The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis 2017 U.S. Coal Outlook Report indicates that the coal industry will continue to decline in 2017. The report states that coal supply is greater than demand driving coal prices and production down. An estimated decrease in coal production by 40 million tons in 2017 will cause a decline in employment in the coal sector.
Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that, from March 2012 through 2016, coal mining jobs decreased by 10 percent and coal support jobs decreased by 44 percent. The two states most impacted were West Virginia and Wyoming. By contrast, in 2016 the solar industry employed 231,688 more Americans than the coal industry (2017 US Energy and Employment Report).
“It is now cheaper to build new solar or wind generation than to continue operating existing coal and nuclear plants in many states. Wisconsin has shut down 770 megawatts of coal capacity in the last four years”, according to Sherrie Gruder, UW-Extension (Director’s Note, Jan/Feb 2017 Energy On Wi News).
However, a bill was just introduced in the Senate to provide tax breaks to carbon capture from coal. The federal government has already spent billions of dollars on technology to remove the CO2 from coal and bury it or use it elsewhere. Only 2 power plants use this technology currently. NPR