Coal producers continue to close mines and reduce operations, eliciting shock and dismay among workers who will lose their jobs.
Producers cite slumping demand for electricity, which has yet to mirror pre-recession levels. That makes it difficult to find markets in which to sell coal. Even as the economy churns into recovery, sales of coal are expected to remain sluggish.
Other factors include U.S. Environmental Protection Agency curbs on carbon emissions that will curtail coal consumption and production, and unprecedented levels of shale drilling that have transformed natural gas into a cheaper and cleaner source of power.
We understand such arguments, yet we are also sympathetic to the plight of workers and their families who face the harrowing hardships of unemployment. Many of the affected miners will require job retraining. They should also be prepared to consider opportunities in the growing gas industry, where some of their skills might be transferable.
It may be difficult for some who have made a living from coal to jump to a competitor such as gas. But Americans continue to thirst for energy, and workers who are willing to fill the need are bound to find greater prospects.