US Shift From Coal Is Eroding Job Opportunities In Rural America

The number of workers at rural coal and nuclear power plants is dwindling as energy companies face pressure from natural gas and green energy producers, according to a report Monday from The Wall Street Journal.

Utility employment is falling at unprecedented rates and eroding a stable source of well-paying jobs in rural areas, and placing more pressure on President Donald Trump as he attempts to fulfill promises to save blue-collar jobs.

The Center for Energy Workforce Development, which represents major utility companies across the U.S., estimated earlier this year that total direct utility employment has fallen to 505,000 from 550,000 since 2006. Energy analysts argue the power sector will not be a major job generator that it was in the past, WSJ notes.

“The power sector is just not going to contribute to the economy in terms of jobs the way it once did,” Curt Morgan, president and chief executive of Vistra Energy, told reporters at the WSJ. Vistra, which is expected to merge with Dynegy, shuttered a power plant in Texas and a mine that supplied it with coal — the company’s decision to close the plant could affect the jobs of 450 people.

Vistra is also planning on creating one of the largest solar farms in the country in West Texas, one of the main hubs for the solar and natural gas industries. The plant will employ two people, which could be part-time jobs.

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that producing coal is more job-intensive than producing natural gas or solar and wind power – it takes fewer workers to keep solar farms up and running.

“Natural gas, solar and wind are all less job-intensive for ongoing operations,” Philip Jordan, a vice president at BW Research Partnership, which analyzes worker data for the Department of Energy. It takes five times as many coal mining and power plant workers to generate a megawatt hour of electricity as wind farms, according to Jordan’s group.

Coal plants require people and expensive machines to crush, sort into piles, prepare coal to be pulverized into a mist, and eventually shoveled into boilers. The ash residue resulting from the burning must then be collected and disposed of, all of which requires intensive labor.

Natural gas, on the other hand, is delivered directly to power plants via pipeline. It combusts completely and therefore doesn’t need people to handle the waste. Wind and solar farms operate under similar conditions.

They don’t require fuel to make power, so they only need a handful of workers toggling switches and pressing buttons. The farms also have fewer moving parts, and in some instances, use magnetic motors instead of gears. The rapid automation reduces the need for maintenance.

The downward pressure on the coal industry comes after energy regulators rejected a DOE Chief Rick Perry’s plan to effectively subsidize coal and nuclear power plans facing closure.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) unanimously nixed the moribund plan, which would have compensated power plants that keep 90 days-worth of fuel onsite, mostly nuclear and coal plants.

Perry’s plan was not the only policy move designed to help an industry that at one time was a powerhouse for employment. There’s also a national push to keep nuclear plants, and some coal plants, open in the face of strict regulations and increased competition from natural gas.

New York and Illinois, for instance, put policies in place to subsidize nuclear power. Connecticut also instated a policy designed to insulate its sole nuclear plant from competition from natural gas.

Read more at Daily Caller

Comments (10)

  • Avatar

    EnergynEntropy

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    Making more wind and solar devices requires plenty of coal burning, though. It might be done out of sight being all that coal burned in China and other Asian countries.
    “No device can generate energy in excess of the total energy put into constructing it”.
    https://the-fifth-law.com/pages/press-release

  • Avatar

    DGSchroder

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    There are many articles on Climate Change Dispatch that have said the exact opposite of what this article says:
    Solar and wind are very high cost (including labor cost) compared to Coal generated electricity.
    Coal represents low cost and reliable electricity compared to renewables.
    America’s entire solar industry with thousands of workers and hundreds millions in subsidies puts out very, very little electricity
    etc. etc

    • Avatar

      Sonnyhill

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      Socialist governments are wrecking crews. It’s not enough to say that they have no business sense. They are economic an anarchists. Billions wasted on “green toys” that don’t deliver enough or when it’s needed. It takes five wind turbines rated at 4 MW each to deliver an average output of 4 MW 24/7.
      The Ontario Liberals are currently destroying a 4,000 MW generating station to make room for 44 MW worth of solar panels. That’s 44 MW when the sun smiles upon them.

  • Avatar

    MCPR

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    Americans have long received their electricity cheaply and reliably from a little outlet in their wall. This has lead to the widespread belief that they can decide, without knowing bothersome terms like “Baseload,” “Dispatchable,” “Spinning Reserve,” “Synchronous Inertia,” and “Capacity Factor” what the best energy supply for the future will be. Well, those people have spoken. Now they will surely become aquainted with other electrical terms such as “unreliable,” “grid instability,” “overload” and “rolling blackout.”

    • Avatar

      Sonnyhill

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      It is short-sighted to accept an electrical grid that’s adequate . The only reason Lefties do that is to make electricity precious, like OPEC makes oil precious. Bitcoin is an example of a new demand on the grid. So is cloud computing and the NSA. There’s more on the way and the country that’s ready for all eventualities will prosper.
      You cannot shrink to greatness.

  • Avatar

    Spurwing Plover

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    Wind and Solar Power is harmful to Birds.Bats and Whales whats more Wind Turbines cause a terrible noise and neither can be depended upon coal on the other hand don’t cause any problems it burns cleaner and Greens Lie all the time about everything the Keep it in the Ground idiots are a perfect example of what i’m Squawking about Squawk Squawk,Skreee Skreet

  • Avatar

    Amber

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    Coal has at least a chance to compete now while the Democrats promised to shut it down and fire coal workers . So beholding to their $billionaire bag man from California they peed all over fly over country corn flakes and blew away any remaining urban myth they represent ” working people ” . Face plant Hillary couldn’t even get off her ass to visit the “safe ” states .

    • Avatar

      Sonnyhill

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      When the leftist whining gets me down I only need to think ” President Trump”. The clouds open and the sun pours in. Their torment is not my burden.

  • Avatar

    Spurwing Plover

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    The hard Greens could,nt care less about rural america after all Al Bore once told a FFA member to find new Career becuase he was going to move all our food production to 3rd World Nations and turn all our Farm and Ranch land into Wildlands and Wilderness to appease his fellow Deep Eclogists

  • Avatar

    David Lewis

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    You are certainly right about there being contradictory articles. So, how do we know which ones to believe? The disaster of Germany’s energiewende is an excellent indication. Here a nation went all out for renewable energy and not only failed the country but 330,000 thousands homes were had their power shut off because they couldn’t afford inflated rates driven by renewable energy. Much closer to home my own power rate went up 15 percent due to a mandate to used more renewable energy. It is very clear that the articles reporting that renewables are higher than coal are accurate.

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