AEP / Coal / Duke Energy / FirstEnergy

Has Big Coal lost its power?

The International Coal Group mine remains idle in Sago, West Virginia. The mine has remained closed since an explosion on January 2nd, 2006 killed 12 miners.

NEW YORK, NY — “In the world of energy politics, the sudden vanishing of the word ‘coal’ is a remarkable and unprecedented event.

As anyone who is reading this surely knows, there is no energy source that is more emblematic of the past than coal.  We still burn nearly a billion tons of it a year in America, almost all of it to generate electricity.  But it is a dirty, inefficient, planet-cooking fuel whose supporters have pushed into the 21st Century with slick ads for “clean coal,” an army of high-powered lobbyists, and big checks for politicians.  And until recently, it’s worked.  The secret of Big Coal’s success has always been its political power.  In the regions where it is mined and burned, coal mining companies – as well as the railroads that haul it and the power companies that burn it – are deeply wired into state and local governments.  They have worked long and hard to convince the hacks in city halls and state houses that their economic future depends on burning more and more coal, and that any shift away from coal, or, worse, any crackdown on environmental regulations, will bring about not just economic chaos, but blackouts.

Nowhere has the political power of coal been more obvious than in presidential campaigns.  The conventional wisdom has always been that if you want a seat in the Oval Office, you need Big Coal states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.  And to win them, you need to buy into the myth that we are going to power the 21st Century pretty much the same way we powered the 19th.”

— Jeff Goodell, Rolling Stone

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