Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is urging environmentalists to have some compassion for the coal miners they helped put out of work because they can’t be easily retrained to do other jobs.
Bloomberg, who is an environmental activist, said while he gives “a lot of money to the Sierra Club” to shut down coal-fired power plants and to promote green energy projects, society needs to “have some compassion to do it gently.”
“You’re not going to teach a coal miner to code. Mark Zuckerberg says you teach them [people] to code and everything will be great. I don’t know how to break it to you … but no,” Bloomberg said at the Bloomberg Energy Summit on Wednesday.
Bloomberg’s charitable group has given the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign $50 million to aid in the group’s mission of shutting down one-third of the country’s 500 coal plants by 2020. To date, the group claims to have helped in the closing of at least 55 coal-fired power plants in the last three years and blocked the building of 180 coal plants in the last decade.
The Sierra Club has also backed numerous Environmental Protection Agency regulations targeting coal-fired power plants, including greenhouse gas emission limits and mercury emission limits.
Closing down coal plants not only affects the plant workers, but it also hurts coal mining employment. Thousands of coal mining jobs have been shed throughout the country, there were about two thousand fewer coal miners in March 2014 than at the same time last year.
Coal-reliant states, like Kentucky have been hit especially hard. The coal industry shed more than 2,200 mining jobs in that state alone last year — a 23 percent decline.
Bloomberg suggested subsidies to help displaced workers, like coal miners, and maybe even retaining. But Bloomberg said retraining isn’t always an option, especially in an economy becoming increasingly tech savvy.
Blomberg stressed the need for the retraining to be “realistic.”
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