Coal is a difficult subject to write about in West Virginia despite hard facts that show the industry is declining sharply in the U.S.

In December 2020, two more coal companies filed for bankruptcy in U.S. District Court, following a long list of other coal companies that also filed for protection from creditors last year.

White Stallion Energy and Lighthouse Resources joined Blackhawk, Blackjewel, Cambrian, Cloud Peak, Piney Woods, and Trinity, all of whom filed for bankruptcy last year.

The moves come after another year that saw a drop in coal consumption. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the nation’s power companies used 30% less coal in the first six months of 2020 than during the same period in 2019 because of a drop in electricity demand amid the pandemic. In the place of coal, natural gas and renewable energy rushed in to capture market share from coal.

And, chances are, even after the economy rebounds, power users who switched to sources other than coal, won’t switch back to coal now that they have a new solution. That’s how markets work.

Each bankruptcy impacts a family and that family’s ability to feed and clothe its children and provide stability so they can become successful adults.

We support Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and his new position as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and the role he will play in shaping national energy policy and energy security.

As Manchin was quoted in last Sunday’s paper, fossil fuels are not going away. However, he stopped short of saying West Virginia can no longer put all of its eggs in one basket as it appears to have done in previous years with coal.

We agree with Manchin that any entree into the green economy should lead through the Mountain State and every West Virginia coal miner who is displaced by declines in coal usage should be transitioned properly into a new green job, whether it’s building solar panels or erecting windmills.

He said he wants to redirect tax credits to the state’s that have lost the largest numbers of jobs from traditional energy sources, such as coal. He wants the U.S. to accomplish this goal by reinstituting a federal program called 48C Tax Credits.

“So that’s what we’re redirecting. That’s what you’re seeing happening and I’m going to make sure we’re on top of that so I said a coal miner would build you the best damn windmill you’ve ever seen,” Manchin said. “We’ll build you the best damn solar panel you’ve ever seen and it will be better than anyone ever built just give us a chance that’s what we’re redirecting.

“We should have windmill plants here. We should have basically new resource development. We should be, not just developing it through research, we should be building it.”

A year ago, the EIA released data that showed U.S. power companies retired 546 individual coal-fired units from 2010 through the first quarter of 2019. That equates to about one-third of the coal-fired generation fleet in the U.S. The agency said more than 50 U.S. coal companies declared bankruptcy during the period, with more than 100 GW of generating capacity taken offline.

An energy transition is underway, and it’s time to embrace it.

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