From Coal to Solar: A Matter of Life and Death

His name was John Moran, the same as his grandson’s. He was born in Ireland and started working in the coal mines in England at an age that would be illegal now. He later went to New York City where he married, settled in the Bronx and had five sons. The damage to his lungs from working in the mines forced him to uproot his family and move to a tiny copper mining town in Southern Arizona where he found it easier to breathe. John Moran never met his grandfather. He died too young of emphysema, most likely from his days as a coal miner. His grandson often thought how he suffered for so many years until he died at a young age.

Now his grandson works in the solar industry producing energy just like his grandfather did mining coal. But what a difference. His grandfather worked far underground in a dark and dirty tunnel shoveling lumps of coal into a cart. Over the past 100 years, more than 100,000 coal miners have died from accidents and many more from emphysema. His grandson is happy and healthy working in the solar industry where there are no fatalities from accidents and no damage to one’s lungs. In fact, solar makes our air cleaner and cuts down on all associated lung diseases.  

Because of the real health and safety issues involved in coal mining, jobs in the coal industry in the United States have been steadily declining. In not too many years, no one will mine coal and the coal mines will be closed. In 1923, 862,536 people mined coal in the United States. In 2016, there were only 81,485 coal miners.

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Banks and other lending institutions will no longer finance coal mining. Mining coal is no longer economically feasible. It has been replaced by solar and wind renewable energy which are now the cheapest sources of electricity production with no fuel cost for 25 years. Solar production jobs are growing rapidly in the United States with more than 200,000 people employed in that industry.

The cost of installing solar power plants have declined from $8 a watt produced to $1 a watt. 

It will soon be time to close all of the coal mines and replace them with wind and solar renewable energy. Coal powered the industrial revolution and brought the world into the modern age. But it did its job with the cost of sickness and death. 

We are deeply indebted to the hardworking people like John’s grandfather who mined it and shipped it and burned it to produce steel and electric power. But why should we continue mining and burning coal as President Donald J.Trump has advocated when we can easily produce cheap, safe solar and wind renewable energy? 

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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