It is a common idea among many Americans that coal as a major industrial fuel is dead, or at least dying, and cleaner fuels, like wind and solar energy, and natural gas, are taking over. There is some truth there; but there are other influences on coal’s recent decline.

Less costly natural gas has become the fuel of choice in power plants and for other industrial uses, not because of the natural relative price of the fuels, but because of the cost of regulatory demands on mining and burning coal that require enormous investments that have priced coal higher than natural gas. Remember former President Barack Obama’s prediction: “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them.”