This group brings together the best thinkers on energy and climate. Join us for smart, insightful posts and conversations about where the energy industry is and where it is going.

Publication

Technological Obsolescence and the End of Coal

image credit: Frank Henkemeyer (Flickr: t.ly/AdgD)

Coal is dying in America, and it is disappearing for the same reason that led to the end of fax machines and typewriters. Coal is obsolete. Across all technical dimensions coal technology has been comprehensively surpassed by more modern natural gas and renewable electricity systems.

Technological obsolescence has stuck the coal industry before, in the rail, space heating, steel, and industrial markets -- all of which have shrunk to near inconsequential size. Now technological obsolescence has struck coal in its last big market, electricity generation. The result is that coal-fired power is too expensive to survive.

Nothing is more characteristic of dynamic American capitalism than technical progress forcing change. It is time to move on from coal.

Access Publication

STAN KAPLAN's picture

Thank STAN for the Post!

Energy Central contributors share their experience and insights for the benefit of other Members (like you). Please show them your appreciation by leaving a comment, 'liking' this post, or following this Member.

Discussions

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 9, 2020 10:11 pm GMT

Haven't had the chance to read through this all yet, but it's quite interesting thus far-- so thanks for sharing, Stan. I think the technological obsolescence is, unfortunately, only half the battle. We're seeing how much coal has become a political issue to keep coal-dependent economies alive-- what we need to see is political effort spent in transitioning these economies to 21st century tech so that they can be viable as coal erodes away and the local/state elected officials won't be seen as pariahs for advocating for an end to coal

STAN KAPLAN's picture
STAN KAPLAN on Jul 10, 2020 2:28 pm GMT

Yes,  the politics are key.  The technology and economics provide the underpinning for the political battle.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jul 10, 2020 4:06 am GMT

Well done Stan. Outstanding work.

STAN KAPLAN's picture
STAN KAPLAN on Jul 10, 2020 2:27 pm GMT

Thanks!

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »