Coal supply shortages in Asia and Europe are pushing prices for the dirtiest fossil fuel to record highs and have become a challenge for US suppliers due to a shortage of miners, according to Bloomberg.
For the last three and a half decades, the number of coal mining jobs in the US has collapsed from 180,000 to 42,500 in August. The industry remains 9,500 miners short from pre-COVID times.
With coal prices worldwide screaming to all-time highs ahead of winter as China and Europe scramble for supplies, the US coal industry is failing to find new miners willing to do the dirty work as demand soars.
"That's making it difficult for mining companies to boost production at a time when the global energy crisis is making utilities desperate for every lump of coal they can dig up. Even with coal prices surging around the world, the labor shortages are another sign that it's going to be tough to shore up energy stockpiles," Bloomberg said.
Erin Higginson of Custom Staffing Services, which recruits miners in the Illinois Basin, said miners used to walk into their office for jobs, but now they have to "hold job fairs all over just to find a few miners."
Attracting new miners in the US has been a difficult sell to prime working-age men and women convinced by mainstream media that the green energy transition is imminent. However, with surging natural gas, coal, and oil prices heading into winter, it appears the transition will take decades, not years, because renewable energy is not reliable, as the UK found out the hard way late in the summer when its wind turbine generation plunged forcing it to power up natgas generators to protect the grid from collapse.
What this suggests is there are many jobs available in the fossil fuel space.
"There's a perception that the coal industry, if not dead, is dying," Ernie Thrasher, chief executive officer of Xcoal Energy & Resources LLC, a Pennsylvania coal trader that works with several suppliers. said. "Young people just have many more choices."
Mining companies are getting creative in hiring, said Rich Nolan, CEO of the National Mining Association trade group.
Along with higher pay, some firms offer benefits like daycare. "Everyone is scraping for employees," Nolan said. "They're using every trick in the book to attract qualified workers."
Some mining firms are desperate enough that they are offering $100k per year for new talent.
Miners might not meet the surge in demand due to years of decommissioning mines to reduce carbon emissions and transition the economy from fossil fuels to green energy. A sustainable energy transition will likely take decades, not years:
"There is an energy transition taking place," said Xcoal's Thrasher. "But it's going to take longer than people think."
To sum up, Asia and Europe need fossil fuels as the green energy transition is unreliable, triggering one of the great power crunches the world has ever seen. But the US might come up empty handed as labor shortages plague the industry.