my PhD research in engineering, on so-called "clean coal" technology. I finally realized that "clean coal" is a smokescreen and delaying tactic. The coal industry supports using Federal research money for basic science and demonstration projects, but has no serious plans to ever deploy things like carbon capture and sequestration on a commercial scale. Instead, they lobby to defer and delay regulations calling for proven technologies like catalytic controls for nitrogen oxides and mercury capture.

  79. So glad the NYT chose this comment as one of their "Picks". It amazes me how many people criticize coal in one sentence and decry war in the Middle East in the next and then demand the end to drilling in the US. Where do you think the electricity is going to come from so you can plug in your laptop? Depend on unstable foreign sources for power, or find ways to use domestic sources rationally.

    Alternative power sources, even collectively, are nowhere near taking up the slack when oil disappears in our lifetimes. Each of us needs to step up and use LESS if humans are to make it though the post-peak oil world.

  80. The EPA is winning its War on Coal.

    That makes the Enviros happy. Coal miners and those who depend on miners' wages have to look elsewhere for income.

    They should try to retrain for an industry that is now in favor.

    Here's one possibility to consider: growing marijuana.

  81. Although I am somewhat skeptical about the notion that banks would meaningfully balance protection of the environment over their profits, this is clearly a situation, where the two at times disparate goals line up; at least in developed countries. My skepticism is fully justified by their behavior in developing nations, where their lending to the coal industry comes with better guarantees of profitability. Their claims that they are doing so in ways that protect the environment ring a bit hollow. In any case, the times clearly are a changin’.

  82. "Those best efforts might not be enough." It is good for the people and the country that the banks are not lending to the coal companies. They have been POLLUTING and DAMAGING the environment long enough.
    Taking off the tops of mountains is obscene.

  83. My Father died of lung cancer at the early age of 56 caused by working in the coal mines as a young teen.
    It is time we ended the use of coal for any purpose.
    However we have to be mindful of the consequences for those who through no fault of their own will lose their jobs.
    I favor declaring such areas economic development areas , training coal communities to work on renewable energy. Solar Panels, windmills and allied products.
    Sadly there will be some who cannot be trained in those cases we can extend unemployment benefits.
    All this can be part of modernizing our infrastructure which should be funded
    by a financial transaction tax.

  84. Undoubtedly clever people are working on the means of converting the energy in coal into usable energy without the environmental problems and the cost of cleaning the environmental problems. It wouldn't be surprising if those efforts weren't stymied in the past by the coal industry. Full speed ahead now?

  85. Back in the 1950s, I remember reading that if there was total 100% conversion of mass to energy than a single lump of coal could power NYC for a day. Of course, I am sure that NYC used a lot less energy per day in the 1950s than it does now.

  86. "In its latest annual corporate responsibility report, Deutsche Bank said it was phasing out financing for projects that employ so-called mountaintop removal mining, which environmentalists say is particularly harmful."

    Oh those picky environmentalists. How dense does an investor (or the writer here) have to be to need help from environmentalists to note that removing mountains and filling up the surrounding rivers and valleys with the detritus is particularly harmful?

  87. At the end of the day, it isn't environmental concerns that have brought the coal industry low, it is the extremely low prices of oil and natural gas that have done so.
    Coal has been known for years to be the least environmentally friendly solution, but the difference is that it is no longer the least expensive.

  88. False. Coal has a high energy density and is still, absent regulations, a cheap and efficient energy source. The economic violence perpetrated upon coal workers and others is directly a result of this administration's actions.

  89. "Cheap" if the externalities are not factored in. There is nothing cheap about poisoned water, asthma, destroyed landscapes, or mercury in the food supply. And that is not even taking into account global warming.
    There are now more jobs in solar than there are in coal. Think of the economic violence perpetrated on solar workers and home solar owners by the Nevada utility commission, in your own state of Nevada.

  90. The reason for this, in part, is the more powerful oil and gas industry's plan to have our power supplied by methane gas. If only it meant they would be powered by water, sun and waves.

    But it means continued mining of the highly radioactive gas, the leakage of which means formaldehyde gas leakage. It is time to tell the public that every drop of our massive methane leaks, emanating from our increasingly degraded crust, turns to water vapor and formaldehyde.

    Is the Aliso Canyon leak the reason for all the rain emanating across the Gulf? I think so. Methane oxidizes to formaldehyde during daily light hours and falls to earth. Its water vapor product goes up. During nighttime hours, methane remains methane, soars to the sky and follows migration patterns, in wintertime to the equator, and in summer to the poles, continuing to finish oxidizing to formaldehyde and water vapor, and eventually to carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, the so called source of global warming. It takes about nine years.

    In 2009, scientists discovered methane is the cause of lightning. It isolates positive ions, by forming ice crystals with the water vapor it makes, freezing it to accomplish it. Surprise, methane makes its hydrate in the sky. It is the gas of the ice age. The heat it holds is subtracted from our environment. The current global warming story is a hoax, a hoax of a different gas.

  91. but what about the people and the states that depend on coal for their livelihood. people dont think about that

  92. People do think about that. There are about 70,00 coal miners in the US. We can, and should, help train those people for other work. Mr, Obama has stated his goal of doing so. It is only the Republicans in Congress who say "no" to everything who are stopping a concerted effort to help those who will lose jobs.

  93. Does the wind blow in Wyoming?

  94. Oh yeah, what about the people like me who live near the coast whose homes are going to become worthless if the seas rise 3 or 4 feet? What about those of us who don't want to eat seafood very often because it is laced with mercury that comes from coal fired power plants? What about future generations who are going to end up paying tens of trillions of dollars in higher taxes to mediate the effects of higher sea levels and coastal cities, like Miami, that will be constantly flooded?

    And lets apply the "personal responsibility" principle that conservatives love to throw in everyone's face to the coal industry. We have known about global warming for 30 years and that coal was the dirtiest source of energy, yet people who work in the mining industry ignored it, instead of seeing the writing on the wall and going back to school to give themselves the credentials to work in a growth industry that wasn't killing the planet. I suspect your average coal miner has no more than a high school education, so, why aren't they to blame for not getting a good education and going into a field where they could give themselves a better life, without the risk of mine collapses and black lung. Why should we feel sorry for them for making bad choices, when the writing was on the wall if you bothered to get the facts about global warming.

    The bottom line is that way more people are going to be harmed by failing to address global warming than a few thousand miners in Wyoming will be.

  95. On Sunday, Fareed Zakaria reported that 90% of all energy production projects initiated in 2015 were in renewable energy. Apparently the only parties who did not receive the memo---or did not bother to read it---are the coal companies, the banks, and the Republicans.

  96. The probable driving force for the decision is the more powerful oil and gas industry's plan to power the nation by methane gas, the mining of which creates great leakage, bringing radiation up from the deep earth with it, and it is increasingly laying down formaldehyde on earth because that is what it becomes. It converts to formaldehyde and water vapor during daylight hours, and ultimately becomes carbon dioxide, after hanging around for about nine years. It is time for the press to discuss the oxidation sequence of methane; it's on Wikipedia. Tell the public about the massive amounts of it we have in our atmosphere.

    And by the way, scientists studying lighting, in 2009, discovered methane was it's cause, and discovered in the process, it was the gas of the ice age: it forms its hydrate in the sky with all the water vapor it makes. The heat it holds is removed from our atmosphere.

    The current global warming story is a hoax of a different gas.

  97. "Mr. Morgan’s bank, now JPMorgan Chase, announced two weeks ago that it would no longer finance new coal-fired power plants in the United States or other wealthy nations."

    Was that nuance intentional "United States or other wealthy nations." Will they finance poorer nations?

  98. Coal-fired generation is dying because it is no longer economic -- plain and simple. It's dying most quickly in western economies, because they are forcing the industry to stop killing and sickening very large numbers of people: the pollution control required to do that makes coal no longer economical.

    Again, coal is economic only if you can poison large numbers of people for free.

    China and the Chinese people understand this now; they are starting to eliminate coal. India is starting to do the same.

    In areas where the resources are favorable both wind and solar are cheaper now than new regulation-compliant coal-fired generation ... and this is true before any cost of CO2 is assessed.

    It is time for coal-fired electricity to come to an end, unless CO2 capture and sequestration proves economic ... and all the evidence is that it doesn't and cannot.

  99. So, the GOP was right - there is a war on coal. But it is being fought, and won, by Wall Street, not by Washington.

    Of course, in true Wall Street fashion, what they are doing will destroy millions in investor funds and about 150,000 jobs related to the coal industry. And Wall Street, of course, will do nothing about either.

    We are getting a good result for the environment, but in the worst possible way.

  100. Wall Street's support for coal in years past allowed the barons to loot coal country and hollow out local economies and communities while externalizing the health and environmental costs to (mostly) taxpayers. Mineral rights were bought for a few cents an acre, with no compensation for destruction of the surface (which wasn't included in the deal).
    Read Harry Caudill's Night Comes to the Cumberlands to understand the real story: Big Coal's War on People.

  101. I'm still waiting for the crooked "Wall Street" guys to be brought to justice. Tough talk by this administration - sheepish action.

  102. One might be able to make a good case for "clean coal" were "clean coal" not an oxymoron. Apart from dangerous atmospheric pollution and associated global warming, coal's impact has multiple negative effects on the immediate mining and coal town environment whence it comes--from black-lunged miners and poisoned citizens to decapitated and denuded mountains, toxic sludge reservoirs, and contaminated run-off waters and streams.

    The banking industry's epiphany--at last--that coal's future will not meet the bottom line test of a financially viable industry also shows that the so-called "war on coal" was just another belching of the Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell's Republican mendacity machine. It no longer can be said that it is only anti-coal Democrats and "tree-huggers" who are threatening the coal industry. The banks themselves are heading for the exits.

    Free enterprise principles are undermining coal: there are cheaper, cleaner, and more sustainable alternatives. We need to take the thumb of the scales that has given coal (and oil) an economically unmerited advantage.

    In any case, coal is safer left in the ground. It won't go away on its own. In time, if--thanks to future technological developments--"clean coal" ever becomes more than just a slogan, we can start thinking of it again as a resource rather than as a threat. We are far from that point now.

  103. This story and the one above it from the NY Times email are connected. The science of coal's contribution to the climate-warming crisis has been available for decades. Unfortunately, those states in which coal mining is a backbone of the state economy: Wyoming, West Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois and Pennsylvania have been ruled and governed by Republicans opposed to the theory of climate change.

    The preceding story, “First Step in Conservatives' Supreme Court Fight” deals with the right wing justifying McConnell and Republican senators to not meet with Justice Harland, let alone vote on his nomination.

    Left unspoken in that story is Justice Harland’s history in cases dealing with the Clean Air Act. Garland has been quoted that the Clean Air Act is "this nation's primary means of protecting the safety of the air breathed by hundreds of millions of people." That statement scares McConnell, from Kentucky, one of the 5 top coal producing states. Garland would probably support the Clean Power Plan which aims to slash the nation's carbon footprint by restricting greenhouse gas emissions. If he were confirmed, he would be on the Supreme Court when this case comes up.

    As Wall Street starts to pull financing from coal, McConnell and other Republicans continue to make excuses like letting the voters decide on a nominee. The voters already decided on nominees when they re-elected Obama. The agreement on a message in the previous story is a smokescreen to protect McConnell.

  104. So called "climate change" has not risen to the level of theory, it is just a collection of hypothesis..

  105. It is time to put McConnell, aka the Turtle, out to pasture in some coal tailing pond in Kentucky.

  106. In the long-run, market forces usually work to balance supply and demand. If lenders are unwilling to lend, it is more because they fear default on repayment obligations, not because of any environmental or other concerns. Horizontal drilling has produced a greater supply of alternative fossil fuels and societies will continue to explore non-fossil fuel energy alternatives as fossil fuels are not unlimited. If coal or any other commodity isn't attractive to enough buyers, it is only logical that the cost of production may eventually exceed the sales price, rendering the commodity unprofitable to produce. In this market, it is simply unprofitable in America to produce coal and the unwillingness of lenders to throw good money after bad is a logical outcome. The sooner that those in the coal industry realize that like coopers, blacksmiths, and excelsior manufacturers, coal's time may be ending, the better.

  107. I do regret the difficulty this places coal workers in, BUT, this industry has over the years fought, aggressively, every attempt to clean up the process. It's attitude has been "not only no, but hell no!" Quarter by quarter management without the long term investment view in the benefits of clean burn technology has created the conditions where the business and the lives of those who depend upon it are in jeopardy. Those people will wrongly blame the EPA when to find the guilty parties they should only look in the mirror.

  108. Coal miners have been proud people, but their work is physically dangerous and hazardous to their health. All too often, the bigwigs of coal companies treat labor as a commodity, not as fellow human beings.
    Capitalism run rampant has several names: authoritarianism and fascism come to mind. Just look at the misguided attempt to use concentration-camp labor to build armaments for the Germans in World War II, plus the abuse of workers from conquered/occupied countries and concentration-camp slaves underground (Camp Dora) in Nazi rocket plants.

  109. It ain't the ism it is people. Doesn't matter what the ism is, if one is corrupt, one will bring corrupt to the ism.

    You can pick your ism, you can blame the ism, but they all have greedy persons who will game the system.

  110. I live in a state currently experiencing the destructive forces of fracking --- water polluted by chemicals, fish dying in our streams and many of our state parks tainted by the filth of an industry that pays no taxes on their catastrophic enterprise.

    Coal is never "clean" and its fossil fuel friends clearly are contributing to global climate change, and this historically dirty, unsafe and insufficiently regulated industry has been killing coal miners since its inception.

    Hillary Clinton as a 30-billion dollar budgeted plan to re-train coal miners displaced by the rightly impending death of coal, replacing their horrific jobs with jobs in an increasingly fast moving industry in solar power.

    Were the media not so obsessed with the idiot-Trump, and with attacking Hillary Clinton for words misspoken about this,
    we might be having more productive conversations about how we shift --- and grow an economy centered on truly clean energy and jobs.

    mlouisemarkle
    State College, PA.

  111. They all get attacked for misspoken words - she's not special and she's misspoken her fair share amount of times. Hillary keeps her finger in the air to check the latest breeze, Bernie is half crazy with promises of grandeur and taxes even grander.....and on the other side.....worse. This country is lead by career motivated self serving politicians and there is little signs of change.

    As long as voters are deciding whether they like the message based on the messenger, we are in deep sewer waters. We need those who listen to the messages, weigh the possibility, as does it make sense and then decide. What we have is people defending the messenger because he/she is their guy/gal.

  112. The solar industry has surpassed the coal industry in numbers of jobs created.

    There are only about 80,000 people employed in the coal industry today.

    Twenty times that many would have lost their jobs if the auto industry was allowed to fail in 2009, and many had no problem at all with that.

  113. Amen to that.

  114. Not sure I believe that, but even if true those jobs are all completely subsidized such that without the federal government giving those solar companies money those jobs would not exist.

  115. Oh they were supportive of the bailout. They just wanted to retain the privilege of bellyaching about it afterwards.

  116. Perhaps as the banks pull out the people who work in the industry will fully understand the level of dishonesty perpetrated by Mitch McConnell and his cohorts in their lawsuit against the EPA. They clearly only care about getting elected in the next cycle using the war cry of “Democrats are at war with coal”. If they were honest politicians looking out for the long term security of their constituents they would be working on bills to bring investment to their states or districts such that their constituents can work in the economy of the future rather than the past. Doing that would require them to admit they were wrong and work with Democrats… perish the thought!

  117. This is stated well and so true! How much could they really care about their people when they aren't doing a single thing to provide opportunities for change that is certainly coming?

  118. Yes the Democrats are so noble and care nothing about the next election cycle. Kool aid please!

  119. I pity the area including the miners and their families, including their children and the businesses in the coal towns. They are the losers. The Federal Government (ALL BRANCHES) and the states most hit need to help these people and now. None of this "I've got you back, Flint" talk. None of this "Make America great again" promises. Action, not talk. "We are made as hell," and tired of talk. Enough methane that comes from D..C. om one uyear to power a whole fleet of buses in NY, Los Angeles, and Chicago for a decade.

  120. When are politicians going to have the conviction to state the obvious: that coal mining is a dying industry and it's time to stop pandering. It's more than appropriate to propose programs to help miners in the affected regions, but to pretend that the industry is going to return to what it once was is a fantasy.

    The "War on Coal" is not between Washington regulators and beset miners in Kentucky. It's between the planet and an energy source that can no longer be tolerated. Help the miners - but let the industry die a natural death.

  121. Coal in the US is abundant and should be a major part of the energy mix. Stiffer regulations should be coupled with government assistance to commercially develop clean coal technologies. It's short sight for the EPA to impose regulations aimed at driving coal companies out of business. Despite commitments by China, India and other developing countries to curb greenhouse gas, coal is and will be the major source of energy for years to come because coal is cheap. The developed countries of the US and EU, despite their rhetoric on reducing greenhouse gas and protecting the environment, have contributed very little or not at all in terms of funding and sharing clean energy technologies to assist the developing countries to become less reliant on coal. The Paris climate change accord was just a feel good agreement and is now forgotten while the US coal industry, by going bankrupted, will cede the global coal market to Australia and Brazil.

  122. Coal may bad but Nuclear is worse! Electrical Demand is going to increase as the economies grow and as some transportation methods switch to electrical propulsion systems. How to maintain and obtain STABLE and dependable electrical flow is critical to any developed society.

    Solar is good for daylight hours but there is currently NO WAY to reliably store that power once the sun goes down thus it is NOT a good BASE LOAD energy source. Wind is good when it blows, but again depending on it for BASE LOAD use is useless.

    Natural Gas, BECAUSE OF FRACKING, has become readily available again, but with an average life span of only about 7 years for an individual well, continual drilling and fracking OF NEW WELLS is required to assure a stable supply to run natural gas Electric Power Plants. Eventually the gas fields where fracking has opened up the NEW gas production that is now fueling the new Gas Fired Power Plants will start a very precipitous decline in output. Once that happens there may be actual natural gas shortages unless BIG NEW FIELDS are found.

    Nuclear, the great environmentally friendly alternative of the 1960's and 1970's is now known to be potentially the biggest polluter of all. MUCH WORSE than modern coal plants (or mining) when something goes wrong, as it will time. Fukushima is just a precursor to other future nuclear plant meltdowns.

    Coal NEEDS to be part of the energy mix going forward or society must somehow cut it's electrical demands in the future.

  123. Please do more homework. Most large international banks signed the Equator Principles over a decade ago, and financing for new coal mines has been declining ever since. This is not news; what is news is that Peabody Coal managed so well for so long. There is no such thing as clean coal, despite billions of dollars spent on trying to create it. Let it go. People in coal country are better served by investment in other industries.

  124. If coal can really save us from our ignorant selves we should treat it more like a national treasure. Place it under lock and key much like oil reserves for national security. Leave all coal untapped until the future when all other countries oil and coal sources diminish.

  125. Do you think the next President, likely Hillary Clinton, will have a bailout for the Coal industry?

  126. Forget natural gas. When solar energy is now cheaper than coal, you know the writing is on the wall. Solar is only going to get cheaper and cheaper, and coal is only going to get less and less competitive, with or without environmental regulations.

  127. Who's going to buy Mitch McConnell if Peabody Coal goes under?

    As someone who's worked on the line in an asbestos factory, I do understand how hard it is for the miners and others in the coal industry. But what are the choices? Keep killing people (ourselves included) with coal, asbestos, etc.: or change?

    How can we make it least hurtful to the workers and others at the bottom of the economic pyramid? (Those at the top will make out disgustingly fine, thank you.)

  128. The free fall of coal has a lot to do with its disingenuous term, "clean coal." The future of coal is not good because clean coal does not exist in reality. Most of the nation's coal-fired power plants do not have extensive equipment to reduce harmful pollutants. Moreover, virtually all emit carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas. The coal industry has mistakenly put much effort into obfuscation (e.g., pushing "clean coal) instead of research and development to actually allow continued use of coal.

  129. Wall Street literally places "it's money where it's mouth is" and coal is clearly an economic loser in the 21st century energy economy. Even it you're a climate denying Republican, coal loses out to gas and oil as the world, especially China, starts embracing global warming and eliminating coal. Unfortunately, what is left out of the cold financial calculus is the fate of miners and others whose financial lives are at risk. We need to think creatively, even if Senators like coal advocate Mitch McConnell won't. One possibility is to create new green energy zones along the lines of the Tennessee Valley Authority that will produce wind and solar equipment in eastern Kentucky and West Virginia, establish model green energy electrical facilities there and retrain displaced mine workers and others for those jobs. Progress is inevitable, but we can and must do it with compassion.

  130. I often wonder if the trillions spent in Iraq could have carried us to develop a clean coal technology. With a limited use of "clean coal", along with expanded wind and solar capabilities, the US could achieve many goals; reduce climate change, protect jobs for coal miners and create energy independence for the USA.

  131. Ex-POTUS Dick Nixon's 1972 visit to China served to awaken a sleeping economic & manufacturing giant. Ever since, unions' quest for worker benefits has increased all while Uncle Sam has throttled local industries with regulations, EPA senselessness and harmful trade agreements. As for the present WH marionette, he has chosen to attack fossil fuels, namely coal. The end result of all this beckons darkness ...

  132. Or fresh air (which is appreciated by all for its invigorating and life sustaining properties.)

  133. Why isn't this seen as an opportunity to retrain and financially elevate individuals and communities? Training for 21st century jobs is a given as time starves the beast.

  134. "If coal companies are unable to pay for the mine reclamation, taxpayers could be on the hook for the cleanup costs."

    Yay! Another heads they win, tails we lose. And you can bet some portion of the safety net will be cut to pay for the clean-up.

  135. I'm sure there was also a point where large banks declared they would stop lending to the horse and buggy industry. And I'm sure the industry titans screamed bloody murder. Technology moves on, and more toxic ways of doing things get left behind. The only remarkable thing here is that we don't seem to have become any better at transitioning the labor force or at accommodating change.

  136. if we cant figure out a way to evolve from the coal industry its all right. we will just evolve ourselves out of exsistence.

  137. No honor among thieves.

  138. Coal in the US is bad, but coal in Emerging Markets is terrible - but much more profitable. The banks will keep financing those.

  139. I get the decided feeling that the anti-coal movement among financiers and politicians is in large part a way to do all they can to shore up oil and natural gas investments.

  140. Coal miners are stuck. Until they decide to move out of the hollers and get training and different jobs, they are just going to sink deeper into isolation and poverty (with or without continuing coal mining).

  141. What hypocrisy this article represents. Given the fact the Obama will do anything it can get away with to further inflict damage on the coal industry, further investment in it seems doomed. Nonetheless, the efforts to accelerate its demise show total lack of realism and blindness to the fact that a transition from coal to more environmentally desirable energy sources will take considerable time and heavy further capital investment over time, both in new energy development and in rectifying the damage left by mining. Finally, the Obama administration, liberals and environmentalists have shown an incredibly callous disregard for econdomic need and ethical obligation to help reconstruct and advance the economies of those unfortunate states that have been principal centers of coal mining and the unfortunate, already impoverished populations within them. The irony is that this ethical and economic failure will help to assure that economic recovery of the nation as a whole continues to stagger on ineffectually.

  142. Yu are absolutely correct. We need to start spending more on non-coal infrastructure, and improve wages in those industries, as soon as possible.

    I urge you to tell the GOP to get behind this effort.

  143. "....the efforts to accelerate its demise show total lack of realism and blindness to the fact that a transition from coal to more environmentally desirable energy sources will take considerable time and heavy further capital investment over time, both in new energy development and in rectifying the damage left by mining."

    Yes, and so what? Because it's difficult it's not worthwhile? Because it's difficult we should continue to support an 18th century carbon-releasing anachronism of an industry?

    How about joining the 21st century and meeting its environmental challenges, rather than standing on a soapbox sputtering about "liberals and environmentalists."

  144. This countries coal miners are, largely, hard working family folk. Let's find opportunity for them, their work ethic, and love of country installing solar and wind energy. Doing what they've been doing proudly. Bringing energy to America.

  145. Nobody says otherwise. But we are already way past the point where we need to move away from coal and toward cleaner energy sources. The current generation of coal miners must be the last one. There should be no more hiring in that sector, otherwise alternative industries will have no chance to eventually replace coal mining as the main income source for these folks.

  146. The biggest danger now that American Coal companies are in distress due the decline in coal use in the US is that they will become desperate to export coal to other nations. This will defeat the main purpose of getting away from coal power in America, which is to prevent the CO2 waste it generates from contributing to climate change.

    Here in the Pacific Northwest we are fighting the western coal companies and their backward looking efforts to construct 5 massive coal ship loading terminals on the Washington and Oregon coasts. The coal industry must be phased out, and we certainly should not allow them to commandeer ever more rail lines and port facilities so they can sell this "cheap" energy source to industries in other countries who then use it to undersell our American manufacturers, while destroying the future of our society. Our industries need to be supported in their need to move toward sourcing their power from more environmental benign sources.

  147. What the article misses, along with most of the comments, are the economic impacts of closing mines and coal fired power plants. Most employees of coal fired plants earn approximately $100k annually, including benefits; they also have pensions with defined benefit plans. Coal plants typically employ 100-500 employees directly, almost universally represented by AFL/CIO.In addition to directs, coal plants employ an equal amount if not greater of indirect employees, providing speciality services. Coal plants annually contribute tens of millions of dollars income taxes and school/property taxes. Dunkirk Station, located in Dunkirk, NY provides up to 70% of the local property/school tax base. This is not unusual, and in fact fairly typical of coal plants across the country. Contrast this with solar industry workers who for the most part are not protected by AFL/CIO, and make far less ($40-50k), with no pensions. I would also doubt, but have not had time to research, that solar factories pay anything near what coal plants do in the form of school/property taxes. Given the competitive nature between states & towns to attract new business, and who usually offer tax incentives to new businesses, I'd say that's a fair assumption. So, while there are no doubt environmental benefits to renewable generation versus coal, it will come at a great cost of which politicians and regulators are clueless.

  148. You make an excellent argument for the expansion of labor unions and increased wages for workers.

    Sadly, the GOP is strongly opposed to both.

  149. That would be an interesting argument if coal mines existed I a bubble. However water and air flow a cross county lines, state lines and international boarders. The problems associated with coal production spread globally. Coal miners in Kentucky dont have to look in the eyes of a child in Ohio suffering from lung aliments or the family who just lost a family member to cancer in New York. Coal companies are profiting by playing the desperate against the sick.

  150. Market forces and free trade are driving industry towards ever more competitive practices to survive, including lowering labor costs. Regardless of the GOP's position about unions and wages, that is the reality our country faces. The point is there needs to be national and regional policies re the expansion of renewables in the electric generation business that considers not just environmental impacts, but also the impacts on communities, organized labor, and the many, many technical problems that renewable generators bring to the Bulk Power System. That is what is sadly lacking in the politically mandated carbon reductions.

  151. Some claim that coal is put at a competitive disadvantage due to subsidies provided to renewables. However, coal as long been subsidized by our funding of the maladies associated with coal operations including, healthcare dollars, environmental damages and loss of fisheries and wildlife habitat. If a calculable sum was placed on to the cost of coal that included the financial impacts that coal passes on to taxpayers, coal would be the most expensive energy source on the market. How does one explain to victims of cancer, emphysema or brain damage that they were never warned of dangers or allowed to be included in a compensation discussion? Ironically most of those opposed to the regulation of coal are also opposed to expanding healthcare! I am fairly certain that in the prestigious communities where Peabody executives live the air is fresh and the waters run clean!

  152. I wonder how many shares of coal stock Senator Inhofe holds?? My best bet is zero.

  153. Good. Coal is destroying the planet we all have to live on. More Americans work in solar already, and that is the trend of the future. Coal needs to stay in the ground for the good of humanity.

  154. Solar will never replace the energy produced by coal. It is simply a fact that the energy that goes into the creation of either photo voltaic solar, or thermal solar will be less than the energy either creates.

  155. All the while the idiots running my state just voted to play a shell game which takes $53 million coal royalties from coal producing counties and uses them to try to build a port two states away so they can ship more coal to Asia. Legally the money is suppose to be used to mitigate the impact of mining coal in the local communities. The Utah courts even said that the money could not be used this way. So the state congress and governor passed a law that uses general fund money for that purpose instead while the coal royalists are going to the state of Utah general fund. Besides the fact that California politicians are threatening to block construction of the port, how that shell game makes the scheme magically legal, is beyond me. I really wish the Feds would investigate these crooks.

  156. So you live in a state controlled by republicans then - this is what your fellow citizens voted for.

  157. Half right. The majority in my state voted for the party that opposes abortion access and equal rights for GLBT. The rest is just details to most of them. For they believe if they vote how they think God wants them to vote, then the "lord will provide". The politicians in this state takes that as license to do practically anything they want knowing that as long as they have an (R) next to their name come November they will probably be reelected. Other than the state government, SLC is actually an awesome place to live if you value city life while having unparalleled access to forested mountains, peaks, lakes, river canyons, and deserts.

  158. Bu-bye.

  159. Regardless of what the GOP wishes, the market forces are against coal which frankly will have a hard time coming back even when inventories are depleted because overall, less coal is being used and the trend will continue. Hanging on to the past is not a strategy. But then again, we are talking about a party that longs to bring the US back to the 1950s where everything as just perfect: women and blacks knew their place, no other economy existed, and white males were the undisputed kings. Poor Mitch McC, forced to live in the reality - what a drag that must be for him and his buddies!

  160. "...but also to clean up coal mines after they close. If coal companies are unable to pay for the mine reclamation, taxpayers could be on the hook for the cleanup costs."

    Therein lies the Republican Party's ideal scenario: privatize the profits and socialize the expenses.

    In this patriotic, Democratic taxpayer's view, the cost of cleanup from big coal should be billed to the shareholders who have profited for decades from mountaintop removal, and clawed back from the executives and board members who guaranteed that the company would cover all the costs of their environmental rape. There are numerous class-action suits against companies for missed dividends, misprision, etc.; why not a class-action against the shareholders on behalf of the entire American public? (Not that this Supreme Court will allow it, but without Scalia, who knows?)

    The same principle should be applied to cover the costs of pensions and medical care for the miners, whose diminished life expectancy, terrible illnesses, and continued generations of poverty are all dumped in the lap of the taxpayer. And, for that matter, the similar costs emanating from all the other corporations that have skipped out on their pension obligations while their executive suite took billions in compensation.

  161. Very well stated. I totally agree.

  162. I have a better idea: implement a carbon tax. We can use markets to improve our world and ensure everyone pays the whole cost of energy they consume. Get Mexico and Canada to sign on too so we don't have carbon smuggling, and use the proceeds to clean up pollution all over the country. I would even make the tax so big that we could drop the income tax. Just imagine - only carbon users would pay for nearly all government funding, while creating incentive to conserve. Even electricity users would pay for the fuel powering the generation. Bicycles would be seen as patriotic and smart. Whaddaya say?

  163. The problem is that the poor would shoulder most of that burden. THe wealthy already install solar heating systems; the middle class has done so when subsidies are available; even Dubya used geothermal on his ranch. But the poor are stuck with coal, oil, or gas, and can't afford $7K or $8K to replace oil with gas, much less, $20K to replace fossil fuels with solar or other renewables.

    I'm middle class, and I can't afford to go solar on my 1926 house, because NC repealed the subsidies that used to cover up to 50% (?) of the cost of installation. Even with them, it was problematic to spend $10,000 out of pocket and still have to funnel my power through Duke Energy; now it's impossible.

    So, no thanks to that sort of carbon tax. A corporate carbon-use tax, perhaps, if it would subsidize the changeover for all the rest of us.

  164. Coal . When I was a boy, right after WWII, we drove by coal fires smoldering in PA.
    Travelling to the Jersey shore by train, I revelled in the orchards I saw and opened my windy as we rounded a curve -- the engine's coal dust-laden smoke blackened my white shirt and angered my parents.
    Then whole towns were evacuated a few years later because underground coal seams had aught fire and no e knew how to extinguish them.
    Still later, Philadelphia spent millions returning City Hall's blackened stones to the original white.
    When will the world learn: coal-burning is insane.

  165. Typical of vulture capitalists, they will do anything to anybody as long as they can make profits then drop you like a hot potato at the first whiff of risk.

    How can we allow, coal companies, to go bankrupt and wash their hands of the clean-up necessary after what they do to the environment? For years, the executives and owners have made tens of millions of dollars, then all of a sudden, they decide they can't afford to clean up their mess. Perhaps all "profits" should start going into a fund who financing is required to clean up after themselves? Perhaps the executives and owners, and investors, need to pony up the cost rather than leave it the responsibilities of the tax payer?

    It's amazing how we are capitalists when it comes to profits, but communists when it comes to paying for corporations terrible actions and decisions.

  166. Do you really think that the coal companies are going to pay for clean up if they survive. Let them go under - at least they will do no further harm - and let the taxpayer pay like we always do anyway.

  167. If clean-up costs were factored in now, all coal companies would go bankrupt tomorrow. But at the same time, the lights would go out throughout the country. Literally. That's why the coal industry has us all over a barrel. No politician wants to be the one who imposes that blackout on the voters. What is happening now is the gradual process that is necessary to keep the lights on while the country shifts to different energy sources. All the noise around it is the haggling that comes from those involved who want to maximize their gain and minimize their pain.

  168. Coal companies should have to place funds marked for clean up and remediation of the site into an escrow account, so that the taxpayers don't get stuck with the bill when these companies bail out.

  169. This is a classic example of the "creative destruction" aspect of capitalism. You can call yourself an environmentalist until your face turns....green, hold Congressional hearings, stage demonstrations, etc, etc., but when the profit evaporates and the regulatory hurdles become prohibitive, any industry is doomed. It isn't merely an issue of a "low carbon" future, it is also about a distributed energy grid. Sun, wind and waves can generate cheap electricity from almost anywhere and storage technology is improving by leaps and bounds. Simply put, we no longer need an industrialized framework -- for both coal mining and power generation -- with huge downsides. Banks recognize this.

    This is going to happen. Heck, the state that generates the most power from wind is Texas! It isn't really an issue per se, it is merely inevitable.

  170. maybe if they could figure out how to compress coal into industrial diamonds on a grand scale they might have more luck getting financing

  171. The Koch brothers got rich from coal, now are they going to pay for cleaning up their mess?

  172. I am glad we are moving away from coal.

  173. Live by unrestricted, unmodified capitalism, die by unrestricted unmodified capitalism.

  174. I live in a small city whose major industry at one time was making stage coaches. Guess what. We don't do that anymore. Investors lost interest when railroads and automobiles were invented. It's called progress.

  175. Those stage coaches were not CO2 neutral either. Those horses produced a lot of methane, i.e. natural gas, which unburned is a worse green house gas than CO2.

  176. Methane is actually very different from what we call "natural gas". As you correctly point out, methane is far more damaging as a greenhouse gas than the by-products of burning natural gas. The difference is that the feed that the horses used to produce that methane would have still produced methane one way or another by decomposition. The real difference with coal is that we take a carbon source that is bound up in inert layers of the planet (coal seams), and liberate that stored carbon. Think of that coal as a savings account, slowly built up over millions of years. Now, here we come and raid that account, cleaning it out in just a couple hundred years. That's what un-sustainability is all about.

  177. Stephen:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_gas

    I am well aware of coal as the savings account for carbon and the utter folly we are committing by burning it, thereby heating up the atmosphere and destabilizing the biosphere in a way not seen since the Cambrian. Good analogy, by the way.

    As far as the horses are concerned, I was being facetious. It was time to have some fun...

  178. My father was a coal miner and he used to say that coal was too valuable to burn when I was a kid. He had a 6th sense so maybe one day he will be proved correct.

  179. The coal miners should be offered jobs putting the environment of coal country back together after the deprivation and distraction wrought by the coal industry.

    Wall Street and the coal corporations money earned from coal should be tracked sequestered and used to finance this environmental restoration.

  180. It's one thing not to invest in coal... but what about regulation? The GOP is all about stripping away oversight and regulations, what they deem as "impediments to doing profitable business." And you know what the coal industry has been up to? Lopping the tops off of Appalachian mountains. They are DESTROYING the environment, because they're stressed to keep up profits... thus they take shortcuts they've never taken before, even though they violate environmental policies. This is disastrous and something needs to be done about it IMMEDIATELY.

  181. So called "Clean Coal" is one of the biggest lies ever told by the fossil fuel industry - nothing more than another untrue marketing campaign. There is absolutely nothing clean about it. I can only hope that the Koch bros lose billions for their major part in destroying our environment.

  182. This is more about smart risk management for the big banks. Many of them were on the precipice not 10 years ago largely because of the real estate bubble. When I read now that they are being cautious about how much risk they are extending to the coal industry I certainly feel badly about the many implications for the people whose lives depend on coal. But I do not want to see another banking crisis.

  183. What's keeping anyone here from putting solar panels on your roof with a battery backup?

  184. Miritt, they would generate a fraction of the energy you or I consume every day, with the rest made up by burning natural gas or coal.
    Even with battery backup, solar, wind, and other intermittent renewable sources guarantee dependence on fossil fuels indefinitely.

  185. Hmm, how about my neighbor's large trees which overhang my roof and shade a good deal of it much of the year? Not every house is suitable for solar installation.
    That said, the sooner we completely eliminate coal, not just the in the US but globally, the better.
    Part of coal's problems is that clean energy is increasingly competitive. The banks are right. Any long term bet on coal is a bad one - not to mention an immoral one.

  186. Right now, aside from the large initial outlay, is the fact that better solar systems are in development, and I'd rather let others work out the kinks of the beta versions before I invest.

    Also, the government could do a lot more to create incentives which would make it seem like a sound investment. Long-term, interest-free loans, for example, would make it doable for low-income people and people with no savings (most people).

  187. I'm very concerned about the loss of good paying United Mine Workers jobs. The United Mine Workers were on the brutal front lines of the war for fair labor practices in this country. Yet, we callously throw their jobs away by the thousands, then applaud ourselves.

  188. People whose living depends on production modes of an obsolete past (coopers, stable boys, cobblers, blacksmiths) must adjust to new modes. It isn't a choice - it's a necessity. We are not throwing these jobs away, the industry is simply becoming untenable.

  189. The coal industry isn't ailing any more than the horse and buggy industry could be said to be ailing after the invention of the automobile. People aren't arbitrarily deciding not to use coal; someone has built a better mousetrap and progress is moving us beyond coal just like the auto moved us beyond the horse and buggy.

  190. Talk about Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish! This anachronism of an energy source should have been put to "bed" a century ago.

  191. Big Coal: R.I.P. And good riddance. Let us hope Big Oil will soon follow coal into oblivion. Can't happen soon enough for me.

  192. Wait .... I have an idea. A jobs bill. Yeah that's it. The coal workers could be transitioned into jobs fixing our infrastructure and also into clean energy production jobs but that will not happen because in order to do this the congress would actually have to do the job we pay them for and those guys are soooo busy trying to make Obama a one term president that they have little time to actually help govern the country.

  193. Actually, this article goes some way towards explaining why Mitch McConnel is such a chronic jerk. His state, its way of life, are deeply threatened by a reality and a necessity he does not understand and cannot accept.

  194. The reality in Kentucky is that less than 1 % of the citizens work in coal mines. As has been commonly mentioned: "if every employed coal miner in the state took a seat inside the University of Kentucky's basketball stadium, about half of the arena would remain empty."

    The industry got rid of most of the miners years ago.

  195. Problem is that there can be no responsible long-term planning with the way our government operates in 4 year cycles, so there are never smooth transitions. Everyone suffers except those who reap profits while the getting is good. The environment pays a big price, people get hurt. It is not a good system.

  196. Not only coal, but also the oil and natural gas emit carbon and other global-warming emissions in producing energy. All of the highly-profitable companies extracting fossil fuels have long-term mineral-rights assets intended to assure high profitability for thirty to fifty years in the future. Climate scientists are saying in effect that those assets must become "stranded" and unprofitable in ten years or so, if planet earth is to meet the goal of capping global warming at two more degrees centigrade; and, if that goal is not met within that time, catastrophic global warning will be irreversible. We need to grow slower and fasten our seat-belts, too.

  197. As I have been telling my dad (who loves coal, shale & tar sands stocks) for the last decade, coal needs to stay in the ground unless we all want our grandkids to live on pontoons. We need to cut back on greenhouse gases by 90% just to stabilize our atmosphere. That means no coal, no oil, no wood, no peat, and we'd still have to cut way back on natural gas. This is no joke. It's not some granola dream - we must radically change all our environmental inputs this current generation or face a very bleak future. Just like the demographers in China saw disaster looming in their growing population, we must heed the writing on the wall and make difficult compromises before disaster makes our choices for us.

  198. Coal powered the industrial revolution basically because it was cheap, easy to use, more efficient and plentiful. Considering how long it has lasted as an energy source, I'd say it had a pretty good run. It been traveling down the road to obsolete for quite a while. Look at the UK, most of it's mines, if not all, are closed. The marketplace is working by creating more efficient and cheaper energy sources and industries that don't have the same energy profile.

    The fact that US coal has survived so long is a tip of the hat to innovation. Labor has lost jobs continuously for years in the industry. It's been hardest on those who have the least opportunities to work in another industry. What we've been listening to for a while is an industry that is dying and the vultures that are picking the body early.

  199. Gosh.
    Perhaps the beaver pelt/buggy whip/whale oil/hoop skirt lobby can support the coal industry.

  200. I am all for the ending of using coal as our, and everywhere else's energy source. I could care less if all the coal mines are closed and I don't think the coal mine owners, their executives will suffer at all with the bankruptcies of these mines, they may even get huge "bonuses". But how about the miners? This is their only livelihood. We the society are responsible for their plight because our society and our elected government have not prepared these miners for a new age of energy, instead, our politician kept fighting the change to keep these coal companies afloat and continue to provide the corporate owners huge profits. I believe our society has a responsibility to have a real, livable safety net for these miners, especially those who are 45 or older.

  201. The writing has been on the wall for the demise of coal for decades. The coal mine workers need to take some personal responsibility to get training, and to elect state legislatures that will stand up to the coal companies, and transition states like West Virginia to new diversified economies. I for one do not feel sorry or responsible for their poor choices. Capitalism means embracing the destruction of no longer viable economic activities.

  202. Fine sentiment, but where does it stop? Should we do the same for all the workers who lost their jobs to China and Mexico? What are we re-training them to do? Maybe Mr. Peabody will open a solar panel or wind turbine factory. Instead they financed bogus campaigns to create doubt about climate change, which has been accepted science since Lyndon Johnson was president.

  203. Ninety percent of new electricity generating capacity in 2015 was from wind and solar generation. Coal plants are typically at the end of their operating lives and will be replaced by wind, solar and to some extent natural gas plants. The reason is simple - coal cannot compete because it has high initial capital costs and high operating together with mercury and other emissions which cannot be cleaned up without huge expense (there is no such thing as clean coal technology). Why would anyone want to incur unnecessarily high cost to generate electricity from the dirtiest possible fuel? Coal cannot compete with other generating options - even on purely economic terms.

  204. I find it surprising how scientifically illiterate "progressives" are. One has to wonder what happens to the steel industry if coal mining is completely destroyed?

    Are the cement and steel industry next targeted for destruction? Will the "progressive" climate prophesies impose economic violence on the workers in those industries?

  205. @jacobi,
    The steel industry in the US went away a long time ago. Most coal is used by power plants- if coal is replaced by natural gas, it'll be the railroads that will suffer, and to a smaller extent, maritime towing companies.

  206. @ Seamus:

    In the week ending March 19, 2016, domestic raw steel production was 1,668,000 net tons while the capability utilization rate was 71.3 percent. Production was 1,601,000 net tons in the week ending March 19, 2015 while the capability utilization then was 67.7 percent.

    The steel industry employs on the order of 150 k people.

    Let me guess you are a Sanders supporter?

  207. In fact some steel mills are experimenting, successfully so far, with the use of natural gas as a replacement for coking coal. Lots of reporting on this - http://www.thespec.com/news-story/4190319-u-s-steel-natural-gas-process-...

    In any event, "completely destroyed" doesn't imply that there won't be a single mine left. It means that the market will be thoroughly restructured with an ever smaller market share, fewer customers and eventual obsolescence.

  208. The writing has been on the wall for the demise of coal for decades. The coal mine workers need to take some personal responsibility to get training, and to elect state legislatures that will stand up to the coal companies, and transition states like West Virginia to new diversified economies. I for one do not feel sorry or responsible for their poor choices. Capitalism means embracing the destruction of no longer viable economic activities.