Elizabeth Fairchild
(202) 861-1270


Washington, DC Today, Business Forward Foundation released its latest report in its Answering America series, which helps local business leaders answer the questions their neighbors are asking about critical issues. Should Washington Do More To Save Coal? explains why spending taxpayer dollars to prop up coal plants doesn’t make sense in today’s economy and how switching from fossil fuels to renewables could generate billions in local investment and jobs.

“Washington (and taxpayers) have been subsidizing coal for decades, but even $90,000 in federal support for every coal worker in the U.S. can’t change the fact that natural gas and renewables are increasingly cheaper and cleaner than coal,” said Liz Fairchild, executive director of Business Forward Foundation.

In 2019, Americans consumed more energy from renewables than coal for the first time. “Coal plants simply aren’t competitive anymore,” said Fairchild. “By 2040, 72 percent of global coal plants won’t be profitable at all, and when you consider total anticipated costs, it gets even worse.”

“Many Americans assume regulations eliminated coal jobs, but the real culprit is automation,” explained Fairchild. Like so many other industries, coal jobs disappeared from 1980 to 2008 despite the fact coal production increased. “Automation has been worse for coal jobs, in part, because coal companies shifted production from underground mining in Appalachia, which is jobs intensive, to surface mining out West, which requires eight times fewer workers to produce each ton of coal.”

“Coal communities deserve our help, which is why taxpayers already pay to clean up abandoned coal mines, fund coal pension plans that went bust, and conduct R&D coal companies should be paying for themselves,” said Fairchild. “All in, that’s about $4 billion in annual taxpayer support.”

Read the report to learn more about how automation, surface mining, natural gas, and renewables are pushing coal out of the energy mix.



The Business Forward Foundation is an independent research and education organization that takes a business-minded look at policy issues affecting America’s economic competitiveness. Our work combines insights and advice from business leaders across the country with rigorous policy analysis. Through white papers, issue briefs, conference calls, and other events, we educate policy makers and the public about climate change, immigration reform, infrastructure investment, the future of work, and other critical issues.