The United States announced today it will pause granting permits for new coal mining projects on public lands for three years, sending another strong signal that there is no future in the already flailing coal industry.
Nearly half of American coal production takes place on federal lands, and Friday’s announcement is seen as another step by the Obama administration to control climate change following a historic agreement by 200 nations last month to transition the world towards a renewable-powered future.
From China to the US, the global coal industry has been in disarray for years as the health impacts and economic risks to investors become more and more apparent, while the cost of cleaner energy sources plummet.
Today’s move gives the US government time to analyze how to protect taxpayers from these risks while simultaneously addressing climate change.
- Halting coal leases on public lands directly takes on climate change and bolsters Obama’s legacy on climate. During the his State of the Union address earlier this week, President Obama called to “accelerate the transition away from dirty energy” in order to curb the climate crisis, and even pledged to push for change on leases that currently make it easier to extract coal on public land. Days later, the US President is fulfilling one of those commitments, and he has until the end of 2016 to craft even more climate-friendly policies that last beyond the end of his term in office.
- Coal mines are a bottomless pit for the planet and it’s abundantly clear that the age of fossil fuels is over. A ‘Paris Effect,’ following the historic COP21 decision in December, has since pushed fossil fuel shares to plummet, lead China to announce it will be closing down 1,000 coal mines, bankrupted the American coal giant Arch Coal and driven New York’s Governor to declare that the Empire State will be off of coal by 2020. With this latest move to stop new coal mining on public lands, the US is moving even further away from a “coal program that is broken, outdated and costing taxpayers millions of dollars in lost revenues.”
- Acting for the climate could place the US at the forefront of the global renewable industry. The future for coal is deteriorating faster than anyone imagined, with coal companies like India’s Adani on the verge of “junk” credit ratings. Meanwhile in the US, the renewable energy narrative is turning out to be one of the success stories of the economic recovery as the country continues to maintain its lead in global wind power generation, while the booming solar industry now employs more solar workers than the coal industry.