Pennsylvania has vast experience with the gut-wrenching struggle to overcome the demise of dominant industries. It is an ongoing process more than 70 years after the large-scale anthracite coal industry took its last gasps in the region.

Mining’s collapse rendered tens of thousands of miners unemployed, adversely affected just about every other business and created a vast out-migration of people seeking places in stronger local economies, including the family of President Joe Biden.

Now the entire coal industry rapidly is in decline. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the 706 million of tons of coal mined in the United States in 2019 was the lowest amount since 1978, when a nationwide strike closed the mines from January through March. And the decline has been rapid, according to the agency — coal production peaked at 1.2 billion tons in 2008. Today, fewer than 50,000 coal miners remain nationwide, whereas there used to be more than 100,000 in Northeast Pennsylvania alone.

Now, natural gas has replaced coal as the primary fuel for power generation, and that share will continue to climb. And the Biden administration vowed this week to reduce fossil fuel emissions by half by 2030.

Recently the United Mine Workers Union recognized that coal has lost in the marketplace. It formally endorsed Biden’s move away from fossil fuels — with the caveat that the administration develop a play to find jobs in renewable energy for displaced miners.

That is exactly the right strategy. Biden has emphasized the job-creating potential of renewable energy, and many coal-rich areas also have significant renewable resources including wind, abundant sunshine and water.

Biden and Congress should accept the UMW challenge to include miners in the reconstruction of the nation’s energy foundation.

— Republican & Herald, Pottsville/TNS