Coal Industry's Future

June 17, 2016 • Volume 26, Issue 23
Should all coal-fired power plants be closed?
By Barbara Mantel


Coal is transported down the Kanawha River (Getty Images/Visions of America/Joe Sohm)
Coal is transported down the Kanawha River in Charleston, W. Va. Eight years ago, coal generated half of the nation's electricity. Now it generates a third. (Getty Images/Visions of America/Joe Sohm)

Most U.S. coal is used to generate electricity, but it gives off carbon dioxide and other pollutants, and the industry is getting crushed as power plants turn to cheap, cleaner natural gas and zero-emissions solar and wind power. Recent environmental regulations of power plant emissions are encouraging the shift. Hundreds of coal-fired power plants have closed since 2010, and U.S. coal production has fallen 40 percent from its 2008 peak. Most American coal-mining companies have sought bankruptcy protection in the past two years. Environmentalists want coal-fired electricity plants phased out by 2030, saying they are too costly to operate and too harmful to the environment. But the industry says shutting more coal-fired plants could threaten the reliability of the power grid and that coal-generated electricity is cleaner than decades ago and relatively cheap. Meanwhile, depressed mining communities want increased federal aid to help unemployed miners find new jobs, while industry and coal-mining states are challenging environmental regulations in court.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Coal Industry
Jun. 17, 2016  Coal Industry's Future
Jun. 24, 2011  Mine Safety
Oct. 05, 2007  Coal's Comeback
Mar. 17, 2006  Coal Mining Safety
Apr. 21, 1978  America's Coal Economy
Oct. 25, 1974  Coal Negotiations
Nov. 19, 1954  Coal in Trouble
Apr. 04, 1952  Coal Supply and European Rearmament
Jan. 22, 1947  Labor Costs and the Future of Coal
Jul. 24, 1935  Stabilization of the Bituminous Coal Industry
Jan. 01, 1929  The Anthracite Coal Situation
Dec. 01, 1928  The Bituminous Coal Situation
Jun. 30, 1927  The Bituminous Coal Strike
Aug. 15, 1925  The Bituminous Coal Problem
Aug. 01, 1925  Strike Emergencies and The President
Jul. 25, 1925  Miners' Wages and the Cost of Anthracite
Air Pollution
Climate Change
Consumer Protection and Product Liability
Economic Crises
Electric Power
Energy and the Environment
Energy Policy
Manufacturing and Industrial Production
Regulation and Deregulation
Renewable Energy Resources and Alternative Fuels
Unions and Labor-Management Relations