I changed my job this Jan. I started working for a coal company as mobile app developer. Coal and mobile app (iPhone, iPad) do usually go together in the same sentence, I think. As coal is described as “dirty” in the media, especially by the environmentalists, the “green” people both in and outside government (think Al Gore, president Obama and his EPA commissioner Lisa Jackson). On the other hand, Apple the forerunner of smartphone, tablet revolution is famous for its environment friendly too, just recently they announced initiatives to replace coal powered datacenter by natural gas (they are like tube and box like, think those as natural gas modules). Those are developed by Silicon Valley based start-ups.
Back to topic, for me the rationale of working for coal company goes like this. I am a pragmatist (a pragmatic programmer Coal is not the cleanest energy source and not renewable source. But before this year, Coal made up more than 40% if the US power generation (this year the number dropped to lower 30s). So, if one person really wants to make a stand on the issue (instead of just talking like the former vice president does, he got a huge mansion and uses a lot of electricity), the person can simple use 1/3 less of the electricity. That means, uses less light, AC, heat,…in her/his daily life. I am trying to be energy conscious on my life but won’t go as far as cut 1/3 of usage. At the same time, working for a coal company (5 minutes commute time), will help me be a part of the solution (less gasoline for commute for sure). I will be a stake holder in coal mining, as I recently learned, coal mining uses a lot of energy too (diesels, electricity etc.)
I have worked for my new employer for about 9 months, and so far I like what I see. Most recently I went on 2 mines, and met some down-to-earth miners. Since I went to Rolla (the former Missouri School of Mines, miner), now I became a real miner.
Presidential election will play a part in the coal industry too, as the current administration is very coal-unfriendly. I think green (renewable) energy is fine, but the traditional energy source (oil, gas, coal) got to be a part of the solution.
Last but not least, I have 2 scene kinda imprinted in my mind during the mine visit: when I eat the lunch comfortably in the office, I recall the miners eat their lunch in the tunnel. The devotion during lunch time from a few surface miners. In the HQ we sometimes lost touch of the toughness of the front line work. Now I do. At the same time, the company continues to do good things around the community, in all the locations. Here in HQ, we have the united way campaign. In a sense, we are all in one community.