President Trump made good on his wrongheaded campaign promise to roll back the clock on coal. But the coal miners who surrounded Trump at the White House last week, as he tore up the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, probably know their industry is never again going to party like it’s 1999. That’s when U.S. coal production was near its peak.
Trump’s executive order does not fundamentally change the economics of power production.
The natural gas boom, fueled by fracking, is a huge factor. But coal production has dropped dramatically as renewable power has surged. For every one of the 70,000 coal miners in the U.S., there are nearly 10 workers (650,000) in the renewable-energy sector. That reflects the dramatically falling costs of wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.
For a president who professes to be all about jobs, those should be compelling numbers.
There is no point in underselling the symbolic power and tangible policy consequences of Trump’s retro embrace of dirty-fuel sources. It rightly feels like a punch to the gut for Americans worried that our children and grandchildren will be coping with the consequences of climate change.
As Obama’s Clean Power Plan wound its way through the courts, 18 states stepped forward to defend it. Trump’s actions this week won’t employ many coal miners, but it should be an employment boom for the lawyers.