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Coal has been a huge part of our power industry, but things are changing. The Congressional Quarterly Researcher (CQR) from June 17, 2016 titled “Coal Industry’s Future” discusses the likelihood of coal-fired power plants either maintaining their operation in the future or closing their doors for good. As of today, coal is a huge source of power for much of the world, but that could be changing in the near future. Many places are making the switch to more efficient, cleaner energy, such as wind, water, and solar power, and leaving coal-fired power plants in the dust. Due to the cost and harmfulness of burning coal, supporters of clean energy want to abandon its use, but the coal industry is fighting back. According to them, our power grid would be jeopardized without burning coal.
There are numerous smaller issues highlighted in the CQR that exist within the main coal industry problem. For example, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered a ten percent reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from all coal plants by the year 2030. Many states and power companies have questioned whether the EPA is overstepping their boundaries and have taken the reduction to court. Also, about 40% of the coal in the United States is mined on public land through leases. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) controls these leases, and they have currently made the decision to halt new leases. The BLM wants to reassess the value of leases based on things like fairness to taxpayers and pollution. Finally, when the coal companies shut their doors, they leave thousands of people unemployed, and this is a substantial blow to our economy.
The coal industry is changing now, but it has always been steadily evolving throughout the past. In 1882, the Unites States’ first coal-fired power plant is opened in Manhattan. This began the legacy of coal that would power our country for over a century. In 1907, there are roughly 700,000 people employed in coal mines, and the number of mines peak at 3,242. In 1970, the Clean Air Act is passed. This started the long string of regulations to reduce the amount of pollution generated by burning coal.
Making the decision to abandon coal for cleaner energy is a difficult decision, and many people have opinions. Among these people is President Elect, Donald Trump. Trump will soon be setting foot in the white house, and, as president, he has the power to drastically change the coal industry. In the QCR, Trump is quoted saying that he wants to bring back and save the coal industry. Siding with Trump is Luke Popovich, a spokesperson for the National Mining Association. Popovich believes that the coal industry can evolve to increase efficiency and reduce pollution. On the other hand is Mary Anne Hitt, the director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal movement. Beyond Coal aims to close the doors of every coal plant in the United States to make the planet a cleaner place.
The CQR also includes the question “Should the federal moratorium on new coal leases be permanent?” and two responses written for the CQR. Jeremy Nichols, the climate and energy program director at WildEarth Guardians, argues yes. He believes that cutting mining from federal lands will greatly reduce pollution and pave the way for a coal-free United States. Laura Sheehan, senior vice president of communications at the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, argues no. In her opinion, an operation such as this would be too costly and would cripple the coal industry and its surrounding economy.
All in all, I learned many things after reading the QCR. I think the we should continue to close coal plants. Cleaner, zero-emission alternatives are clearly the better choice because I’m a firm believer that we should greatly reduce pollution. Just think. What would our planet look like today if the Romans started burning coal a thousand ago? I am fully aware that this will cause many issues, but it’s worth it. People will lose jobs, and people will lose money. Despite all this, we need to switch to clean energy because we cannot lose our planet.
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