Here’s an excellent article from the Washington Post about the rising cost of mining coal. This rising cost accounts for its declining use. The costs are rising largely because the coal that is the easiest to get was mined first, and now what is left is more difficult, and expensive, to obtain.
Cost of mining coal.
According to Marie Shmaruk, a director at Standard & Poor’s who analyzes metals and mining companies: “We have been relatively negative on central Appalachia for quite some time because it’s an expensive area to mine,” she said. “It’s been mined out and has thinning coal seams. We’ve been mining there forever.”
Shmaruk said that “central Appalachia is being squeezed the most. At natural gas prices today, the coal in a lot of those mines is not really competitive. And you’re seeing a lot of the utilities in that area have moved to natural gas.”
If there is a war on coal, the opponent is low cost natural gas, not environmentalists.