Coal Mining

Colorado State University

Since 2011, former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter has traveled the country advising about clean energy policy as director of Colorado State University's Center for the New Energy Economy.

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The tragic deaths of 29 coal miners in a massive explosion in 2010 have provided new evidence of a resurgence of the disease known as black lung.

NPR Science Correspondent Richard Harris traveled to Australia's Great Barrier Reef to find out how the coral reefs are coping with increased water temperature and increasing ocean acidity, brought about by our burning of fossil fuels. Day 5: A return to shore finds that people prefer cars to corals.

It's not every day you open an in-flight magazine and read an ad touting "spitwater pressure cleaners for the mining industry." Flip the page and you'll also see an ad cajoling you to "snorkel, sip, snooze" on the Great Barrier Reef.

The way Americans get their electricity is changing. Coal is in decline. Natural gas is bursting out of the ground in record amounts. And the use of wind and solar energy is growing fast. All this is happening as power companies are trying to choose which kind of energy to bet on for the next several decades.

Until recently, half of these plants burned coal to make electricity. Now, that's down to about one-third. Since 2010, about 150 coal plants either have been retired or it's been announced they will be retired soon.

A relatively routine plea hearing in Beckley, W.Va, Thursday, took an unexpected and dramatic turn when a former Massey Energy executive implicated former CEO Don Blankenship in a criminal conspiracy.

It's the first time Blankenship has been publicly named as an alleged conspirator in the ongoing federal criminal investigation of the 2010 explosion at Massey's Upper Big Branch coal mine.

If the voters in Louisa, Ky., had their wish, Mitt Romney would have taken the oath of office Monday. Louisa is in eastern Kentucky, and "coal" was the one-word issue in the election. President Obama is seen as an enemy of coal mining and he got only 27 percent of the vote in the county.

And now comes word that Louisa is going to lose its biggest industry — a power generating plant that's been burning coal since 1962.

Nearly three years after a deadly mine explosion in West Virginia, a former Massey Energy mine superintendent has been sentenced to prison and federal regulators have toughened a regulation that could have helped prevent the disaster.

Just a few years ago, Georgia Power generated nearly three-fourths of its electricity with coal. Last year, for the first time, natural gas edged out coal, and just this week the company announced plans to close 10 coal-fired power generators within the next few years.

"We do recognize this is a historic event for our company. We've never announced this many closings at one time," says Mark Williams, a company spokesperson.

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