The Los Angeles Times has a heckuva team of environmental reporters, including several Pulitzer Prize winners, but as of late, some of the toughest reporting in the paper has come from Neela Banerjee, who in her latest story in politely calls the coal industry and its employees, the miners, liars.
It's fascinating to see how she does it. She introduces a coal miner, and lets him blame the Obama administration and the Environmental Protection Agency for the decline of the industry, and then, after several paragraphs of fairness, lowers the boom and reveals a simpler truth.
"Coal is the only industry we've got, all we've ever had," said Serafino Nolletti, Logan's mayor.
But coal's role in the state economy has been waning for 50 years.
Mechanization stripped away mining jobs, and the shuttering of the
domestic steel industry and much other manufacturing eroded coal
Coal is the third-largest contributor to the state's gross domestic
product, but employs less than 5% of the state's workforce — far less
than other industries, according to Jeremy Richardson, a West
Virginia-raised physicist and fellow at the Union of Concerned
"For the last 100 years, coal has been king in this state," said Jeff
Kessler, a Democrat who is president of West Virginia's Senate and a
sponsor of the so-called future fund. "But it's a king that hasn't
always been good to its subjects. Just because it's all we've known as a
state doesn't mean that's all there is."
As Joel Pett illustrates for the McClatchey chain:
Coal is losing power in this country — and popularity overseas too, as AP's BigStory of the day documents "the beginning of the end":
The U.S. will burn 943 million tons of coal this year, only about as much as it did in 1993. Now it's on the verge of adopting pollution rules that may all but prohibit the construction of new coal plants. And China, which burns 4 billion tons of coal a year — as much as the rest of the world combined — is taking steps to slow the staggering growth of its coal consumption and may even be approaching a peak.
Michael Parker, a commodities analyst at Bernstein Research, calls the shift in China "the beginning of the end of coal." While global coal use is almost certain to grow over the next few years — and remain an important fuel for decades after that — coal may soon begin a long slow decline.