It’s evident that coal is on its way out, at least eventually.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the U.S. coal industry will see nearly a quarter of its operating plants sunset by the end of the decade – a pace that EIA says is actually slower than the aggressive closure activity of the decade before.
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Globally, big raw material producers like China and India are also seeing the writing on the wall.
According to a recent Reuters report, hundreds of mines are on track to close in the next few decades, as a transition from coal makes way for cleaner energy sources. Citing research conducted by the U.S. firm Global Energy Monitor (or GEM), the global coal industry is expected to lose a million jobs by 2050.
For clean energy advocates, the problem is not the loss of coal jobs – it’s what happens next. GEM says most of the mines in the line of fire have “no planning underway to … manage a transition to a post-coal economy.”
And if nothing is done, the gap would be immense, especially in China where the industry employs 1.5 million people. By GEM’s estimates, if current objectives to limit global warming by 1.5 degrees Celsius are achieved, there will be a need for just 250,000 miners worldwide.
There’s hope the transition to cleaner energy can create opportunities for workers in safer, less labor intensive energy fields– that’s if transition efforts are undertaken.
According to Dorothy Mei, project manager for GEM's Global Coal Mine Tracker, "Coal mine closures are inevitable, but economic hardship and social strife for workers are not."