There was a time when coal was king.

Generations have fed their families through their labors in the coal mine. It was hard, dirty, illness-inducing work, but coal miners formed the sturdy backbone of the region. For that, we are forever grateful.

As much as we may hope otherwise, the current reality suggests that will never be the case again.

Despite the heated rhetoric of naysayers, renewable energy sources are gaining an ever-increasing slice of the American energy market. Now, realize that coal mining will not completely disappear in the next generation or two. Executives of coal companies nationwide have stated last year that if current coal reserves are mined at the current rate mines can produce coal for at least another 35 to 50 years.

However, the number of men and women employed in the mines will continue to dwindle. The causes for that decrease will be numerous — the amount of energy produced by coal will continue to diminish as solar and wind technology advances, coal mines are becoming more automated, plus it takes fewer miners to produce the same amount of coal and, finally, the cost of producing and burning coal will continue to increase.

Perhaps this latest closure will provide impetus for our state and federal legislators to concentrate their efforts on supporting solar and wind production plants, or to work with community colleges to initiate training programs for the solar and wind industry.

The time is ripe. The nation needs jobs and the future looks bright for wind and solar. Finally, our hearts are with and men and women who lost their jobs. There are few things more devastating for a human being than to lose your livelihood. That is especially true if you are older than age of 50.

The king has no fix for that problem.

— Adapted from The Southern Illinoisan (Carbondale, Illinois)

National Voices is a series of previously published editorials from newspapers around the country, obtained via an Associated Press newspaper exchange, designed to reflect a diverse array of viewpoints. These publications don’t reflect the editorial views of Atchison Globe. Provide feedback by emailing globe@npgco.com

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