Thousands of out of work coal miners from Kentucky to West Virginia to Pennsylvania—important because of its swing state status—have put a headlamp onto the declining coal industry this election season. Hillary Clinton proposes a multi-prong plan that supports workers and communities in a transition away from coal toward more diverse and sustainable economies. Donald Trump, meanwhile, says he will put coal miners back to work in the mines by strengthening the country’s reliance on coal.

As the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Coal Report released this week showed, the reality is, coal will never return to its heyday. In fact, 2015 production was at the lowest level since 1986. Rolling back or stonewalling recent progress in reducing carbon pollutants will not change its downward trajectory. As my colleague, Steve Cicala, explained in this post, those environmental regulations are not the primary reasons why the industry is in a downward spiral. He pointed largely to innovation and market-driven forces, such as cheaper natural gas and long-standing market-based approaches for addressing the pollutants that cause acid rain.  Furthermore, mines that continue to operate do so more productively than mines did in the past, meaning that even fewer workers are needed than would have been the case for a similar level of historical production.

Given the dismal state of the industry, the national conversation should not focus on providing false hope of returning the coal industry to coal country, but on providing a realistic picture of how to transition those communities to a new economy. President Obama’s efforts and candidate Clinton’s plan are major steps forward.  Still, these plans should be expanded even further to provide a comprehensive approach to the challenge—both retrospective and prospective, both top-down and bottom-up.

Continue reading at Forbes…

Areas of Focus: Energy Markets
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Energy Markets
Well-functioning markets are essential for providing access to reliable, affordable energy. EPIC research is uncovering the policies, prices and information needed to help energy markets work efficiently.
Fossil Fuels
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Fossil Fuels
Under current policies, fossil fuels will play an important role in the energy system for the foreseeable future. EPIC research is exploring the costs and benefits of these fuels as...
Renewable Energy
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Renewable Energy
Lower technology costs and supportive public policies are driving an increase in renewable energy in markets around the world. EPIC research is assessing the costs, benefits, and efficiency of policies...
Climate Change
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Climate Change
Climate change is an urgent global challenge. EPIC research is helping to assess its impacts, quantify its costs, and identify an efficient set of policies to reduce emissions and adapt...
Climate Economics
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Climate Economics
Climate change will affect every sector of the economy, both locally and globally. EPIC research is quantifying these effects to help guide policymakers, businesses, and individuals working to mitigate and...
Climate Law & Policy
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Climate Law & Policy
As countries around the world implement policies to confront climate change, EPIC research is calculating which policies will have the most impact for the least cost.
Environment
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Environment
Producing and using energy damages people’s health and the environment. EPIC research is quantifying the social costs of energy choices and uncovering policies that help protect health while facilitating growth.