tv Witness LINKTV October 17, 2022 9:00am-9:31am PDT
... dave severin: give me a "c." all: c. dave: give me an "o." all: o. eric campbell: from europe to the us, coal is under fire. dave: what's it spell? all: coal! eric: environmentalists are circling. mines and power plants are closing. even big corporations say it's not worth the trouble. josé rodriguez: we used to make money with coal, but this is not happening anynymore. eric: are these the dying days for coal? and what's going to happen to mining communities? we're going to the coalface to find out.
eric: almost every week there's a new international call to ban investment or even phase out the industry completely. and that's going to ramp up at the un climate conference in glasgow, that's being billed as the last chance to save the planet. but where does all that leave the miners, their families, their towns that rely on coal for their livelihood and purpose? well, we're going to explore two communities on different sides of the world that are at that crossroads and they're taking very different paths. in the us, we visit the town of west frankfort, where miners put their faith in donald trump to save them. donald trump: we are putting our great coal miners back to work. eric: he didn't. steve sawalich: in fact, there's been more coal miners laid off while he was president. eric: but with few alternatives, they're hanging on to old king coal. male: yes, i'm proud to be a coal miner.
steve: i'm running the old king coal festival because i still believe in the values of the coal mines. eric: but we start in spain, where the government made deals with unions to close the entire industry. ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ eric: asturias, on the north-west coast, is part of what some call celtic spain. ancient trade with the british isles left asturians with grand celtic traditions. two centuries of coal mining gave them working class pride. young men, like lluques díaz rozada, grew up learning folk dances, songs, and the art of pouring asturian cider
with their hands held high. lluques díaz rozada: there you are. eric: and drink it straight away? lluques: yeah. eric: cheers. lluques: cheers. it's good? eric: ha, ha, ha, ha. it's very good. it's got bubbles. lluques: i hope so. eric: so lluques, you are from a mining family, your whole family? lluques: yes, yeah, all my family: my father, my brother, my uncle, my grandfather, my great-grandfather. everybody in my family. eric: was in the mines. lluques: now i'm an electrician but, nowadays, it is our job. eric: you can't be a miner anymore? lluques: no, no more. no mine any more. eric: with the stroke of a pen, spain's coal industry has been flushed away. mines had been losing money since the 1990s, surviving only on state subsidies. governments and unions tussled over plans to close mines and restructure the economy.
three years ago, the music stopped, the eu insisting that subsidies end. lluques: it was only coal industry. so we have to look at other solutions. eric: good luck. have a drink. lluques: okay. do you want another one? eric: oh, i have to. thank you. lluques: okay, of course. there you are. [speaking foreign language] ♪♪♪ eric: when lluques was born, coal mining employed 45,000 people, but rising debt and environmental pressure made it unsustainable. today, there's just one mine still operating in the whole of spain, and it's due to close in december.
eric: in 2018, spain decided to cut its losses and move on from coal. but crucially, the new socialist government vowed that miners and their communities would not pay the price. it pledged to spend hundreds of millions of dollars so miners could retire early, or retrain for green projects, or work in environmental restoration around the mines. and unions hailed the so-called "transición justa," the just transition, as a model agreement. ♪♪♪ eric: sixty per cent of miners were offered early retirement on much higher pensions than the average worker. younger miners could take payouts or keep working in new roles. ♪♪♪
eric: while lluques is an electrician, his mates oscar and carlos have been doing clean-up on their old mine. eric: they've now been transferred to a thermal power plant that's going to run on biomass. it beats unemployment. but that doesn't mean they're happy with the transition. none of them trust the government's promises to create local jobs. they've seen too many friends leave asturias to find work.
♪♪♪ eric: i travelled to madrid to ask what the government was doing. the secretary of state for energy, sara aagesen, told me money was flowing in: 400 million australian dollars from the state and even more from the eu. sara aagesen: things are happening. probably people feel that they don't have the answer at the adequate speed, but i think this is going to be good. and what we want is that we don't leave anyone behind. eric: is it really possible to replace all those jobs, to ensure that no one is left behind? sara: yes, i try to be positive,
but i think it's--i can be realistic. they said one of the goals is zero impact in employment. we will fulfill that. eric: while many workers have their doubts, business is firmly on board. power companies that still have investments in coal are rushing to get out. eric: well, this is spain's last coal-fired power plant. these days, of course, it's using imported coal; until recently, even australian coal. but all that's coming to an end, because in a few short years, the portuguese owner, edp, wants to turn this coal plant into a clean, green hub. the plan is to generate green hydrogen, using electricity from wind and solar to split hydrogen fuel from water. josé manuel pérez rodriguez is a coal engineer and now edp's head
of hydrogen conversion. josé: this site makes a lot of sense because we already have the electric connections. we already have the water. we are next to the sea, next to the port to make exports of the hydrogen produced. we think it makes a loof sense. eric: it's not just the falling costs of clean energy that are driving the change; it's the rising cost of carbon. in 2005, europe introduced the world's first international emissions trading scheme. in may the price doubled to $80 a ton, sending electricity prices soaring. josé: the main cost of producing electricity with coal is the co2. so there are market reasons and environmental reasons that are linked. and, of course, the investors are demanding us that we make this change. eric: well, you grew up in asturias, a coal region, you're
a coal engineer, could you have ever imagined this happening? josé: no, never. no, when i started 20 years ago, it was all around the coal. i mean, gasification of coal, making fuels from coal, making power plants from coal. so, and i studied, as well, the pv technology, the wind technology of producing electricity. but my teacher said, "well, we're going to teach you that, but it's going to be minor uses, so it's not profitable. it's very expensive. we are not going to lift up that. forget about that. just center on coal." eric: and now? josé: and now you see. everything is changing dramatically every year. i mean, we expect that the next year is going to be greener, but it's always more greener an we expected. eric: so it's going faster and faster and faster? josé: faster and faster. yeah, this is exponential.
eric: over the next four years, edp will invest close to $40 billion in hydrogen, wind, and solar farms as it exits coal. eric: so, speaking as an engineer, it is entirely possible to be 100% renewable energy powered? josé: yeah, yeah, it's completely possible. eric: but that's dwarfed by the energy giant, iberdrola, which has just erected these enormous wind farms across asturias. it's planning to invest nearly quarter of a trillion dollars in renewable energy by 2030. angeles santamaria: hello. eric: angeles santamaria is the spanish ceo. eric: so are there any coal projects anywhere in the world that you would invest in?
♪♪♪ eric: the rise of renewables means at least some new jobs to replace the ones lost in transition. this factory in asturias manufactures steel supports for wind turbines. the company windar employs 600 people in spain and 1700 globally. according to managing director justo acedo business is booming. justo acedo: we are now looking at extending the capacity of this factory, because the demand is very huge. eric: so do you have any people working here that were miners? justo: no, we are working to have the sons,
the children of the miners. eric: children of miners, right. justo: yes, because this activity is very different to the one with the miners. eric: it's hard to see enterprises like this ever matching the number of jobs provided by coal, where armies of men would toil underground. but energy corporations here believe coal jobs were going to disappear anyway, no matter what governments did. eric: but someoal operations are profitable. australia makes billions of dollars out of coal. do you think that can continue?
♪♪♪ eric: more than 6000 kilometers away, in the us state of illinois, people are praying that coal does have a future. dave severin: good morning and welcome to the annual old king coal festival coal miners' memorial service. eric: once a year, west frankfort holds the old king coal festival, celebrating the rock that built their town and made it strong. dave: guys, this is not a funeral. give me a "c." all: c. dave: give me an "o." all: o. dave: give me an "a." all: a. dave: give me an "l." all: l. dave: what's it spell? all: coal! eric: retired miner steve sawalich is the festival president. steve: blood, sweat and tears is what made this town. the coal mines is what made southern illinois. and i don't want that to be a lost cause. eric: there's no parade this year thanks to covid, but there
is an opening ceremony with the reigning old king coal, the beauty pageant winner princess flame and a vip politician, republican state representative dave severin. dave: there is a war on coal, there's--coal has never been cleaner than it is today, coal mines have never been safer than they are today. what turned your lights on this morning? all: coal. dave: what's gonna turn the heat on if you need it? all: coal. dave: one more time. all: coal. male: thank you, representative severin. ♪♪♪ eric: downtown is a stark sign of how badly coal is doing. the town's population has dropped from a peak of 20,000 to just 8000 as the local mines closed or scaled down. that doesn't mean people see coal as having had its day. many blame clean air laws that made illinois' high-sulfur coal
more expensive than wyoming's. steve: it's cheaper to get coal out west than it is to put the scrubbers and equipment on the coal mines here to make it that cost effective, when they can buy it there and ship it here a lot cheaper. and that's hurt a lot of the coal industry here. eric: the mayor tom jordan insists there is no need to end coal production ever. tom jordan: they shove this global warming thing and they put it all on, you know, petroleum product, coal, gasoline, and all that stuff. i'm not sure that we can be so audacity to say that we control the climate. god controls the weather, he controls the climate. i think that, you know, i still don't believe they've proven, to me. now, you know, if you live in an urban area, you know, like, you talk about the coal industry in a very negative way.
here, it's a way of life. it's not something that you just talk about. eric: the community voted overwhelmingly for donald trump after he promised to reopen mines. it didn't happen in his first term. but there's strong support for him running again, and a feeling the coal industry could revive if politicians just lent a hand. tom: we have hardworking people here. we just need a little leg up, a little help, to get back on our feet. coal is--i think coal istill viable. i would hope that there would be an attractive resurgence to come back with coal. i'm not saying that it's the end all, be all, for everything, 'cause it does have some problems. but i think it's something that wou help. ♪♪♪ eric: it's not going to happen under the new president, joe biden, who has promised to slash emissions. in april, he announced plans to explore a just transition
program for mining communities. but it could be years before support comes to west frankfort. by then, their coal mines could be gone. last year, for the first time in the us, renewables edged ahead of coal to produce more electricity. and there's no trade union here to negotiate an exit. steve: the umwa, united mine workers, they helped out a lot. they kept a lot of this, the glue that held everything together. well, the coal mines around here now are non-union mines, and the companies, they can pretty much just do what they want. and that hurt this area a lot when the umwa went out. ♪ they know, they know me byame. ♪ ♪ i walk, i know them, i know them the same. ♪
♪ town and village-- ♪♪ eric: but this is america, a country with a knack for reinvention. and for one local, the end of coal is an opportunity. jonathan raby grew up here before moving to nashville. he moved back to start a business. jonathan raby: there weren't very many businesses, especially businesses like ours. and so we kind of saw it as a blank canvas opportunity. you know, like an artist, given two rooms full of canvases, one room has blank, the other they're all painted on, you know, which does the artist choose? he chooses the one that's blank. he can do whatever he want. eric: his hair parlor is growing and it's bringing the community together. jonathan: coal, it's not a renewable resource. but that doesn't mean the people run out; the spirit runs out, you know?
the creativity in people is still there so just because the resources become less and a job has become less doesn't mean that people can't put their minds to work and come up with something else to make where we live something that's--some place that's worth living. eric: but the challenge to turn west frankfort around will be massive. past attempts didn't come to much. mayor jordan blames unions. tom: but i think that during that period between the '70s and the '90s, when the coal industry made the big turn down, it would have been nice to have had e ability to transition into something else. this area wasn't looked at because it's heavily unionized and the unions brought, you know, restrictions, higher pay, benefits, and things like that. it's already cost the city here a lot. ♪♪♪
♪♪♪ eric: in asturias, unions won the battle for a just transition. ♪♪♪ eric: at a weekly rehearsal, a choir of retired miners sings the union anthem, "santa barbara." ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ eric: for generations, this song was a rallying call for strikes and protests. the men of the choir fought to keep their mines open.
in 2012, some even marched to madrid to protest closures. [speaking spanish] eric: they're now enjoying their leisure, but they're yet to be convinced the government will create new jobs. the choir's soloist javier toral and his accompanist mario coto say past efforts came to nothing, with unscrupulous businesses taking the money and running.
the government believes every country will soon be transitioning from coal. sara: you want me to say what is the maximum timing for coal? i will say that we need to think about the next 10, 15 years. eric: so 15 years, the end of coal? sara: hopefully. i think the planet is giving us lots of signals that we need to stop this the sooner, the bett. eric: well, what's going to happen to countries like australia that are still making money out of coal? are they gonna pay a penalty if they-- josé: well, this is a global trend. so this trend will come to australia some way, because otherwise you won't be able to compete againsthe countries that are already implementing these measures, because the people and the politicians will be demanding this from us.
so it's a trend that is not going back. eric: so australia will be paying a price in carbon tariffs? josé: yeah, i think that every single part of the world will be copying what we are doing in europe right now. ♪♪♪ eric: one thing that can never be replaced is the way of life that defined coal communities. we joined the men's choir on an emotional journey: their last ever trip down a mine. ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ eric: pozo sotón is kept open as a memorial so future generations will understand what the industry meant.
male: [speaking spanish] [bell ringing] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ eric: for two hours we explored this dark and claustrophobic workplace. a nostalgic visit for the choir and a revelation for me. male: okay. eric: friggin' hell. eric: whatever you think of coal, you've got to respect the people who do this. [singing] eric: it was a hard life but it was full of pride and purpose d solidarity. [singing]
eric: spain was the first country to implement just transition. it is struggling to keep the people's trust and racing to switch to the energy of the future. how it succeeds will be watched around the globe, because for many communities the only alternative to a just transition is a slow death. [singing] [singing]
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