When I was a kid back in the 50’s, we lived in an apartment building on the north side of Chicago. Heat came from hot water running through heavy iron radiators placed throughout our apartment. The water was heated to steam levels by a coal fired boiler.
Once a week during the winter, a big truck would dump a mound of coal next to the building and, if I was lucky, Ernie (the janitor) would let me help shovel the coal in through the coal door into the basement.
I don’t remember how the coal got into the boiler, but I suspect that Ernie kept the boiler fed while I wasn’t around.
Folks, those days are long gone. That boiler was replaced with a gas fired boiler 20 years ago and the radiators were replaced with baseboard heaters. Even in buildings where the radiators were maintained, boilers are using natural gas to heat the water.
Heating oil is still popular up in New England, but natural gas is the fuel of choice in most parts of the nation. It’s cheap, it’s plentiful and it’s easily delivered.
Coal fired power plants, however are the main culprits for spewing carbon into the atmosphere. Four years ago 50% of America’s electricity was produced in coal fired power plants. Today that number is down to about 32% and it’s on the way to zero.
Just like Donald Trump’s accomplishments for his first hundred days.
In many cases coal has been replaced by natural gas to fire the turbines, but some of those plants have been shut down because they are old and too costly to replace.
Renewable energy sources like solar and wind power have also taken a chunk of the energy production sector. They are cheaper than coal, can be generated locally and, did I mention that they are renewable?
Regulations didn’t kill coal jobs, the coal companies did that. As worldwide demand for coal began to fizzle, they switched from deep tunnel mining to the much less costly process of strip or surface mining.
Strip mining accomplishes two things: It can be done with just 20% of the work force of deep tunnel mining and, as an added bonus it destroys the environment.
President Dufus recently signed an executive order – one of those things he said were only for losers like President Obama – allowing coal companies to dump toxic waste into clean drinking water. If you can tell me how that will create any new jobs in a dying industry, you may be one of Alex Jones’ preferred listeners.
When you see someone from Fox News sitting in a diner in Pennsylvania interviewing a guy named Homer and Homer says that he sees the coal trucks running again, he’s lying. They’re not running again. They’ll never run again.
Coal was an important part of America’s growth. Starting in the late 19th Century, coal powered the industrial revolution and led to the rise of America’s industrialists and, ultimately the middle class.
We’re not that industrial nation anymore and we never will be. Horse drawn carriages, pay phones, ice boxes, black and white TV and drive-in theaters are not coming back. Neither is coal.
In 1923 the United States had a population of about 112 million and about 775,000 coal miners. In 2015 our population had grown to about three times that of 1923 with less than one tenth (66,000) the number of coal miners.
Anyone who tells you that our power grid will be relying on coal in the 21st Century is lying to you.
Contrary to popular belief, lies need not have political affiliation.
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