The US coal industry is dying — but not with any dignity. As the end approaches, its sense of aggrieved entitlement is increasingly naked, its demands for government handouts increasingly frantic. As dread builds, shame has left the building. The story of coal’s decline has been told many times now (see this post for more), but at root, it’s not complicated: The industry’s product is outmoded. Natural gas and wind power are cheaper than coal power in most places, and solar power is heading the same direction. What’s more, wind and solar (variable renewable energy, or VRE) and natural gas complement each other. VRE is completely clean but variable. Natural gas is moderately clean but flexible.