Researchers also said "lower demand for electricity and growing use of renewable energy such as solar power also took a bite out of coal’s market share," Bill Estep reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. "Tougher federal environmental regulations also played a role in coal’s decline, but those rules were a significantly smaller factor than reductions in the cost of natural gas and renewable energy, the report said. That finding counters arguments that a regulatory 'war on coal' was the main reason for the industry’s problems."
The study said in 2011 U.S. coal exports surpassed 100 million tons—up from 40 million in 2002—and employment was 133,000, Estep notes. From 2011 and 2016, domestic demand and exports slumped and employment plunged to 70,000.