The solar energy business is now big business — there were 260,000 workers in the solar industry in the US last year, an increase of 51,000 workers from last year. Meanwhile, the entire coal mining industry employs less people than Arby’s — only 76,500 total. Productivity per worker in the mining industry has improved to the point where increases in demand no longer result in new hiring, they result in more productivity for the existing workers as they work more hours. So even if the Trump Administration managed to incentivize building new coal-powered power plants, it wouldn’t result in an orgy of hiring — instead, productivity in tons per worker would improve back to its recent peaks again.
In short, laid-off coal workers need to be retraining to be solar installers. Except — nobody in Appalachia is putting solar panels on their homes. They’re all too poor for that. So the workers would need to move away from Appalachia to get jobs in the solar industry. But they refuse to do that — less than 0.5% of workers who go through a retraining program are willing to relocate.
At some point, we need to make people responsible for the consequences of their own choices, rather than continually pander to them with stupid lies like those coal mining jobs coming back. They’re gone. They got replaced by robots, mostly, or by techniques such as mountain-topping that don’t require miners underground. At some point as robots flood into more and more industries, we’re going to have to come up with some other way of regulating scarcity other than by how much value people’s labor is worth in the economy. But until then, people have to at least be willing to accept what jobs are available, even if they require relocating like the solar jobs, or require that these manly men do “women’s work”. And if they refuse to do so… I don’t see why we should be getting all whiny and liberal-splainy about their bad choices. Let them eat the consequences of their own choices — even if it means they’re basically committing suicide via “deaths of despair”.
– Badtux the Vicious Penguin