England, perhaps more than any other country in the world, was built on coal. The first successful steam engine was invented to pump water out of British coal mines. Coal powered the railroads and ships that built Britain’s empire. It helped the country survive two world wars, and at its height between those wars, coal mines employed 1.2 million people.
So this winter, when the United Kingdom announced its plan to stop burning coal for electricity by 2025, the shift was seismic. The announcement signaled the dethroning of King Coal in a country where it had reigned for more than a century, and where just six years prior it provided more than 40 percent of the nation’s energy.
How did this happen in Britain at a time when leaders in the US were moving in the opposite direction by promising to end the “war on coal”? The answer lies not in technological innovation, but in a profound cultural shift that began decades ago in coal field communities across England.
A country built on coal
The historic shifts were felt nowhere more acutely than in Yorkshire, the country’s largest coal region and a part of northern England where farms and villages sit on top of vast coal reserves. It’s been called England’s Texas, but without the sun and guns.
For generations, entire communities there were built around the coal pits. Mines had their own social clubs and brass bands. Coal companies sponsored bus trips to the seaside and swimming nights at local pools for mining families. As a third-generation miner, it was a way of life Shaun McLoughlin knew well.
For the rest of this article: https://www.pri.org/stories/2018-06-18/england-built-empire-out-coal-now-it-s-giving-it-why-can-t-us