King Coal has seen better days. Mines are being closed, miners are facing widespread layoffs and the market price of coal has crashed over the past several years. The War on Coal just claimed one of its most dramatic casualties, Peabody Energy. The largest private coal mining company, Peabody has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy for most of its American divisions. Although the company will carry on in a reorganized form, this development represents the major shift away from coal that is happening across the globe.
In its bankruptcy filing, Peabody Energy cites the decline in coal price, weak demand in China, the overabundance of shale gas, and regulatory challenges. As governments work to meet their obligation to the Paris climate deal, coal, a dirty fossil fuel, has found itself on the chopping block. The United Kingdom aims to shut down its coal plants by 2025 while China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, will close 1,000 coal plants this year. While the Clean Power Plan transforms the American energy market, the state of Oregon has banned the use of coal power by 2035.
However things may change, coal will trudge on. Developing regions such as India and Southeast Asia still rely on it as a primary source of electricity. Despite moves toward clean energy in the West, the United States still generates 28 percent of its power from coal. However, Peabody Energy’s setback demonstrates that environmental regulatory reform is having an impact on coal’s viability.
What happens next for those left behind in the transition from coal remains to be seen. The Democratic candidates running for President of the United States have proposed retraining and financial assistance for coal miners who lose their jobs in a changing energy landscape. The Republican position? Keep on mining.