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A coal-fired power plant outside Delta, Utah. Photo: George Frey/Getty Images

2018 was the second-highest year for retirements of coal-fired power plants in the U.S. In the wake of plant closures, some communities are converting these facilities into production sites for lower-carbon energy sources.

Why it matters: Coal-fired plants have long been seen as economic boons for rural counties, despite the harmful effects of their pollution on local residents. Converting them can both mitigate job losses and help meet energy demands more sustainably.

Coal-fired electricity generation initially created jobs and allowed for modest improvements in health and quality of life, largely due to increased electricity access, according to a study from Carnegie Mellon and the University of Montreal.

  • However, the plants' long-term effects include elevated air pollution, higher infant mortality rates and lower housing values.

What's happening:

Between the lines: These facility conversions could attract younger workers and their families, which would bolster school attendance, support local businesses and preserve many of the plants' original benefits, but without the pollution.

What we're watching: Successful conversion projects will need to continue focusing on reskilling plant employees to avoid disrupting local economies.

Karen Clay is a professor of economics and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College and Tepper School of Business.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
8 hours ago - Science

China makes history with successful Mars landing

A model of the Tianwen-1 Mars rover is displayed during an exhibition at the National Museum of China in Beijing. Photo: Wang Zhao/AFP via Getty Images

A Chinese lander carrying a rover successfully touched down on Mars for the first time, state media reports.

Why it matters: This is the first time China has landed a spacecraft on another planet, and it launches the nation into an elite club of only a few space agencies to successfully make it to the Martian surface.

9 hours ago - World

UN: 10,000 Palestinians displaced in Gaza as Israel-Hamas fighting escalates

A Palestinian woman walks after she collects her belongings inside her damaged house following an Israeli air in the northern Gaza Strip. Photo: Ahmed Zakot/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The United Nations warned Friday that ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas "has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis," in not only the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel, but "the region as a whole."

The big picture: More than 125 Palestinians, including 31 children have been killed in Gaza since fighting began Monday, per the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Eight people, including two children, have been killed in Israel, Reuters reported, citing Israeli authorities.