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Indianapolis Monthly: What's Next for Indiana's Coal-Dependent Counties?

Posted by Tony Rehagen on Jul 27, 2020

Indianapolis Monthly covered the decline of the coal industry in Indiana as renewable energy has begun to increase across the state, quoting Indiana AEE's Caryl Auslander. Read excerpts below and the entire Indianapolis Monthly piece here. 

When Tim Abrams is up at night, sitting at the kitchen table of his rural Sullivan County home fretting about the future of Indiana’s coal industry, he’s not worried so much about his own job... Abrams is concerned because, as president of the County Council, he knows the life-sustaining power coal has given the region, both literally and figuratively through employment. And, like everyone else in the area, he sees the industry dying right before his eyes...

Of course, it isn’t that simple. For decades, scientists have warned that burning coal releases a cadre of pollutants into the air. The mercury, nitrogen oxide, lead, and carbon monoxide have been linked to everything from heart disease to cancer. What’s more, researchers say the industry’s carbon dioxide and methane emissions are accelerating climate change. Even with the reduction of these pollutants brought by the Clean Air Act, most scientists consider the industry term “clean coal” to be oxymoronic.

Which is why coal’s ultimate future isn’t really up for debate. Even proponents of Indiana H.B. 1414, which was dubbed by detractors as a “coal bailout,” argue that the law is designed merely to provide a smooth transition to reliance on natural gas and renewable energy sources...

The inevitability of coal’s demise is borne out by the numbers. While Indiana’s coal production has remained fairly steady, consolidation and advances in mining technology have eroded the number of jobs needed to pull the stuff from the ground...

For the workers, the focus is on skills that might be transferable to other industries, perhaps at other energy companies. Businesses such as Emergent Solar Energy and Horizon Wind Energy, which provide wind, solar, and hydroelectric power, are among the fastest-growing in any sector in Indiana. Advanced Energy Economy, a trade group comprised of those types of companies, reports that nearly a quarter of their employers struggle to find a qualified workforce.

Many coal workers have a solid grasp of direct current, complex machinery, and engineering. They understand construction. Less tangibly, they are no strangers to hard work. “Skill transferability is more anecdotal than specific,” says Caryl Auslander, spokesperson for Indiana AEE. “But those who have lost their jobs in coal mines are hard workers, and we’re always looking for that...”

Read the entire Indianapolis Monthly piece here. 

Topics: AEE In The News