During the 2016 presidential election, there was a lot of rhetoric surrounding the phrase “coal is coming back.” In fact, President-elect Trump regularly talked about boosting the coal industry and bringing coal jobs back as a major player in the energy industry. While for many in coal country, that may sound like a great idea, historic coal companies may have something completely different in mind.
While coal was the driving force of every industrial revolution in the world, the drawbacks to using this fossil fuel quickly became understood when cleaner, more affordable alternatives became available. In fact, in the last several years, coal usage at energy plants has dropped to around 30 percent of the total energy production, and is continuing to drop. While coal may have gotten us to where we are today, boosting the coal industry and turning back to old technology when there is a cleaner, more affordable option that releases far fewer greenhouse gases than coal, would be foolhardy. So where does that leave us?
In fact, coal companies already have the right idea! Many companies sold their mines and quickly moved to drilling for natural gas in the Appalachia area especially. For coal companies that opted to retain their business, most of them have gone bankrupt or are on the path to end up there as well. Coal companies that sold their mines and made a shift to natural gas production early on have fared far better, and even thrived compared to their peers. A perfect example of this situation is a company known as Consol Energy, Inc. This company has long standing roots in the coal industry dating back over 150 years, however, in the 1980s, they started looking into other means of energy production that could sustain their business. It wasn’t until 2010 where they expanded so far into the natural gas industry that there was no turning back, and the investment has paid off.
While it’s worth thanking coal production for how far the United States has come over the last several hundred years, many coal companies have seen that the future doesn’t lie in coal, but in natural gas and other sources of energy production. Trump’s belief that the energy industry needs to go backward and return to a coal bolstered society is a bit short sighted as industry and market forces have already lead us towards a more attractive alternative that can truly benefit the citizens of the United States.
With so many businesses and employees relying on the ability to stay at the top of their industries and leading the energy revolution, coal shouldn’t even be considered a place where growth should be invested. Instead, the future, for now leads towards natural gas. From frac tank producers to engineers who monitor a drill site, many individuals are now invested in the every growing industry. So ask yourself, is Trump’s plan to bring coal back into the big leagues really a great idea, when there is an already functioning and attractive alternative available to those all over the US?