Coal miners’ number fifty thousand across the United States. Backs against the wall, days numbered, the future isn’t included. Hard rock hard times are in a head on collision with the 21st Century.
Musical chairs, the party game favorite, when the music stops everyone is scurries to find an open chair, mining companies are desperate to not be caught holding the bag of debt when the music stops and there’s one more seat missing, one more loser, one more player told to step aside.
In the shadow of the Big Horn Mountains there are men having shots of whiskey after swing shift, to take the edge off. Meth runs rampant in the lunch bucket working class crowd, there are enough fatal fentanyl overdoses to fill a football stadium, divorce rates are holding steady, more and more people don’t bother getting married.
From the pages of Oil City News, “Rocky Mountain Power, notified the Wyoming PSC that it was considering early retirement of several of its coal-fired power units in the state because they are becoming more costly to ratepayers than investing in new renewable energy generation.”
Fossil fuel revenue streams are drying up. Bankruptcy is all a coal mining company can do. Go to court, put the assets into receivership, sell off what you can, hope there’s enough money to deal with the tailing ponds, clean up the surface water, pray you haven’t polluted the ground water, maybe there’s enough money to pay the promised pensions and health care, likely not, like any corporate entity you run the business for profits now, when a mining operation is coming up short you know who’s going to get the shaft?
Lighthouse Resources owns Decker coal mine just north of the Wyoming border in Montana. They’re playing the bankruptcy card. About 150 United Mine Workers Union members are being setup for the deal breaking.
Spring Creek Mine is 16 miles north of Decker. The Navajo Transitional Energy Company, or NTEC in all their infinite wisdom decided to buy this stranded asset. Appears the NTEC’s governing board is packed with executives who didn’t the get the memo, that coal jobs aren’t coming back, the starless rocks got no future, and it is time to stop hating on renewables.
Across the United States the unavoidable fate in the coal baron bankruptcy business is the last 75 coal fired power plants are slated for shutdown. That’ll close most of the mines, some metallurgical coal might hang on for making steel, until green hydrogen comes online, then they’ll shutter those mines too. Until about yesterday forecasts pegged the end of coking coal in 2050, but that estimate is likely to revised, the sharper analysts figure decades sooner.
Pueblo, Colorado has a steel mill coming online, technology is old school, they’ll use coke fuel with some more up to date tooling. New operation will manufacture railway track, figure enough work for 1000 United Steel Workers. Net gain will zero out when they shutter the last of the down on their luck city’s coal fired power plants. Pueblo can’t catch a real break, if ever a place needed to be rescued from the forces of change this Southern Colorado outpost would be a prime candidate.
Bumper sticker sloganeering, the illegitimate brainchild of Frank Luntz focus group tested efforts to smear job losses on climate change policy doesn’t do much to fix our nation in the midst of a major energy transition. Exxon’s kicked off Dow Jones because there is no future for oil, it’s all stranded assets and pattycakes with Putin, and that’s good until it isn’t, can you say plutonium?
Millions of acres devoured by wildfire, category five hurricanes, heatwaves, droughts, an ever-expanding population colliding with an ever-decreasing water supply is deserving of our attention.
The insurrection of January 6th was not funded by fossil fuel industry, but Open Secrets estimated that in 2020 Big Oil donated $11million to Democrats and a grand total of $59 million to Republicans. Let that sink in for one hot second. Add banking, pharmaceuticals, health insurance, transnational agriculture, and there’s the consolidated force of special interests gumming up every road in or out of our nation’s capital.
Leadership means getting out in front of the climate emergency. Had our nation only mustered the political will to pass a carbon tax we would have the money in hand to help the United Mine Workers today. The long put off unavoidable moment has arrived, the transition is underway, we can’t afford to blow it now.