Domestic coal use is dropping fast: it now generates 34% of US electricity, down from 50% just four years ago. The reason is that natural gas has become much cheaper, due to fracking (though the usual suspects have incited anger and division by saying it's because of the EPA's crackdown on carbon dioxide). This time, though, it looks like coal consumption won't be coming back (which is why they are looking to ship it through the Pacific Northwest to China).
As always, the people at the bottom are the ones getting hurt, as this NPR story reports. The number of miners has been declining long before most people ever heard of carbon dioxide, because of technology -- in the US, there are just half the coal miners there were in 1985, while production has increased by 1/4th. Production per miner has increased by a factor of 2.4 since 1985, 8.0 since 1953, and 15.5 since 1923.
A carbon tax of just $3 per metric ton of carbon -- 1/8th of Australia's carbon tax -- would raise $4.6 billion per year at the 2010 emissions rate. (That averages to $15 per American per year.) Surely politicians couldn't keep their hands off all of that, but a healthy portion could go to support and retrain workers through West Virginia, Kentucky, and places like the
This probably makes too much sense.