02/18/2014 10:36 am ET Updated Apr 20, 2014

Coal Is Dead

My name is Dirk Adams, and I'm a Montana rancher and Democrat who wants to be the next U.S. senator from Montana. I'm the dark horse running for the open seat to replace Max Baucus. Find out more about me at the Dirk Adams for Senate website.

Today I'm writing about a hard subject in Montana, coal. Coal is no longer viable as a long-term source of energy, or a reliable source of jobs in Montana. We need to start strategizing now to create alternative jobs for our 1200 workers at Colstrip. The 700 million tons of coal in Montana will be left in the ground. Financial research shows there is not financing for export terminals, and local opposition to proposed West Coast terminals is strong. They will not be built.

America is reducing its energy use and is investing in renewables. Environmentalists have succeeded in persuading decision-makers of the stark danger to our climate that coal offers. Natural gas is more readily available than ever. The Great Falls Tribune reported on Feb. 12 that PPL Montana's coal-fired electrical generating plants are costing the power company millions of dollars, according to documents Northwestern Energy submitted to state utility regulators.

The data, one independent industry analyst said, paints a "bleak" picture for coal-fired generation in Montana.

There's a big adjustment coming in utilities.

We need a fair and just transition. Not just new jobs. Not just more jobs. We need jobs that help rebuild our infrastructure in such a manner that a new economy can grow from it. Workers must be involved in the planning. We must build even as the old foundation deconstructs.

We must both mitigate climate disruption and build new economic infrastructure. The two are not at odds.

Coal is dead. I will not be dishonest about this for political gain. Lying isn't going to help those workers. Instead, I have a plan for retraining and job growth. I'm going to serve the impacted citizens by dealing with reality, rather than serving myself by hustling concerned workers for votes with promises no candidate will keep.

We often talk about elected people as leaders. Some are. Some aren't. Regardless, none of us need to be "led" with rhetoric and buzz phrases. We need to recognize external realities and navigate them, aim for new goals and use the momentum of change to generate something that serves the citizens, the economy, and builds the middle class.

If you agree, you can join us at the Dirk Adams for Senate campaign website.