"I was low man on the totem pole, so I was laid off," says Matt.
With job prospects in the area virtually nil, Matt and his girlfriend headed to St. Louis, where he managed to get an interview with StraightUp Solar, a company that installs commercial and residential solar energy systems.
If he hired simply on the basis of experience, Dane Glueck would have passed on Matt Reuscher, who had never worked in the renewables field. But the president of StraightUp Solar liked what he saw in Matt's easy-going nature and strong work ethic -- nobody questions the work ethic of a coal miner -- and so he gave him a chance.
The decision worked out well for both. Dane has a valuable employee -- "We just love Matt" -- who gets the job done, and Matt has a good-paying job with a promising future. He and his girlfriend recently bought their first home.
This is the kind of scenario that should play out more and more as we gradually wean our nation off fossil fuels. We can facilitate an orderly transition to clean energy with a revenue-neutral tax on carbon. And if we give that revenue back to households, consumers will have the extra income needed to pay for any increased costs associated with the carbon tax. A number of conservatives -- George Shultz, Art Laffer and Greg Mankiw -- have expressed support for this market-based solution.
A tax on carbon will not instantly shut down America's coal mines. The decarbonization of America will be decades in the making. In those intervening years, as demand for solar, wind and other clean energy skyrockets, jobs in the mines will be replaced many times over, as companies like StraightUp Solar expand and take on more employees.
Our grandchildren's future will be brighter if we put a price on carbon that hastens a cleaner economy. For Matt Reuscher, the future's looking brighter already.
Reynolds is the executive director of Citizens Climate Lobby in Coronado, Calif.