Coal has a rich and storied history. The natural resource has buoyed empires, created millionaires, and killed thousands of laborers. Now all of the coal industry's former allies throughout history are abandoning it. It is only fitting that coal nears its own death in accordance with a changing, more conscious world.
American history is irrevocably connected to the rise and fall of coal. Ever since it was first used by Hopi Indians for heat in the 14th century and discovered to generate electricity in the 1880s, coal has been a newsworthy energy source. It ushered in railroads, steel, and the Industrial Revolution. In a new labor movement, coal miners struck for higher wage, better conditions, and an eight-hour workday. Presidents and financiers alike allied with coal industrialists. In 1902 J.P. Morgan crafted an agreement with striking miners. Coal helped power American victory in two world wars. Wall Street and classic American companies such as General Electric
Coal's old friends, government and finance, are spurning coal for two main reasons. The first reason is that coal has rightfully become a political enemy due to its serious effects on pollution and climate change. Coal, even clean coal, a much dirtier nonrenewable than either oil or natural gas, will be the first energy source to be completely replaced in transition to a more renewable, sustainable future. In the US, Democrats often denounce coal, and Republicans who accept anthropogenic climate change are no friends. Global accords such as the 2016 Paris Agreement necessitate the end of coal consumption to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The second reason is that coal is no longer profitable. Coal is fighting both strong competition from cheaper alternatives like natural gas and tough environmental regulations from more conscious governments. According to the New York Times's "As Coal's Future Grows Murkier, Banks Pull Financing," big banks, hedge funds, and private equity are avoiding even the most secure loans to coal companies. Although most American banks like JPMorgan Chase
It is no surprise that coal is poised to fail. The stock price of Peabody has reached an all-time low around $2. The stock price of coal giant Consol Energy
The author does not hold any positions in any of the stocks above.