Email
Password
Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageJob opportunities in the coal industry more tech-oriented

By Karen Graham     Jul 3, 2017 in Technology
Coal miners across the country were given a big boost when Donald Trump campaigned on bringing the coal industry back to life, and his executive orders scaling back Obama-era regulations were met with further accolades — proof he had kept his word.
However, it doesn't take a Republican or a Democrat to see the writing on the wall — And while President Trump may have given the coal industry a needed shot in the arm, the reality is far more serious. He has given the coal industry a mere stay on extending its demise.
The coal industry is facing a multitude of obstacles in trying to bring itself back to even a semblance of its former self. And surprisingly, it has nothing to do with President Obama and his so-called "war on coal," as Trump likes to say. Coal in the United States has been on the decline for decades. As a matter of fact, jobs in the coal industry in the U.S. dropped from 150,000 in 1987 to 51,000 in 2017, based on federal statistics.
While steel and industry were once Pittsburgh's lifeblood  banks  health care companies and res...
While steel and industry were once Pittsburgh's lifeblood, banks, health care companies and research centers now employ its inhabitants, who often ride light rail trains or pedal bike-share bicycles to work
Eric BARADAT, AFP
The reality of the loss of coal industry jobs
First of all, most people don't think about the coal industry at the global level, especially when they are only concerned about paying their bills and feeding the family. But the consumption of coal is a worldwide thing and believe it or not, coal is dependent on global economic forces, and not just what is going on in the U.S.
Then, there is the cost competitiveness with natural gas versus using coal in generating energy. Liquid natural gas (LNG) is the culprit that is to blame for the death of the coal industry, and it's hard to compete with a product that is cheaper than coal. And LNG has the added benefit of emitting fewer greenhouse gasses than coal.
LNG - Liquefied Natural Gas tank.
LNG - Liquefied Natural Gas tank.
LNG - Resources and Education
But the increased demand for clean energy globally has made renewable energy sources very competitive in the marketplace, and this has also helped to drive down the consumption of coal as a generator of energy worldwide. Let's add technology to the mix while we're talking about coal.
Technological advances in energy production have grown by leaps and bounds, not only for renewable energy sources but for LNG and coal. And the tech industry is where American coal can flourish and create jobs, as well as exporting our clean-coal technology to the world. And it is in this realm that President Trump missed a great chance in not embracing technology for the coal industry.
Employees of Brazilian mining company Samarco monitor rebuilding sites at the security control room ...
Employees of Brazilian mining company Samarco monitor rebuilding sites at the security control room in their mining site in Mariana, Minas Gerais State, southern Brazil, on October 26, 2016
Yasuyoshi Chiba, AFP/File
The new world of technology is here
As Arkansas Online points outs, our future does not lie below the ground. People will remember when, on the campaign trail, Trump put on a coal miner's hat and pretended to be digging coal with a shovel, right? And he promised coal miners they would be going back to work.
In today's coal industry, coal companies are looking for employees that are computer literate, or at least know how to operate a PlayStation control pad. Douglas Blackburn, a fourth-generation miner himself who runs the industry consultancy Blackacre LLC, told Arkansas Online, "If you do PlayStation, you can run a 300-ton truck," adding that "the worst injury you could expect would be a sprained thumb."
A PlayStation is a far cry from the industry's heyday in 1923 when there were a record 863,000 miners in the U.S., according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration. So, what changed all that? Innovation and modernization of machinery. Just about every industry in the world is always seeking ways to get the job done cheaper and with the least amount of employees. And the coal companies are no different, and that is not a bad thing.
A coal worker in an underground mine in India.
A coal worker in an underground mine in India.
Khushie singh
Innovation and improved technology gives way to a safer workplace and more efficient movement of the product, as well as saving money. Added to this is the superiority of American Technology. While we are pursuing our own clean energy technologies, we should be helping other countries pursue theirs instead of closing our borders and stifling our tech companies.
"Whether coal comes back or not is not necessarily directly related to jobs," Heath Lovell, a spokesman for coal producer Alliance Resource Partners LP, said in an interview on National Public Radio's On Point. "We should be becoming more and more efficient, which would mean we could produce the same amount of coal with less employees."
At the Newberry EGS Demonstration site  AltaRock is implementing EGS technology to bring about cutti...
At the Newberry EGS Demonstration site, AltaRock is implementing EGS technology to bring about cutting-edge clean power research and development.
AltaRock Technology
Yes, the coal industry has been hiring. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, the actual increase in coal jobs since the end of last year was 1,300, while the monthly increase in May was 400. This brings the total of coal mining jobs in the U.S. to about 51,000.
Number of jobs in the coal industry from January 2015 through May 2017.
Number of jobs in the coal industry from January 2015 through May 2017.
Bureau of Labor Statistics
What kind of employees are coal companies looking for? How about licensed mechanics and electricians or warehouse clerks and security guards. Many miners will need to develop a new set of skills to compete for jobs in the coal industry in the not so distant future. Companies will be needing people to man desks with computer screens in front of them, and that's just the way it is going to be.
More about coal industry, Technology, king coal, Electricity, Environment
More news from