George Graham

The High Cost of Coal


Our local power company recently displayed their new solar plant on TV, and I understand they are now burning natural gas instead of coal in the old facility. That probably explains the lower bills they’re sending us these days.

A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists finds coal burning power plants are being converted to natural gas or “retired” all over America.

Meanwhile solar and wind are becoming increasingly popular sources of electricity. According to the study, the two “green” fuels now supply 10 percent of America’s power – up from 3 percent in 2008.

The trend is driven by cost efficiency. Coal is far more expensive than natural gas, and “clean” fuels are becoming cheaper every day.

So who needs coal? All over the world, people are switching to more efficient fuels.

When I was a boy, for example, the train I rode to boarding school ran on coal (and the cinders would get in my eyes – ugh!). But the trains in Jamaica started using diesel long ago.

The lack of demand has naturally led to a decline in coal mining. But the Trump administration is stepping in to prop up the industry.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry has announced a plan to subsidize coal production with tax dollars, and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is reversing the Clean Power Plan, designed to curb air pollution.

These measures are supposed to save coal mining jobs (dirty and dangerous though they are).

But I’m sure you’re wondering:

What about the environment?

You must know how much Trump and his minions care about that. Trump pulled America out of the Paris climate accord, remember? And one of his first acts as president was to rescind a ban against coal mines dumping waste in streams and rivers  (where many people get their drinking water).

The only defense against this assault on Mother Nature is the ballot box. Trump’s attacks on the environment are reversible. But the clock is ticking, and the harm he’s doing is accelerating.

More on coal’s decline

Dumping mining waste

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for