Thursday, July 24, 2014

The end of coal

Nice article in the Washington Post about the "death of coal." It seems like (and is!) a good thing to phase out coal, for many reasons. Coal is dirty, both locally (as mining is nasty, and as burning it emits particulate matter and damaging chemicals) and globally (as a major contributor to climate change). However, the story is not so simple, for many reasons. (I'm not following the article's numbering here, just FYI.)

1) Coal is cheap. Moving away from coal means that some people will be paying more for their energy. Some of these people are paying significantly more for power, and some of them are poor, so this is a real hardship.

2) Some communities depend on coal. Rural West Virginia is one example, but other places depend on the current system. It's expensive and painful when a community dies and people have to go elsewhere.

3) There might be better jobs for these people elsewhere, but it's not clear that's the case just yet. It's also hard sometimes to figure out where and what these new jobs can and should be.

It's not easy to change an economy over to a new power source, even though in the long run it's probably for the best. Hopefully the government can step in and ease the transition where appropriate.

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